What is your name and role within The Leanover?
We’re Ali and Lou. Ali sings and plays guitar, and Lou plays bass and sings.
Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?
Lou: We’re based in Montreal right now– the city is relatively small, but the music scene is huge and super diverse! First there are the francophone and english music scenes that are pretty distinct from one another. Then are so many bands that little sub-scenes exist in different neighbourhoods that are only like 20 minutes away from each other. The community is really strong and supportive and everyone seems dedicated to making music accessible. Coming from the States, Quebec also seems quite supportive of artists, and Montreal especially has a huge artistic infrastructure developed that gives artists in the city endless opportunities to perform.
How did the Leanover form?
Ali: The Leanover has taken many forms over the short course of its existence. Lou and I met in college in upstate New York but didn’t start playing music together until after I had graduated and moved to Ottawa for work. I would travel back on the weekends to visit my partner and play music with my old bandmates, Sagiv and Ethan, who lived with Lou and my partner Jason. We were playing music in their living room when Sagiv invited Lou to join on bass. She had such a unique and groovy playing style that instantly glued our music together in a way that finally felt right. You know what I mean? The very next week we headed into the studio to record our first EP, Pawn Trouble.
At the beginning of 2017, I left my job in Ottawa and tried to spend a few months in the USA with Jason to record a new album with the Leanover, but after a month, I had a terrible border experience and was banned from the USA for five years. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I was back in my birth city that I had never lived in (my family moved to the British Virgin Islands when I was three). Lou decided to come up to Montreal to play music. We started off as an unaccompanied duo then began to play with more instrumentalists. We had a fun stint playing with Nick Wagstaff on the saxophone and had the pleasure of playing with multi-instrumentalist powerhouse Erik Fines (of Bright Fuschia) on drums for a year.
You have a new single ‘Forward and Back’ that was just released, what influenced the sound and songwriting?
Ali: Forward and Back started in 2015 while I was driving across America in a solar-powered recording studio van with Jason. It was the first week of our trip and we had stopped in a small beach town in Virginia where everyone drove around in golf carts and said hello to each other. It had been a hard first week on the road– we were adjusting to living in crazy close quarters and showering in Walmart parking lots, troubleshooting our solar rig and figuring out how to sleep in a hot car in downtown Philadelphia.
The little beach town was a great break. We found an empty parking lot behind a church overlooking a marsh, pulled all of our belongings out of the van to reorganize, and started cooking dinner on our camp stove. As the sun was beginning its descent we started to see far-off lightning flashes every few seconds over the hill behind us. It was more lightning than we had ever seen before, striking in quick succession like disco lights. I was amazed and fascinated by the phenomenon and started filming it and running around gleefully trying to capture it from all angles.
Jason noticed that the lightning was getting closer and closer to us and started to clean everything up and asking me to help. I became annoyed at his inability to enjoy the beautiful moment and kept insisting that we had plenty of time before we had to panic. I continued filming. This back and forth became more heated as I poked fun at Jason’s stress and Jason became (rightfully) indignant, running around and shoving stuff back in the van. Rain started bucketing down while most of our stuff was still strewn out over the pavement and we went into a full sprint, annoyed and hangry and saying things to each other that we didn’t mean.
The last thing that we had to do was close the back doors of the van. We had jerry-rigged a bike rack to one the doors, partially resting on the back window. The only way to close the door was for one of us to be inside, lying on our bed, pulling the door in, while the other swung it closed from the outside. In our rush and anger, both of us did our respective jobs too forcefully, and the bike rack bounced against the window, shattering it into a crackled web right in front of my face.
The window started leaking rain all over our bed, so we pulled the van into the leeward side of the church, in an illegal parking spot on the street, covered the window with a tarp and went to sleep with an explanatory letter on our dashboard. That night I wanted to abandon the project and the trip altogether. As soon as the storm ended though, we talked everything out and we came to a much better understanding of how to live together so closely while in the face of constant uncertainty and instability. So yeah– the song is super literal.
Oh I have to add that the people from the town were so nice to us the next day! A mysterious woman in a tie-dye golf cart woke us up the next morning with coffee and clementines, and a man from the local hardware store gave us free plywood to cover the window.
What do you have planned for this track?
Okey, because we’re terrible at keeping secrets– we have a really fun visual experience on the horizon. Emily Soussana and Andrew Scriver of Potato Cakes Digital are working on a fully animated music video for Forward and Back. We don’t have a date of release yet because it’s being painstakingly hand drawn, but we can tell you this much– it’s going to be cute, goofy and also very very cool.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Ali: One of the ways that we initially bonded was Lou showing me Cate le Bon for the first time a couple of years ago. We saw her play in a tiny bar in Hudson, New York and it was perfect. We went crazy for Crab Day and now we’ve been revelling in Reward. Cate can do no wrong. Summer also has us diving back into afrobeat and 70’s psych– very good for the grooving and for the moving. (Lou and I are both currently in the midst of changing apartments)
You also have an album on the way, where and when did you record and who with?
Lou: Ooh this is a fun question. We recorded this as part of our upcoming album (Portico), which has definitely been our most collaborative recording experience. We began by recording drums and bass in Ali’s parents’ living room in the Laurentides with Megan Miller, who had also helped us do some major editing to the length of our songs (we had been playing the tunes live for a while and every song had kind of dissolved into an extended jam!).
We recorded most of the guitars and vocals with her at La Plante, an amazing cooperative venue, practice space, and home in Montreal. Julien Beaulieu did our production and recorded additional layers with us in our Hochelaga apartment. We also recorded some more vocals with Ben Evans at his home studio Burning Room recordings and some drum recordings at Machina Studio in the Mile End.
When will the album be released?
July 30th. Our album launch show is on July 31st at Diving Bell Social Club! It’s going to be a super fun, immersive experience and you should be there!
Where can we listen/buy?
Our first two singles from Portico are up on all the platforms! Lily is also up on Kickdrum’s Montreal Fresh playlist on Spotify. Bandcamp is always great for buying– all the proceeds go straight into our future projects and also it’s more fun because it’s all personalized and MySpacey 🙂
What do you like to do away from music?
Ali: These days I’ve been really into making collages and stop motion animation. I make online promotional packages for peoples shows– like posters, and then gifs out of those posters. I’m also trying to get into making handmade merch for people. I really love doing fun, simple kinda naive embroidery for pins and patches. I also teach guitar, ukulele and voice privately in people’s homes, mostly to young children. I get to ride my bike all around the city in the summer and teach kids that making music is super fun!
Lou: I’m in the middle of grad school for urban planning, which consumes all of the time that’s not for music.
What’s planned for the remainder of 2019?
After our release show on the 31st, we have a little tour planned in Ontario with our friends The Kommenden. At the end of August, also on the 31st, we’ll be playing for HOT TRAMP fest in Montreal, and again on September 26th for POP Montreal.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Lou: Ethiopian food– Queen Sheba in Montreal has been an important spot in The Leanover’s history. You can sit outside and look at Mount Royal park while you scoop your injera and listen to Mulatu Atstatke, which is enough of a reason for us to love any restaurant.
Photo: Marc-Andre Dupaul