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Children of Leir - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 18 / 4 / 2015

Children of Leir - Interview


Anthony Strutt chats to experimental Leicester-based band Children of Leir about their fascination with history and mythology and their just released self-titled second album

Children of Leir hail from Leicester and, originally a two-piece, have recently been joined by German singer, Helena Haiff. Stuart Gray plays keyboards and sings, while Gregg Hunt plays guitar and also sings. The band have just released their second album, which like their 2013 debut, is self-titled and is available through Bandcamp. They also released their double A-sided first single, 'Black Annis'/'Children of Leir' at the end of last year. Both musicians have been in bands for years, and this project sees them in more experimental mode. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Stuart Gray and Gregg Hunt at a gig at The Scholar in Leicester. PB: Why the name Children of Leir? GH: Leir takes its name from King Leir, whom supposedly was an ancient king of England and whom ruled from Leicester. While we are both in Leicester now, Stuart doesn't come from here originally and neither did I. I am from Barrow upon Soar near Loughborough, but I have always been into all this mythology, so that is where the name came from. PB: Have you had many previous bands? SG: I have been in a few bands, but the main one was Viva Stereo. That was a labour of love. We were involved with a French collective, did what bands did, released our own records, toured a bit and I ended up here when I was on tour. We ripped off Primal Scream off a lot (Laughs). GH: I used to be in Cherry Choke (Whom are headlining tonight's gig). I played with them and a few other bands as well, I also played with a French girl. We did music and poetry, which was kind of interesting, and we did a couple of demos. PB: How did you actually meet? SG: We met at a club that took place at The Firebug in Leicester. GH: When I first moved here, there was a club called the Lava Lounge that specialised in rock and roll and garage punk and that my girlfriend and her friend put on. Gregg was a mutual friend, and we both hung out in the same crowd. SG: Gregg started the band. I saw him with the French girl that he was in a band with and I liked the stuff he was doing, and in my mind I was thinking that I would like to put some keyboards to. When, I came here, I tried to start a band. I still wanted to do music, but I didn't want to be a front person like I was in Viva Stereo. So, I wanted to get involved with what Gregg was doing. But it wasn't the right time. And then when's Gregg's thing ended he had some stuff that I thought I could put keyboards. Originally I was just going to put keyboards on the recordings that he did with the French girl, but then he played me some new stuff that he had done, said, "What do you think of this?" and it went from there. PB: How would you describe your sound to fresh ears, to people whom have not heard of, say, Suicide, Velvet Underground or Loop? GH: I would say it's kind of a thirty minute experience of a wall of noise. It involves riffs and tunes and a bit of vocal, lots of hazy keyboards, but mainly wall of noise, which is kind of the thing that I like. SG: We would say that we are a psychedelic act, but that conjures up images of things that we aren't. The kind of psychedelia that Gregg and I listen too isn't the same as what other people listen too. It's a difficult one. PB: Are there any bands out there that you feel you have common ground with? GH: There is one band in particular, One Unique Signal. SG: We saw them one night, and they struck a chord with us. We try not to follow any scene though, but there's a lot of great bands out there that I like. I love the Black Angels, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Warlocks. GH: We do our own little thing. but inevitably we are going to get associated with other bands. At the end of the day though we are not really like anyone. We are a bit different. We definitely recording-wise do it our own way. PB: You have done two full UK tours across the UK now. Would you say people like you more outside of Leicester or on home soil? GH: It is not really either. PB: For example, how well do you do in London? SG: We are very lucky in London, because we have a couple of promoters in London, whom picked up on us early on. And they knew their stuff and they are into our sort of music, so they put us on bills that will suit us. To a degree it's still baby steps. We are still finding our way. GH: It's enjoyable. We don't rehearse. We have a backing track, but I never know what's coming up, and I love doing it that way. PB: You have just released your second album.. What would you say the main difference between the two is? SG: I guess it's got more depth to it. We are only two people. We have to limit ourselves by choice. I have been in studios with bands that have pro tools, optic tracks, and that's great. We use eight track and we stick to it, so it's always going to be pretty similar. GH: You want it to keep it fresh. The thing I like about recording is that there's no time limit on it, so if we don't feel like doing anything and then something else comes up that sounds great then we can use that. It just happens that most of our recordings are done quickly, and pretty much everything is first takes. PB: You also released you first vinyl single last October. GH: Yes, and we got it pressed ourselves by a pressing plant in Hamburg and it was really cheap. We thought that we would do one pop song, 'Black Annis', for the pressing and we chopped down one of the songs off the album. It's a completely different version of 'Children of Leir'. There's also a new 12 inch coming out in a few months on a German label, and then there will be a new version of the album on vinyl which will feature alternate versions of all its tracks. PB: What's the history of the single and Black Annis. Was she a witch? GH: Yes, she was a witch Western Park in Leicester. She was a 17th century witch whom lived in a cave up there, and any child that got too close she would kill them and cut their skin off and eat them. PB: And you did a video for 'Black Annis', which looks like it came from a silent horror film. GH: I think it probably did. SG: We are pretty lucky. Again we meet people, whom are nice and helpful. There was a girl up in Lancashire, whom got in touch with us early on, basically saying, "I have done a video for one of your older songs." Not "Do you want a video?", but "I have done a video." She had got exactly what we were into, so when we did 'Black Annis' we thought that we would get Paula in again. We sent her a message, and she came back the same day, I don't know where the sources are from, but it just looked great. GH: It was perfect. SG: That video isn't over stated, I gave her a brief, thinking she would come back with a witch on a broomstick, but, no, she did really well. PB: You have got this a female vocalist, Helena Haiff, who sounds a bit like Nico and appears on certain recordings. GH: She's in the band now. PB: But she still lives there? GH: Yes, she going to do more singing for us. PB: Will she come over and do gigs? GH: I am not sure. We will see what happens. SG: She sings on 'Black Annis'. Se is doing her own thing, musically, so we weren't sure if she wanted to get involved. It's another way of changing the game a bit. PB: Could you see in the future bringing in maybe a bass player or drummer? GH: We are thinking about it for live work, but only for certain gigs. It is very much me and Stu, and there's no way I want to spend three hours, twice a week in a rehearsal studio. PB: Last question. Do have a message for the world? SG: Expect the unexpected.

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Children of Leir - Interview

Children of Leir - Interview

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