Late last summer, Victoria indie pop stalwarts Leisure Suit dropped their debut full-length album Easement, but not before quietly disbanding. While songwriter Oliver Brooks would stay in Victoria to work on other projects, Rowan Mackenzie, Andrew Taylor, and Zack Santella--the three other core members of the band--prepared to move thousands of kilometers away. The next time they would all be in Victoria together wouldn’t be until December 2015. Bummer, right?
Yes and no. For a band that isn’t certain it still exists, Leisure Suit has done a fantastic job of generating digital content and hype: they dropped two music videos in the second half of 2015; Brooks drafted a cast of supporting musicians to perform local shows in support of Easement.
Aiming to make the most of a holiday reunion, the original lineup of Leisure Suit performed at Upstairs Cabaret on December 27th alongside several of these supporting musicians. They brought two disparate and talented acts with them: electro R&B trip Cathedral Bloom and Cowichan Valley rock n roller’s Zuzu’s Petals.
Cathedral Bloom’s producer Dan Godolvitch (OKPK) was first onstage that evening, teasing the room into self-awareness. He was Later joined by emcee Harold Hejazi and vocalist Toni Hiatt. Their lyrically complex bars, and slow sonorous melodies wooed a small crowd into dancing. Reluctant table-leaners began to carry their beers down to the center of the room, or else made the move to get another.
Zuzu’s Petals brought on a completely different dynamic, driven by their frontman-swapping sensibility. Lead guitarist Louis Grove played jangly yet precise country-laiden lead riffs with ease, melding a brightness and precision into Nick Joy’s more frenetic style. Dante DeCaro (Wolf Parade, Hot Hot Heat, Johnny and the Moon) played support on the bass guitar. Aidan Thorne emerged from behind the drumset only twice to swap his sticks for guitar and microphone, but there was an energy in the room as he lead the band in performing Zuzu’s classic Smokin’ Weed. You could make out the band’s longtime supporters by the way they shouted along.
Leisure Suit had the pleasure of taking to the stage while the room was full, the evening’s libations already well underway. It quickly became apparent however, and especially as they played Easement singles Distraction and Bust Love, that this was a band determined to perform passionately and well. They had worked hard in the preceding weeks to make their live show worth waiting for, in rehearsals and in promotions. Their onstage presence boasted an earned synergy, capturing a sonic lushness similar to that of their recorded material without sacrificing the energy of live performance. Drummer Andrew Taylor and guest percussionist Adrian Heim performed as a tight unit of rhythm alongside Owen Hooper’s precise bass. Zack Santella and Rowan Mackenzie governed texture and melody with keyboards and guitar, even after Mackenzie crushed a finger on his left hand during load-in. Brooks’ vocals modulated between an understated mid-range and something more feathery and ominous.
With the wide spread of living situations of band members, every Leisure Suit show now has the potential to be their last. It could have been a performance undercut by nerves, or worse, resignation. But the band seems to have turned separation into a positive force. One can’t help but hope that they’ll find another excuse to do the whole thing again, and soon.
- Joseph Leroux
Photos: Trevor Ball Photography