At your Leisure: The Auckland band on a path to fame

by Kate Richards / 09 December, 2016
Auckland band Leisure’s laid-back approach hasn’t stopped them gaining a global following
From left, Leisure band members Djeisan Suskov, Jordan Arts, Jaden Parkes, Tom Young and Josh Fountain.
Bands are usually falling over themselves to promote their music, but Leisure – the clue’s in the name – are so laid-back they may as well be sleeping. A sudden spike in their popularity that followed the late-October release of their very good debut album made securing a chat much more difficult than you’d expect.

Before they were Leisure, the five band members – Jaden Parkes, Djeisan Suskov, Tom Young, Josh Fountain and Jordan Arts – were friends through various side projects, including stints in popular bands Goodnight Nurse and Kids of 88. A summer weekend away in Muriwai in 2014, organised by lead singer Parkes, was their first real opportunity to collaborate. It was meant to be pretty casual, but the trip generated not only their first single ‘Got it Bad’, which now has more than 600,000 Soundcloud listens, but the bones – and most of the flesh – of their debut LP.

The album is entirely collaborative but remarkably cohesive, blending influences from The Beatles, 1970s funk and soul and, for Parkes, a solid stint of “listening non-stop to Boyz II Men”.  Each band member has a day job in the music industry: producing, managing, promoting or directing. “Everyone has had different musical experiences and that’s influenced how we’ve formed our ethos and navigated our way through [forming the band],” says Parkes.

They’re keen on sticking together. They recently watched the Oasis documentary Supersonic, concluding that working collaboratively was the only way to survive and grow and that anything resembling Noel Gallagher’s independent streak would be the wrong approach. Leisure is “more concerned with what’s best for our songs, than what’s best for someone’s ego,” says bassist Suskov.

No one in the band seems fussed about fame. The guys mill about as though time means nothing, turning up in dribs and drabs to be interviewed. When I arrive early to meet them, Parkes seems genuinely surprised that someone could arrive ahead of schedule.

Band members write, record and mix all their songs themselves, only recently signing to management agency Saiko. For each of them, making music needs to allow time for creativity and, as Suskov says, give them all the chance to “enjoy the journey” and their lives outside of Leisure.

“There’s no point doing it if it isn’t fun,” says Suskov. Production is slow and has, up until this point, been quietly ticking along. The band’s main ambition is to make songs they believe will have longevity, and that they actually want to listen to.

Perhaps surprisingly, this laid-back approach is paying off. Leisure has played only a handful of shows in the past year, most of them domestically, but the band’s reach on Spotify is global, with thousands of listens in Paris – their biggest Spotify player by territory – and Melbourne.

Leisure band members in promotional mode. Photo: Fraser Chatham

“I have no fucking idea why we’re so popular,” says Parkes. “Certain places just connect with us and you don’t always understand why that is until you’ve been to those places and played.” It may be this simple: their sound – smooth enough to listen to in the car, but bassy and fun when it’s loud – is everyman’s music, without ever feeling tired or cynical.

Even more surprising, they’ve achieved all of this without much commercial airtime. Auckland student radio station 95bFM has played them a bit, as has George FM. They’ve also been played on BBC radio in the UK and enjoyed a short stint at number one on Triple J in Australia. Mostly though, people have found them through the internet and word of mouth. Their local connections and industry contacts haven’t hurt: despite the band being shrouded in mystery in its early days, its members seem to know everyone in Auckland.

A few key gigs have helped, too. They played the opening show at REC – Sam Harmony and Connor Nestor’s new downtown record store and gig space – and sold out at Crystal Place, the once-derelict 600-seat theatre at the end of Mt Eden Road.

Most recently, Leisure played at Meow Meow in Wellington, a tiny Te Aro venue. They don’t play often, nervous about potential overexposure. It’s easy to become overplayed in a little place like New Zealand, they reckon. 

Some time ago the band members agreed that they’d release a couple of songs and, if they made enough money from them, they would go to, say, Provence and write some more. That was almost two years ago. Since then, the band has finished recording an entire album and sold enough copies to make such an exotic music-creation retreat possible.

Still, Leisure can’t quite get themselves to the northern hemisphere. In fact, they can barely organise being in the same room at the same time. Not that it seems to matter when it comes to their success so far. The easy-going approach seems to be working just fine. Besides, the clue’s in the name, right?

Leisure’s tips for Auckland

Jaden Parkes – Waitakere Estate is pretty special. 573 Scenic Drive, Waiatarua.

Djeisan Suskov – Has to be Narrowneck beach for a swim. Old Lake Rd, Devonport.

Tom Young – Homestead café in Hillsborough for lunch. 72A Hillsborough Road, Auckland.

Josh Fountain – Get to Volume; Music in Aotearoa while you can. Auckland Museum, until 21 May 2017, Auckland Domain.

Jordan Arts – Best ice cream is at Ollies. 802 Manakau Rd, Royal Oak.


This article was first published in Paperboy magazine.
Follow Paperboy on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to the weekly e-mail


Fémmina: The story of NZ's unsung suffrage provocateur Mary Ann Müller
96479 2018-09-19 00:00:00Z History

Fémmina: The story of NZ's unsung suffrage provoca…

by Cathie Bell

Mary Ann Müller was fighting for women’s rights before Kate Sheppard even arrived here, but her pioneering contribution to the cause is little known.

Read more
Ian McKellen charms his way through a documentary about his life
96472 2018-09-19 00:00:00Z Movies

Ian McKellen charms his way through a documentary …

by James Robins

Joe Stephenson’s tender documentary Playing the Part looks at McKellen's life as an actor, activist and perpetual wizard.

Read more
The case for closing prisons
96403 2018-09-18 00:00:00Z Social issues

The case for closing prisons

by Paul Little

If we want a prison system that does a better job than the current one, alternatives aren’t hard to find.

Read more
Jennifer Curtin: The feminist political scientist mixing rugby with politics
96422 2018-09-18 00:00:00Z Profiles

Jennifer Curtin: The feminist political scientist …

by Clare de Lore

Australian-New Zealander Jennifer Curtin says the lopsided nature of the Bledisloe Cup pales in comparison to the slump in transtasman relations.

Read more
Don McGlashan is out of the attic and taking flight
96439 2018-09-18 00:00:00Z Music

Don McGlashan is out of the attic and taking fligh…

by James Belfield

Don McGlashan is taking some old unloved songs on his New Zealand tour.

Read more
Are We There Yet? is the exhibition marking 125 years of women's suffrage in NZ
95961 2018-09-18 00:00:00Z Arts

Are We There Yet? is the exhibition marking 125 ye…

by Linda Herrick

The exhibition at Auckland Museum shows there is still ground to make up.

Read more
Mr Wiki: Mike Dickison is NZ's first Wikipedian at large
96030 2018-09-18 00:00:00Z Tech

Mr Wiki: Mike Dickison is NZ's first Wikipedian at…

by Elisabeth Easther

The entomologist will work on outreach programmes and recruiting editors to improve the sparse coverage of New Zealand topics.

Read more
Contemporary new cafe, Browne St, opens in Avondale
96454 2018-09-17 15:08:36Z Auckland Eats

Contemporary new cafe, Browne St, opens in Avondal…

by Alex Blackwood

New cafe, Browne St, combines Avondale's heritage with a modern fit-out.

Read more