Leiahdorus has been in the business of creating sweet, soaring electro-pop since its formation by Jason Smith and Fox Fletcher back in 1998. Gaining keyboardist Darla VanWinkle in 2003 and drummer Ryan Goodman in 2007, the band has focused on evolving and cultivating a uniqueness over the years. With the release of Leiahdorus’ third full-length on Section 44 Records, the Albuquerque band is finding itself more mature and less plugged in. And experimenting with banjos. Leiahdorus on this and more below, via e-communique.
What drew you to electronic music?
FF: I’m not a fan.
RG: Nothing. I'm drawn to good music.
DV: I grew up with piano lessons, then played the violin through high school. Now I play the keyboard, which is an interesting combination of both instruments. ... I wouldn’t say I’m drawn to electronic music, more that I’m drawn to electronic instruments as my choice for performing.
JS: I appreciate a lot of genres of music. I enjoy a good balance of acoustics with electronics within our band. It's what I think we as a band have been striving for and feel we finally got in this album! And will continue to do.
Where did you get your name (and why so many vowels)?
JS: Fox and I came up with it at the latter part of high school. It's just its own thing. There's a little story behind it, but it seems like whenever I explain it, it creates more questions.
DV: (lee-ah-DOR-uss) You know, I honestly never realized that all the vowels are in it ... Leiahdorus, and sometimes Y.
RG: I'll defer. Except that it's easy to remember: "It's i before e except in Leiahdorus."
How did you guys end up on the CMJ (College Music Journal) charts, and how did you celebrate?
DV: We launched an extensive college radio campaign in December with a five-track EP called Sirens, and within the first week we were charting at No. 18 nationwide. You know, I don’t think we celebrated at all! We were too busy finishing the album.
What makes Ode to the Builders different than your other albums?
FF: Less talk, more rock!
RG: Drums. Guitars. And Tambourines. Lots and lots of tambourines.
JS: This album to me has so much substance and meaning behind every song. The title itself came to me while watching a late-night documentary on PBS a few years ago. The documentary was about New York during the planning and construction of the first highway system developed in the city and how it divided communities and literally changed people’s lives. Later, after the construction, crime increased, families changed and the community seemed to no longer connect as it once did. I guess the idea of Ode to the Builders is a tribute to those who have built the society that we have, from ideas to construction and onto the ever-changing world around us.
DV: In the past, Jason and I did all the composing and writing, and now, with a full band, two other people have contributed to this album. It is definitely less plugged in. I must admit I was a bit surprised when I heard tambourine on the finished product, and more so when I heard banjo, but I think it works. It is a logical evolution from the last two albums. Our work has always been about relationships, and that is still true, but with more of an emphasis on the people in your life who have contributed to who you are. We’ve grown as people and as musicians, and I think the music reflects that.
What is pictured in the cover art?
DV: We played at the Main Street Lounge in Louisville, Ken., and the building on the cover was across the street. Ironically, while we were recording Ode to the Builders, we found out that it was torn down to build lofts ...
Do you have any guilty music pleasures?
JS: Love Django Reinhardt and Dock Boggs all day.
FF: Fine Young Cannibals.
RG: I adore Lady Gaga and Madonna. But I have no guilt about them.
Anything else the people should know?
JS: This album was three years in the making so come and celebrate this one with us at Burt’s Tiki Lounge!
FF: We cracked the Smiler Grogan Case.