Sydney via Adelaide four-piece I Know Leopard have released their very first single, She, from their forthcoming EP Illuminia. Before their November east coast tour, Happy cornered them for a little chat about the Adelaide hills, the difference between Chewbacca and leopards, and what it’s like to communicate musically…
HAPPY: How was I Know Leopard born?
IKL: Basically this is a new incarnation of an old project that I moved over with. I’m originally from the Adelaide Hills and most of us in the band were, and we moved over from Adelaide a few years ago with another band. We kind of just decided that we wanted to get through all the shit songs and uncover the good ones and then when we got to that stage, we’d release them. It was basically when we first moved to Sydney, it was a pretty full on dance pop band and then I started writing completely different songs which were more kind of meditative and slightly more tinged with melancholy and it just felt more natural. So we just completely changed the band name there were new members that joined and that’s how I Know Leopard was born I suppose!
HAPPY: How much of the EP was inspired from that move from Adelaide to Sydney?
IKL: Quite a lot of it. I didn’t realize the extent to how much the Adelaide Hills and their scenic qualities were conducive to my creativity as a songwriter. The EP has a lot of nostalgic themes of feeling displaced. Because when we first moved to Sydney – it’s different now because we are all settled in- but there were feelings that we just really didn’t fit in and it was all just a little too fast paced for us – we didn’t really understand it. And I think we thought that we had to focus too heavily on the industry whereas I think that this EP is about relaxing and, you know, just kind of playing music you love with people you love.
HAPPY: So is there a story behind the band name?
IKL: Yeah there is! Basically it was just one afternoon, I was in a fancy dress store because I had a jungle themed party to attend that evening and I decided that I wanted to go as a leopard. So I went up to the clerk at the front desk and he was of Indian origin. And I was just like “Oh, I’m looking for like a leopard costume, a leopard mask or whatever you have”. And he was like “Yep!” and kind of knew what I was talking about straight away. He took me down the aisle and straight to a Chewbacca mask, held it up proudly in my face and goes “Yeah I found it!”. And I looked at him and was like, “Kind of not really the leopard I’m after man… I’m after a leopard. You know… a leopard?” And he kind of just looked back at me and didn’t take too kindly to that and threw the mask on the floor and said, “I KNOW LEOPARD!” in kind of broken English and just stormed off. I was just like, “wow”. I was with Todd, the guitarist from I Know Leopard at the time, and we just walked out the front of the store and said “I know leopard… there’s something interesting about that”. It’s such a playful reason for a band name. The themes of this band are quite serious at times and as I said, kind of melancholy, but the band name is completely in contrast to that!
HAPPY: She is super dreamy and beautiful. You guys recorded it in Sydney with producer Craig Wilson who’s worked with Flume and New Navy – how is that recording process reflected on the track?
IKL: The recording was awesome. He’s a young gun producer who is up and coming and doing some really great stuff. And he does all sorts of stuff; he’s very versatile. We’ve become quite good friends. He was great because he was just as passionate about the project as we were, he didn’t want to stop making the record until we were all really happy with it. The studio is awesome as well, it’s REC studios on Castlereagh Street, and it is the old 301. It’s kind of been redone and it’s got anything you want to play. In terms of the dreamy sounds, there was just so much gear to play with there that we just went crazy with the layering. If you do that then it tends to get that dreamy effect and then you can pile lots of reverb on which is what we like to do as well. So we got crazy with that, we layered everything up then we had to take away layers – it was getting too hectic! Craig was great, he just let us work on it for quite a long time. It was probably just the result of having such an amazing studio and equipment, gear and toys to play with that made cool noises. It was just a really nice, relaxed process.
HAPPY: What else can we expect from your EP Illuminia?
IKL: People ask me if the whole EP is as dreamy as She and I don’t know if She is necessarily indicative of the sound of the rest of the record. It does all have that kind of soft, celestial tone throughout the record. A lot of it is actually more groovy. A lot of the songs have that kind of urban, hip-hop beat. There are some pop-bangers on there as well. It is all pretty soft and pretty sounding because I love anything that sounds heavenly or pretty. That’s kind of what we like to do – get lost in big, beautiful walls of sound.
HAPPY: What is your song-writing process like?
IKL: Basically I’ll come to the group with the general bare bones of a song, melody or lyrics and we will flesh it out together as a group. We are one of those bands that write songs through jamming a lot. We’ll rock up to rehearsal meaning to practicing the set and we will just spend the whole time jamming and then realize at the end- “shit!”
HAPPY: You guys are doing some serious shows in November for the “She” tour – what’s your favourite part about doing live shows?
IKL: I suppose the energy. The way that two live shows are never the same. And getting our music out there to people who have never heard us before! I think when we play live we like to push that wall of sound thing a little further than we do on the record because, you know, why not?
HAPPY: What does 2014 and beyond have in store for I Know Leopard?
IKL: I want to just put out as much new material as possible, really. Right now we are just trying to write as much as possible in preparation to get it out as soon as this EP is released. Just more music and…more music!
HAPPY: What Australian artists are you guys digging at the moment?
IKL: I really love what Cloud Control are doing – they’re one of those bands that are doing that slightly psychedelic tinge thing, but they keep it to a concise pop format and that is really interesting to me. We really love Holy Holy who are doing some really cool stuff at the moment. Battleships are great too, they’re an amazing live band, and I’ve seen them a few times. There’s a band that we used to play with a lot when we first started out called Rapids, a Sydney band who were our sister band for a while and who are great mates with us. They’re actually no longer Rapids but they’ve got a new incarnation coming out soon which is called Mossy and that’s going to be a big orchestral slash hip hop thing that is going to be amazing. So have a look out for that! We’ve also played with Dr. Goddard who are super interesting as well. There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening in Sydney, there is so much variety.
HAPPY: What makes you guys happy?
IKL: Wow that’s a good question! Just the gift of being able to be in a room together collaborating and making music. I think that is something that I will always be thankful to be able to experience; I think it’s a really magical thing. Especially with people you’ve been doing it with for so long, it’s an amazing connection to be able to communicate musically with another human being. I think that’s a beautiful thing and we never want to take that for granted or let the flaws of the music industry spoil that.
FIND OUT MORE ON