25 October 2013
Bunk Bar | Portland, Oregon
By Meghan Kearney
Photos by Alisa Patten
It’s Saturday morning, I just woke up and my legs are sore. Did I go to the gym last night? Or did I go to a Leagues show last night? Yup. I believe it was the latter. The band Leagues from Nashville, Tennessee prides themselves in their tenacity to write songs and play live shows that are first and foremost focused on one thing: fun.
I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting with Thad, Tyler and Jeremy of Leagues at Bunk Bar in Portland for their show with the amazing opening act Kye Kye. A strange start to the show indeed for the band, as their sound check took place amongst a venue full of bar-goers, and a green room that was rather a hallway lined with larger than life paintings of possibly disproving women.
We chatted about their first official headlining tour, their fun with Vine, and their favorite band - Yellow Polka Dots, before the group took the stage to dance the house to pieces. Heading off on tour to support their recently released Spotlight EP (read about it here) and their 2013 full length You Belong Here the four members of Leagues made their first appearance in Portland. They took to the stage with the energy they’re known for and plowed through a set feeding that energy out to the audience.
Thad led the stage with his expansive vocal talents, while Tyler took charge of guitar riffs that seamlessly bounced around and off the venue’s walls. To the back, Jeremy pounded on a mixture of raw drums and pads that kept the music flowing between rock and subtly electronic back beats. To the left of the stage, bassist Phil plucked through a blend of funky beats. All four, dancing, clapping and having a wildly great time.
What do these four long-time musicians hope to see together as Leagues? “We want people to engage. Put people in a room that you wouldn’t think would go together in a room. People that just want to have a good time and let go and enjoy something,” Tyler shared. It seems they had no problem doing this. Out in the audience, dancing bodies filled the room from the front of the stage all the way to the back booths of Bunk Bar – booths normally filled with sandwich consumers. And the demographic of the crowd? All over the place. Fresh-faced Portlanders bouncing around at the front, handfuls of faces that resembled those fresh-facers’ parents bobbing their heads along the bar. “Amazing, that you can just show up to a bar and hear such talent,” said one member of the crowd, seemingly not expecting a show to be taking place that night at Bunk Bar.
The band played through a wide set of tracks from both their LP You Belong Here and the Spotlight EP, including fan favorites “Lost It All,” “Walking On Water,” “Spotlight” and the mellow, beautiful “Friendly Fire” along with an unreleased track during the encore. Their west coast tour is coming to a close, but if you’ve yet to see them live – check out dates for their upcoming East Coast tour, just a few weeks away! Below you’ll find our full interview with Leagues, sure to make you giggle.
INTERVIEW WITH JEREMY, THAD & TYLER
SR: First please introduce yourself and what you do in the band
Tyler: My name is Tyler Burkum and I play guitar.
Jeremy: My name is Jeremy Lutito and I play the drums
Thad: My name is Thad Cockrell I sing, play the guitar, and I set up merch.
SR So I first want to talk about you guys as musicians – you guys are sort of a super group, you’ve done your own thing and are pretty well established. How do you think that works as a band all together now? Challenges, successes? Do you love each other, do you hate each other?
Jeremy: Yes….. No, I think since we have all been doing this in different capacities for awhile so it helps. I feel like if there are problems we’re able to solve them quicker. We’re not 22 jumping in a van and going “let’s just do it!” Everything counts, everything matters, and it comes down to making the music. The writing process is a lot more complex. It has a lot of weight into it. So it kind of just means that the joys are even bigger joys, and that the frustrations are bigger, but those go by a little quicker. I think maturity does a lot.
SR: So this is your first headlining tour, correct?
Jeremy: Yeah. First official.
SR: You’re coming towards the end of it, has it been a success? Do you have any favorite cities you’ve visited or stories you want to share?
Jeremy: We were really surprised by, I think it was Phoenix, was awesome! Those people just came to dance and they totally brought it. There’s been a lot of cities like Phoenix where we don’t have radio play. It’s one of the cities that kind of just fell flat with radio but it didn’t matter.
Thad: It was like people were part of the stage and like going crazy. It was so much fun.
Jeremy: Yeah, I think we’ve been fortunate enough to have a few things on television and stuff. We meet new people and we always ask them “how did you hear about us?” and they’re like “oh I heard you on this commercial an then I shazzamed it.” And it was like that morning, and we’re like “WHAT that’s crazy that works!” Someone would care enough to hear it for the first time and be like “I’m going to that!” That’s been encouraging.
SR: Alright! Good on ya Phoenix!
Thad: They are secretly rad.
SR: Yes! Secretly rad, they are!
SR: Alright so you guys are really big on wanting your audience to sing and dance both at your live shows and your recorded music. Do you have any special tactics either for yourselves to get warmed up before you go on stage? Does it just com naturally? What’s your strategy?
Tyler: It would sound like a horrible joke if we just said booze. No, no I’m just kidding. Ya know, we listen to Olivia Newton John. We just limber up before the show. We do a lot of hot yoga. Together.
Jeremy: We help each other with stretches.
Tyler: We just totally namaste the crap out of it. No, I mean I think we love moments in music that are so good that we can’t help but laugh in a way that’s like holy crap that’s so good. So I think we try to do that and we want people to engage. Put people in a room that you wouldn’t think would go together in a room. People that just want to have a good time and let go and enjoy something.
SR: Well there are a lot of kids in the room back there if you want to go round up some small kids.
Tyler: Let’s bring the kids man, bring em man!
Thad: And the Allman Brothers [who were playing on the house music]
Tyler: That’s kind of what it is, acting like a kid is pretty much what it is.
Thad: We love it! I think people engage completely differently whenever it’s your own show than when you’re opening up. When you’re opening up it always feels like you’re forcing a conversation on them that they never signed up for. This way you actually know that they’ve probably heard your music before. It feels like you go into it with some momentum instead of having to create absolutely all of it yourselves.
SR: So it makes it a lot easier and more satisfying to just go out there and have a ton of fun?
SR: Alright so you guys released your debut full length earlier in the year and your new EP came out really recently. From my point of view it seems like they’ve been received really well. I’m sure you are pretty stoked about this but you have any specific celebratory moments or specific times where you were like “holy shit people think we’re rad”?
Jeremy: There was a time when we…
Thad: heard our song!
Jeremy: In L.A.! Yeah there was a moment. We flew to LA to do a show.
Thad: One of those moments you don’t think would happen anymore.
Jeremy: Yeah! It was like, what was that movie? That Thing You Do! Where you hear it. Because we weren’t even listening for it and the radio was on low and we were like “hey let’s go to this place wait wait wait wait what?” And then we all had a moment, and that was cool. And ya know, we need those moments. We’re independent and it’s hard work and we’re fully doing it, it’s literally we do all the work. So when there are those moments, it makes it worthwhile. That’s what we strive for.
SR: Alright so one of our big things is hearing about people’s music scenes. You guys are from Nashville. I’ve never been there, I know it’s one of the best scenes in the country.
Jeremy: The hot new city.
SR: Hot new scenes, up and coming! Not super hot for years past, haha. Well what is a typical day for an artist in Nashville like if you could sum that up?
Thad: Uh, wake up, scratch your head, lay back down in bed, and think “wow, here we go it’s another day” and then you slowly put your feet on the ground… I don’t know. I mean the community there is pretty amazing as far as musicians that support each other. There’s not really a competitive vibe. One person’s success doesn’t mean the other person’s demise. Everybody kind of tries to lift each other up. But also you trip over musicians, because there’s so many, everybody’s doing it.
Jeremy: Yeah, really creatives.
Thad: Yeah, it’s a town for creatives. I mean, 8 out of 10 people that you talk with in the course of a day are creating or will create and the other 2 are helping the other 8 create. So ya know, it’s fun. It’s a really laid back town though. Super open, easy to make friends. There’s really not much snobbery or hierarchy. You’ll hang out with people that have sold millions of records and right next to people who have literally just moved to town hoping to make their first record.
SR: And it’s kind of moving away from the country idea. Everyone outside of Nashville typically thinks “country” but it’s really moving away from that and becoming pretty eclectic.
Jeremy: The funny thing is, it’s been that way for a long time because we’ve been there, but now the outside perspective is that “oh this is starting” but people from there are like “well wait, it’s always been like this”
Tyler: 1965, Bob Dylan made Blonde on Blonde one of the greatest rock records of all time in Nashville. That was a long time ago!
Jeremy: But of course now you have all these big you know Jack White moved to town. The Black Keys live in town. Kings of Leon. So you know, it’s a rock n roll, it’s just a music town!
Tyler: The White Stripes, The Pink Tigers, The Yellow Polka Dots.
SR: Oh, I love the Yellow Polka Dots!
Thad: Oh, they’re SO good right?!
SR: SO good!
Tyler: They’re so awesome man.
SR: So I’ve already gushed to you about how much I like your Vines. A lot of musicians have Vines but you take yours really serious. You use like over the shoulder shots and quick cuts.
Thad: Have we seen any other musicians Vines?
Jeremy: We haven’t seen bands’ Vines.
Tyler: We feel like we’re the only band’s. We Vined the very, first, day that Vine existed.
SR: Really?! I have a Droid so I was late to the game.
Tyler: So we don’t really know, we just do the same stupid funny Vines.
SR: Do any of you guys have any film background?
Tyler: My parents owned a camera when I was a kid
Jeremy: Tyler’s got a good eye for framing. And I’m the one that just acts like a moron.
SR: Alright so to along with the fact that you’re trying to portray yourselves as really fun, do you think it happens consciously that you make these funny Vines, or do you use that to help portray yourselves as super fun guys?
Jeremy: I think that it’s truly just us. We don’t think about it.
Thad: Oh, they don’t think about it!
SR: Ha! Yeah, I noticed you’re not in a lot of them, Thad.
Thad: I just laugh.
Tyler: We just laugh about it
SR: So Thad you’re like the test pilot?
Thad: Yeah! Anytime you hear sounds like a wind machine in the background
Jeremy: That’s him wheezing.
SR: Okay next Vine you make I hope I can hear the wheezing.
Tyler: You guys can help us make a Vine where we can be walking in and I’ll go “hey” and you’ll go “Hey are you Ricky Martin?” and I’ll go [Tyler makes a really sad face here].
SR: I love it. I’m on board.
SR: Alright so you guys are coming to the end of this tour. What comes next for Leagues? Taking a break? Going back to writing?
Thad: Seattle, Vancouver, and then we go home for 5 days, and then we go complete east coast and then we do the exact same thing. And then after that we’re going to find a rock, and we’re going to climb under it, and we’re going to go to sleep for about a week. And then we’re going to wake up, and we’re going to go meet Santa at the North Pole and we’re going to start helping him pack boxes.
Jeremy: That’s what we do for money.
Tyler: We actually move stuff.
SR: For Santa?
Tyler: No we just get paid to move stuff.
SR: Wait are you serious?
Tyler: Well, no, yeah we play our songs for free but we get paid to carry our stuff around the country.
SR: Alright well last question, you guys played the Bing Lounge today, how’d that go?
Tyler: It went awesome! Super, fun.
Thad: Do you ever see shows there?
SR: Yes, I’ve been to a few of them. Unfortunately I was at work today so I couldn’t go.
Thad: Did you listen?!
SR: No my boss was on my back and I was like come on just leave for ten minutes!
Tyler: I’m literally picturing your boss standing on your back and you’re reaching for the radio button.
SR: That’s what happened!
Thad: Are you okay?
SR: Yeah like if he was a huge 400 pound guy.
SR: And now I need to go to a chiropractor. I tried.
Jeremy: That’s rough.
SR: Alright well, that’s all I have for you guys so if you want to add anything please go ahead, or just say something ridiculous.
Jeremy in a British, possibly Austrailian accent: Hi we’re Leagues and you’re listening to Secretly Rad Media [voice fading out] media media media echo echo….
[Next goal: buy a recording device not from 1997 so no one ever has to miss moments like that ever again]
SR: Thank you guys so much!
Tyler to Jeremy: How did you do that with your mouth?