Adelaide via Sydney band I Know Leopard have been touted as one of the most impressive groups on the scene, a feat that has been achieved by a lot of work and risk taking. Sitting in a quiet Enmore pub, Luke O’Loughlin from the band spoke about taking chances to achieve goals, his School of Rock ambitions and inadvertently creating the ‘middle aged slow dance’ genre.
Photos by Liam Cameron.
HAPPY: Thanks for taking the time to chat mate, I know you have work this arvo.
LUKE: That’s okay, happy to be here!
HAPPY: Where do you work?
LUKE: I teach music at an after school program.
HAPPY: Hey that’s pretty cool! Are there any kids who come to you because you’re in I Know Leopard?
LUKE: No, I’m not quite there yet! But I’m just teaching kids ranging from ten to sixteen, seventeen. SO it’s kind of essentially a School of Rock which is pretty cool! I’m pretty much Jack Black (laughs)
HAPPY: Who doesn’t want to be Jack Black? Have you ever had a moment where you say to the class “Okay kids, tonight you’ll be the opening act for my band…”
LUKE: (laughs) Yes! That is the dream. But it’s really nice man. It’s really inspiring to see this crazy talent coming form these kids. It’s a nice job, it’s pretty good for the soul.
HAPPY: Do you ever think “Hmmm, this kid is pretty good at drumming, there could be a lineup change in I Know Leopard soon“?
LUKE: There has been, there’s been a couple of students who are pretty on point!
HAPPY: How do balance teaching and the band? Because you’re pretty involved with all the facets of the band.
LUKE: Yeah, obviously for anybody who’s heavily involved in making music, most musicians have jobs that help their passion out, otherwise you’ll just run yourself into the ground. It’s all about setting yourself up so it’s as conducive towards productivity towards music.
HAPPY: I was talking to Shane (from DZ Deathrays) and he told me his DJing started as something to support himself, but now it’s a serious venture for him. Do you have anything like that in regards to other projects?
LUKE: No not really. Maybe in a couple of years that’d be nice to branch out ad see what’s out there, but for now I want to focus on this project. To be honest I’m pretty hopeless at everything else! I don’t really see myself as a business man or anything else in that part of the industry. I think I’m gonna stick to the making of music rather than working around it. I think I’ve got some pretty bad organisational skills and that’s as far away from a business man you can get.
HAPPY: Have you tried before?
LUKE: Oh, I’ve just always been really impractical. Eery hospitality job I had I got fired from because I always went the long way around doing everything. I’m not very logical either. (laughs) I’m just a bit all over the place, which works for music.
HAPPY: Is everyone in the band like that?
LUKE: No! No, not everyone. I try because I have to, but Todd who plays guitar – he’s got the smarts in that kind of area. He’s the guy to rely on for those things, and we’d be pretty fucked if we didn’t have him to be honest!
HAPPY: He’s the dad of the band!
LUKE: Yeah he’s the band daddy.
HAPPY: Which would make you the cool uncle…
LUKE: Yeah! I’m the cool, stoner uncle (laughs).
HAPPY: But of course you have a bigger team behind the band, with Positive Feedback helping out must make things easier for managing the band’s affairs?
LUKE: Yes those guys have been good. They’ve been really helpful, they’re almost acting like managers for us which is amazing. Just to have all that team around us – we’ve only just started to build a team around us now that we are busier, so it’s been really exciting.
HAPPY: How much pressure does that take off you guys?
LUKE: A lot. A lot of pressure. You know we just want to be focusing right now on writing as much music as possible. on days when you have space of time I’d much rather be writing rather than sitting down and doing emails. But it’s just part of the whole thing you know? To keep the band’s momentum going – there’s always two side to it and you gotta be able to juggle both, well for the moment anyway.
HAPPY: Well for what it’s worth I think so far it’s been paying off really well. The last EP made a good impression with fans and critics. And now your recent single Perfect Picture I saw a really interesting comment on Soundcloud; “I want stick my penis in this song…it’s so smooth“.
LUKE: (trying not to laugh) Yeah, yeah. (starts laughing) Okay, sure! Yeah I suppose in our music we intend for there to be that romantic element to it, but I guess that level of romance is cool with us too (laughs). if that’s the way you feel about it! I love those kind of comments, keep them coming!
HAPPY: Maybe you guys can do a Valentines soundtrack for the new album?
LUKE: Exactly! (laughs). We worried about this show on Saturday being on Valentines Day, I suppose we could market it as a good Valentines date. I don’t know how that’s gonna work, we’ll be clutching at straws.
HAPPY: Do you have any Valentines Day plans for the show?
LUKE: Hmmm, well I was talking to someone about it. Maybe we can get one of those dudes who sells roses, that’s pretty much all we’ve got really. We’ll put up some pretty lights and encourage some slow dancing. People do slow dance to some of our shows sometimes. We’ve played a few shows where, a few low key shows at random pub where a lot of middle aged couples go. And one time we played this pub, I think it was out in Leichhardt. Before the end of the set we just noticed that the floor was full of middle aged couples, these 40, 50 year old couples, were pretty much just slow dancing to our songs.
LUKE: A lot of our songs are really downbeat. We just saw a whole floor of older couples slow dancing. We thought it was pretty cool.
HAPPY: When that first couple came on stage you thought it was cool, but when more started dancing?
LUKE: I don’t know, maybe we just landed on a good night for that sought of thing?
HAPPY: Maybe you can focus on middle aged, Valentines Day singles mixers?
LUKE: Yeah maybe, that’s definitely a vibe! Maybe a little business to do on the side…
HAPPY: It can be your niche!
LUKE: Yes! That’s what we’re all about from now on, middle aged slow dancing! (laughs). You’ve always got to look for new ways to be new and edgy, and maybe that’s out edge right there.
HAPPY: Were there any people slow dancing at Laneway?
LUKE: Probably, I’m not too sure. Ummm, I’d say probably not actually, there was probably more fast dancing.
HAPPY: Well that was a pretty big opportunity for you guys in terms of building your profile after winning a slot on the lineup, how was it?
LUKE: It was really awesome man. It was through that triple J Unearthed competition and they’ve been really kind to us and really supportive. We’ve just been really lucky that they gave us a run there. And it has man, we got people who have got this – how do I say it? The fans have gone up which is really good. We’re seeing more likes on the Facebook page and people writing to us saying they really like our music and that it makes them feel certain ways. And they’re not our friends which is amazing! (laughs)
HAPPY: It’s not just your mum saying nice things about you.
LUKE: Yeah it’s not just my mum! Which is nice after the Laneway and triple J boost. What can I say? We’re just really lucky and it’s really great to able to put our music out to a broader audience like that.
HAPPY: What are the kind of things people are saying, besides wanting to have sex with your song?
LUKE: (laughs) Yeeeaaaah. Just people saying that they’re it’s helped them get through some shit times which is really nice. Just people from overseas, just out of nowhere, like a man form Mexico messaged us the other day saying “I listen to you guys all day long“. Those kind of things are really amazing. We never thought that would happen. Also the powers of the internet make that more possible. It’s just blowing us away. In most people’s eyes we’re still a relatively new band, but we’ve been making music together for the last six years. We’re all from Adelaide, so we’ve been working on it for a long time so it’s really nice to see those kinds of results. And I suppose when we’re writing songs it gives us certain feels. It’s really nice for that to translate to other people and getting the same meaning out of it that we intended.
HAPPY: Yeah of course. You just mentioned hot the internet has helped you reach an overseas audience which is amazing, but it can be a double edged sword. You have the potential to reach such a broad audience, but at the same time your competing for that audience with so many other bands.
LUKE: It’s such a jungle out there…
HAPPY: Was that a leopard pun?
LUKE: (laughs) For the purposes of this, yes it was! But, yeah it’s super tough. There’s so much competition. But you can’t think about it at all, you just have to focus on staying true to who you are as an artist and just writing music you really love. It’s hard to get objectivity because you’re so close to what you do. You can’t compare yourself to other people, you can’t worry about what else is out there, just to keep making music and rad shit you’re really proud of. Everything else is just a deadly recipe for writer’s block is what I’ve found in the past.
HAPPY: Yeah I understand that. So there’s no friendly rivalries with other bands?
LUKE: No man, nothing like that. Maybe when we were younger playing in punk bands in Adelaide, but I think we’re too old for that now.
HAPPY: How long have you been in Sydney? Four years?
LUKE: About six years now. Sydney’s a great place to write music.
HAPPY: How does the two cities compare?
LUKE: Adelaide, there’s a lot of great bands coming out of there all the time. But it just seems that they don’t get the kind of exposure that they deserve. So we just decided to move to Sydney and keep working on music. Adelaide is a thriving scene. You go down there and you’d be amazed with all the exciting acts. But you’d be amazed at the lack of attentions they deserve. It’s a small city. I go back there and it’s such a different pace in the hills in Adelaide with the wide open spaces, the beautiful fresh air. Going back there ad seeing my family and friends is always really nice. You feel your shoulders just (Luke demonstrates the relief of having a burden lifted). But I’m enjoying the urgency of Sydney.
HAPPY: Would you ever move back if you were able to establish yourselves as a band further?
LUKE: There’s a very distinct lack of people there from the ages of mid 20s to late 40s. It seems everybody pisses off when they’re bored of it when they’re young, and come back when they want to settle down. So that could be us one day.
HAPPY: Once you can appreciate the wine?
LUKE: (laughs) Yeah! Maybe, I dunno. I do miss the Adelaide Hills, and when I go back I end up writing a lot of songs as well. Those serene surroundings are conducive to creativity.
HAPPY: Well speaking of writing it’s been a little while since Perfect Picture came out. Do you guys have any plans for a new release?
LUKE: Our EP is underway, that song is the lead single. That’ll be coming really soon and we’ll drop a new single. And all the while I’ve been working on a debut album that will hopefully be not too long after the EP. But after the EP comes out we’ll try to do as much music as possible.
HAPPY: Do you know how they will sound or are you still working it out?
LUKE: Well the ting is Perfect Picture is the most joyous sounding of the EP. There’s this full celestial vibe going on which is what we do. There are a few darker tones, the next single is definitely a bit darker. I think the way Perfect Picture is grandiose it will be along those kind of lines. It’s still quite pop.
HAPPY: It’s still in the middle aged slow dance niche.
LUKE: Yeah that’s right! Middle aged slow dance/ pop! We have to come up for a better term than ‘middle aged slow dance’. It’s really exciting to this EP out there. It feels like creatively we’re really starting to hit out stride and find our identity which is one of the things that always takes a while.
HAPPY: What does it take for you guys to arrive at an identity?
LUKE: I guess heaps of writing. Heaps of scraping ideas. Heaps of trial and error. You slightly figure out what people respond to and what they don’t give a shit about. We have a really tight knit community of artists, not just musicians but photographers and film makers we’re mates with so anything that we’d make we’d go “Okay here’s this!” and everyone is really honest with each other. It’s really important to share and get feedback. I used to be really frightened of getting feedback from my friends.
I think I’m just pretty critical of myself as a songwriter, the sharing thing is quite good then. Like I said I have no objectivity on my own stuff which is good to then show that stuff. Like when we did Perfect Picture I didn’t think that would do anything. It was just something we did quickly at the end of last year. I was close to no putting it out, but I showed it to my friends and they said it was really good and that it was good change of direction. So I put it out before I could change my mind!
HAPPY: Do change your mind on songs often?
LUKE: Yeah, so much. It’s weird, sometimes songs can come quickly in a couple of days, and sometimes I can be flogging a dead horse for a couple of months and just end up scrapping it. Sometimes I will know really quickly if something is working or not. I think I need to learn to be more optimistic as an artist. That’s something I think I need to achieve goals and reach my potential is to be a more optimistic songwriter.
HAPPY: Talking to you know you don’t seem like that kind of person, you seem quite cheery.
LUKE: Really? Well I do try to stay cheery, I don’t want to seem lie a grumpy bum or anything! But it’s all a part of the process.
HAPPY: Of course man. Now, I have to know. In our last interview you spoke about how you hilariously came up with your band name. So did you end up finding a leopard costume?
LUKE: Well that shopkeeper wasn’t much help, so eventually I found some leopard ears and tail, and went to the party like that. More of a casual leopard (laughs).
HAPPY: (laughs) Well I’m glad you found something. Well my friend we always talks about things that make us excited to get of bed in the morning. So I’ll turn it to you, what makes you happy?
LUKE: I think – when we did that song for Hold Us Tight that was kind of an ode to having friends. I think friends makes us happy. Just having a great support network of people that believe in you that keeps the spirits high and inspire you to keep progressing and making cool stuff. Because most of us from the band are from Adelaide, so all our families are there. So what we really cherish and appreciate is having awesome friends and that becomes your family wherever you are. Friends and family makes us really happy and warm and fuzzy and inspired. That’s a really simple answer but a running theme we don in this project is an ode to that. Those moments – you could be in a pub or a gig or a park – and you’re in this circle with people who are smiling, and you feel this connection is there. I think they’re the moments in life that are the richest to me.
I Know Leopard are playing tomorrow February 14 at Brighton Up Bar. Show that special someone how much you care and get tickets to the show here.
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