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Sports & Leisure Quickly Becoming Players in the Local Rock Scene
There's nothing bargain bin about Sports & Leisure, though at first mention their name does paint an interesting picture.
Listen to the six-piece epic rockers' first demo and your whole world is set to be blown apart by an all-encompassing soundscape. The fermata of an organ dancing around one chord ushers in what is the driving force behind “Fire Breathers.” Crashing drums, guitar, and vocals come on like a volcano's eruption. Then, the rich, layered vocal harmonies kick in.
Sports & Leisure came to be through a series of emails from singer/guitarist Richard Dubourg and multi-instrumentalist BJ Blue.
“It was probably about a year of BJ and myself writing songs back and forth,” says Dubourg. “We played together a couple of years ago but I wanted to do it again.”
Local rock aficionados may recognize Dubourg from his stint in MyNameIsJohnMichael. Blue and another member, the prolific Jeremey Peres, previously played together with the Green Genes. All but Russell Shelton are from the New Orleans area.
“We've all known each other since we've been teenagers, maybe just peripherally but we all played in punk bands around the Cypress Hall scene in Metairie, which was the little indie rock mecca of that time, an all-ages venue kind of thing. Our bands would open for each other,” explains bassist Whitney Brown, “I knew who Richard [Dubourg] was, I knew who BJ [Blue] was, and then Jeremy [Peres] and I had played together. We all knew who each other were.”
Brown was the originator of the Sports & Leisure name, originally choosing it for a different musical project before joining Dubourg and co.
“It's a trivial pursuit category,” says Brown.
“It's also a big Walmart sign,” jokes Blue.
“They actually brought that back right after we chose that name,” Brown continues. “A friend of mine sent me an article on Facebook that said 'Walmart bringing back the sports and leisure section' and I was like, 'No!'”
Sports & Leisure was the only moniker the whole band could agree on. It came after a slew of failed names, including Grammar School for Girls, Radio Atlantic, and the seemingly nonsensical Carpet and Ottoman. As their music progressed from song ideas to their current catalog of tracks, Sports & Leisure became a band-wide aesthetic that even translated to their wardrobe.
“We like to present ourselves. It's important. If you go on stage looking kind of slobby it gives the vibe of high school garage band,” explains Dubourg. Blue agrees, citing a cleaner look for rising ticket prices. “I used to go somewhere and just expect the cover to be five bucks and now people call us and say, 'the cover's gonna be like ten, twelve.' That's kind of getting up there. If you pay that much for a theater show, you expect something back for it. So I think looking sharp and playing sharp makes it worthwhile.”
The band's logo of a tennis racket laid diagonally across a rifle is a playful nod to that Walmart section and the earthy sound Sports and Leisure draws from. “We're trying to keep it organic, kind of dark but never moody. It's just dark tones. A lot of it is actually pretty positive-sounding,” says Dubourg. The band doesn't take itself too seriously in name but with every member effortlessly switching instruments at any given moment, the sextet are definitely serious musicians.
The constant shuffling makes for an interesting and unexpected live show. “Scott [Hannan] switches between three different instruments in one song. I had someone tell me, 'Every time I look at that kid he's always smiling; he always smiles the entire time he's on stage but he'll be playing something else,'” recalls Brown.
Don't miss a moment when Sports & Leisure take the stage Monday (Oct. 8) at the House of Blues opening for UK indie darlings Bombay Bicycle Club. In addition to quite a few New Orleans shows, including a November 30 record release party for Vox and the Hounds' heavily anticipated debut album, Sports & Leisure are looking to record their own EP come wintertime.
“Either in November or December we're planning on going in to record. We'll hopefully be done by January or February with a five song EP,” says Dubourg.
“Fire Breathers” may be their only demo but expect another one by that Vox and the Hound show. Touring is definitely on Sports & Leisure's mind too.
“Touring isn't in the cards just yet but we're planning on doing a few out of town things. I think once we have the recordings to promote ourselves a bit better then we can go out of town and show other bands what we're doing,” says Blue, “I think this has put as at the next step as a band. We've played shows and written songs and the next step is doing a recording, trying to get that established here and then I think, the road.”
For more on Sports & Leisure, visit their website here.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article inidcated the song "Fire Breathers" employed castanets and slide guitar. Those insturments were not used in the recording of the song.
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