When Leerone joins Sea Wolf at Velvet Jones on Friday night, Santa Barbara will be treated to a tantalizing look into the current dynamics of the Los Angeles music scene. By inhabiting venues the likes of Spaceland and Tangier, both acts have carved reputations for themselves that are now bringing their sounds to the masses. For Leerone, it all comes down to image-but not in a Spice Girls sort of way. Having released two seductive EPs, the pianist is about to launch her debut album, Imaginary Biographies. And just like the recordings that preceded it, Leerone’s album is destined to seduce all of the senses, not just the ears.
You’ve recorded two EPs thus far. What is lurking around the corner, recording-wise? I have released two EPs, one in 2003 called In This Life, On This Road, and another in 2005 called Hail to the Queen, and now I have my first full-length CD, called Imaginary Biographies, which will be released in January.
Why record two EPs? Was it a case of taking baby steps before diving headlong into an album, or was it more about best serving what the songs demanded? I think a lot of it has to do with time and money. It is definitely more approachable to start smaller. At this point I would feel very limited if I was putting out another EP, but back then it was enough to satisfy what I wanted to share with people.
When did the realization come that it was time to record a full-length album? That’s a good question. It was the result of a number of things. The first was that I felt very ripe-and I know that probably sounds a little cliched-but lots of songs had been brewing in the time between the album and last EP. I had so many songs that needed a home and I felt deserved to be heard; and I also felt ready. It was really as simple as that.
How do you feel the dynamics differ between an EP and an album these days? Given the rise of digital sales, single songs are probably back to selling the best, so it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you release an album or an EP. There is definitely more hype that comes with an album, and there is probably more financial support coming from a label for recording an album. A lot of music that is selling these days isn’t from a particular album or EP, per se; it’s simply a single song.
What sort of statement did you want the album to make? I guess I wanted a larger picture of what I’m trying to express in music and where I’m at musically, so a full-length CD fitted that perfectly.
For somebody who is so dynamic live, how do you translate your music from the recording studio to a live setting? I definitely experience an internal struggle with that because right now, when I perform, I perform on my own with a piano. I have started rehearsing with a band, too, although we aren’t yet at the stage where we are playing shows-but that is coming up. So I’m always struggling with whether I want a recording to sound the way that it would sound live, or to sound the way I first hear it in my head, with all the different instruments that can then be replicated live.
Which way did you lean for Imaginary Biographies? I think that this album embraces a little of both. There are songs that are piano-driven, and while they feature strings, you can imagine me playing them just on piano, live. And then there are songs where a band definitely helps bring the song to life, and I would even venture to say that I need the other instruments in order to do justice to those songs.
Image and music go hand in hand. And while many mainstream acts embrace it on a very superficial level, you have beautifully embellished your releases and seem very conscious of the ties between the two. Whenever I am writing the songs, there are images that I have in mind also. For me, it is equally as important because I think they go hand in hand. I love photography, so imagery is a part of my life. It’s like when you see a film and the music in the film is almost as important in shaping the experience that the viewer has. When I am experiencing that phase where the music is being born, there are a ton of images that go with it. And while it might not be as important for the listener, for me-as the creator-it is very important and defines what I am doing and how I am going about it.
A trademark of your releases is the accompanying artwork. Does the visual and musical inspiration stem from the same place? One way or another, I just find some way to express myself. I guess it just comes down to being obsessed with whatever enters my head coming out, so I find a way to get it out somehow.
Leerone joins Sea Wolf onstage at Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Friday, November 30. Call 965-8676 or visit velvet-jones.com for details.