Based in the “Live Music Capital of the World”, Leach is a multigenre project who’s rapidly building a name for himself. Stuart Leach, a 22 year old student at UT-Austin released an album titled Kokedama this past June. It’s full of electro-heavy rhythms and synth-pop tunes. The album shows just how talented he is with a collection of ranging vocals, bassy to falsetto. Despite Kokedama being digitally impressive, Leach’s last track “Down To Science” has more of an acoustic approach, something that may shed light on future projects. Below, read WTS’ interview with Leach and enjoy his music.
What The Sound: When did Leach start, and were you a part of any other bands before it? During it?
Leach: Yeah, so in high school I was in a band called Seastroke and we just kind of "cut our teeth" or whatever the phrase is, on the Dallas music scene. Played a bunch of shows around there and made a lot of band friends that we really looked up to, in particular, Air Review. So, I consider them my big brother band, still. So Seastroke disbanded when we all left for college and that's when I started putting out albums under my own name. Starting with that piano album, and then Roman Candles, and then in about January of this year is when I rebranded to just "Leach". And I'm competing with some guy in Berlin.
WTS: Are you originally from Dallas?
Yes, originally from Dallas and then I left for college to upstate New York, Bard College, and that was a time of more recording than anything else really. I played like two shows up there over the course of two years.
WTS: Did you learn anything in particular, music-wise, at Bard?
I was studying electronic music when I was there and that was a very conceptual education but then there were also tools that I took with me, like becoming very proficient in Ableton and becoming proficient with a field recorder and things like that, that have sort of helped the work flow and also sonically willing to try more things. Not that I necessarily have, but yeah.
WTS: I love Kokedama, how long did you work on the album for?
When I first got to Austin it was Fall of 2014, and that was a lot of wasted time. I would write a little bit but I was really just getting my bearings still. "Tru Luv" was one that I dug up from a few years ago, that first synth. That's been around for a few years so I went back and I finished that one and put the rest of the album together, starting in January really. So it was an album that took a lot longer than it should have and then it was released in June. I would say that when I started really working on it, it probably took 3-4 months to make. That's generally how it goes. I always try to discipline myself as much as possible, give myself deadlines but they always whoosh past.
WTS: You're a solo project in every aspect. Are there any others who helped you along the way in the creation of Kokedama?
Right. The outside fingerprints are mainly from the mastering guy, Mark Chalecki, he did "Tru Luv", "Grown Up", and "Blueberry Queen". I was put in contact with Mark Chalecki through Air Review. Seastroke [Leach's former band] recorded most of our stuff with Jeff Taylor, the bassist and drummer from Air Review and producer really. After we recorded with him, we had this single called "Stupid" and another one called "With You Here By My Side", and we said 'what should we do with these?', they need to be more radio-ready than the rest, so Jeff was recommended that we used his guy, Mark Chalecki. So, I've been using him for the singles ever since, he's great and he has a nice resume and great ears. I'm never disappointed.
WTS: The "Tru Luv" music video, did you make that yourself?
Yeah, my roommate and I, Ryan Whittle is my roommate. He's finishing up at UT as well. That was a combined effort, most of it was his ideas and it's definitely his creative juices. The snapchat idea was mine, I felt like we should have emphasized it a little bit more. That's how I advertised the video, being like 'oh! Snapchat music video... Buzzfeed', people didn't really buy into that, the only thing that they saw Snapchatty about it was the bug at the top right. I'm happy with the video, I love working with him.
WTS: On top of all the production tools that you know, what other instruments do you know how to play? And where did you learn to sing?
On stage, if I have anything in my hands it's an electric guitar. Then I use a sampler on stage as well, and I play acoustic banjo, bass, and piano. Piano I started with and took lessons when I was young and started fiddling around more starting at age 12. The voice, that was Seastroke, we needed someone to sing and there was probably a little ego involved but I stepped up to the plate. I was really bad, so I've been trying to improve ever since. I did take some singing lessons for about a year in high school and then for a semester in college.
WTS: Can you walk me through the three tracks that you recently posted to your SoundCloud?
For sure. Those were all Bard projects. In the electronic music program, we were given these opaque assignments. The Lee Harvey Oswald one I made on the 50th anniversary of the assassination, I thought it was so crazy that this guy was saying all of these in that interview, just going inside the mind of a psychopath. I really like that piece. Then there was "The God Abandons Antony", that's a poem by C.P. Cavafy. That was for a final assignment in an electronic music class. We were supposed to use surround sounds, with two speakers in front and two in back, that was supposed to be a really immersive sound. Then, "Allenmade Left" I just liked the frequencies and thought it would be really cool to do in a live environment. They're not exactly iTunes Top 20, but they were fun to make and I figured I should put them somewhere.
WTS: Do you have any hopes or interest of touring Kokedama in the near future?
Yeah, the hardest part has been translating online buzz into physical draw at a show. A lot of the songs on Kokedama have gotten a lot of love online but unless people show up to the show, then you're out of luck. Especially when it comes to touring.
WTS: Do you have any plans in the near future for new material?
Yeah, I really want to put together an acoustic album that will mainly be banjo and vocals and electric guitar. I really want to step away from the computer a little bit, I think that can definitely be a crutch. The trouble with that is that all my contacts now are people who really like the stuff that I'm doing right now.
WTS: Understandable, it will be hard to bring back your fans.
And to find the right rooms, you can't play the Swan Dive, like I did recently, with a banjo.
WTS: Are there any artists that you recommend WTS followers should know about?
Ishi. Sloom. Jonathan Tyler, he's Dallas-based. Dallas is still where most of my favorite local acts are. Also, The Burning Hotels. Other Austin-based artists include Ruby Jane, Three Bones, David Ramirez, and Davis.