As a Halloween treat for our loyal Evensound audience, we’re thrilled to feature the haunting and contemplative shoe-gaze-freak-folk duo known as The Leones.
Consisting of singer/songwriter/pianist Justin Bachulak and guitarist Dustin Lau, The Leones create a musical atmosphere of warm rich tones and dark negative space while incorporating some seriously creative lyrical depth. The minimal orchestration lends itself to an aesthetic of reverb soaked guitar swells and smokey jazz bar piano. The eclectic lyrics paired with soulfully delivered vocal melodies also enhance the overall feeling that you’re listening to the performance from the depths of a massive secret chamber.
The band has released two recordings of their live sessions featuring the songs “Canyon” and “Fire Walk With Me”. The songs have helped propel their first successful Kickstarter campaign. They have recently met their goal of funding the recording of their debut EP, Ghost in the City. They will be recording with a member of Justin’s previous band Crows and Jays, fellow western NY musician Anthony Del Plato. Del Plato, who’s proving himself as the go-to producer/engineer, was responsible for the excellent and awesomely nostalgic sounding debut EP 1993 by the Buffalo band Cooler. The artwork for Ghost in the City is also featuring the wonderfully whimsical work of Buffalo artist Mickey Harmon. The combination of talent lining up with this project is intoxicating.
The Leones not only scored amazingly well with Audiokite but also captured our attention here at Evensound. The quality of their authentic and timeless sound is only equaled by the heart shown by the two musicians involved. Get a better understanding of who The Leones are and include them in your new favorite Halloween mix.
Congrats on the successful Kickstarter campaign, how do you feel reaching your goal and what’s the plan with recording and release?
Thank you, getting successfully funded helped us tremendously. The support from our campaign not only helped with giving us the capability of making more out of the album from a cost standpoint but it really gave us a positive push to know that people were behind us to make this music. That was the definitely the most gratifying part of it.
You’ve referred to this new collection of songs as the best you’ve ever written and that you don’t feel constrained by the standard pop song formula. What is your song writing process like?
The process is what I love most. I’m a father and a husband, at this point it was important for me to feel like I was available for my family. So it was truly gratifying to just sit and write when it was flowing and not force the process knowing I had commitments, musically. I felt I was a capable songwriter but completely trusting my creative process by waiting for when it called and not pushing it made some special things happen. Especially when I found I felt comfortable enough to write in front of our guitarist Dustin Lau.
In the past I would have to be alone for the writing process and a couple of the songs I was alone, but it was an experience I will never forget. To write in the presence of a musician I connected with and to be able to instantly express those waves of creativity with another musician was very fulfilling. That is what has fueled the whole project. I like to find a chord or two and let a theme develop just from that, maybe picture a natural setting. Lately, that’s all it would take and the songs would came together from there.
How do you feel about the state of the music industry in relation to new distribution models and it’s affect on the indie artist ?
I like how accessible so many amazing artists are. And it’s hard to disagree with the idea that if we didn’t have some of these current formats, we would not not know about some of our favorite music. But I still feel musicians are some of the worst paid people on the planet. In a way, the industry is like it was in the 1930’s and 40’s when big names reigned financially supreme and the rest played for the pure experience of the writing and performing process, and making something on top of that was nice, but damn it’s hard to live on, especially when you have a family.
In a way it’s a microcosm of this country, the whole 1% thing. But it is still true and totally possible that you can start and grow all by yourself and become successful. You might not make big record deal money like previous generations but I think that is why we are seeing such intimate and creative music from so many people, they’re not bound by money. With the resurgence of vinyl records making more revenue that streaming services we might be headed to a new place in the industry that hopefully has the best of both worlds of creativity and sustainability.
What are you listening to right now?
I’m liking a lot of freak-folk bands that have a full vintage sound, like Holy Wave’s album, Relax is fantastic. Always like instrumental stuff in the car, especially classic jazz. But my Halloween mix is my pride and joy of mixes. So, since its Halloween time…
How do you feel about your local music scene?
I feel like in the last couple years the music scene in Buffalo has gained some really great artists. One of my personal favorites and a Buffalo staple is Sonny Baker. He’s a friend a true songwriter with a wide range of influences. We dig the space rock act Aircraft’s sound too. It’s always fun working with different artists for shows. On November 20th we are headlining at The Studio at Waiting Room with Applennium who have a very unique sound. The venues we worked with including Waiting Room and Babeville have been very kind and supportive. We’re proud to be apart of the music scene here.
What are some of your influences?
My biggest influence personally is Mr. Elvis Costello. A musical encyclopedia and the man is flawless at hopping genres. I had my own private musical education by listening extensively to his bonus discs Rhino records released throughout the 2000’s of all his albums.
I always loved dark minor tunes but also psych and prog-rock (Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Pete Gabriel era Genesis, The Moody Blues) but also rock that can pick you up without being sappy but still have some form of darkness to them.
So, that’s what we wanted to do with our music, having minor chord, dark themed verses leading to an uplifting major chorus seemed like a fairly common template. Incorporating the jammy or score-like piano I like to play (big Jon Brion fan as well as jazz pianists like Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, and Wayne Horvitz) I felt some of
my past music didn’t fit my piano quite as well as I had first hoped, but with Dustin’s dream like guitar and pedal work it made more sense. We both really loved The War on Drugs album Lost in the Dream – I mean who didn’t? And My Morning Jacket’s stuff. We found with just the two of us those influences kind of mixed with a little Neil Young and Crazy Horse and then the freak-folk and piano score stuff all seemed to fit with what we were attempting.
What are your goals for 2016?
To get our album Ghost in the City completed for our album release show January 30th at Babeville 9th Ward, play some fun venues, meet some great people, and continue to create an intimate and deep experience for us and our listeners. A small tour will be on the horizon too.
What advice can you give musicians just starting their journey?
Don’t think about anything but writing the truest music you can write. After that, work each day to try to get your music out there. It’s okay to ask for help. Musicians that feel bad reaching out to venues or other musicians usually will find themselves stuck. And when you play, make it all about your music. Let everything else fall away.