Every dark cloud has a silver lining. On November 1, 2012, Lower Manhattan was powerless. Red Hook was submerged. And Williamsburg—though spared most of the trauma of Hurricane Sandy—was shaken nonetheless. Felled trees and utility poles littered the sidewalks; normally harried Brooklynites, unable to get to work or anywhere else, wandered Bedford Avenue in a daze.
Dave Hodge—the veteran Canada-born musician (Broken Social Scene & Bran Van 3000..who has also performed with Macy Gray, Feist, Brazilian Girls, and Basement Jaxx), arranger (Janet Jackson/Neptunes, Carly Simon), and composer was sitting in a café that day when he saw an acquaintance walk by: singer and songwriter Leah Siegel (a fixture on the New York scene known for her solo project Firehorse and for singing with The Citizens Band). The two had met while recording for a tv spot a few years prior, and hadn’t seen each other since. Before the storm, Hodge had been writing songs and score for the soundtrack to the indie film Two Hands to Mouth; pleased with the results, he hoped to create a new musical project based on a few of the pieces. Something that day—maybe it was a post-Sandy you-only-live-once feeling—prompted him to run out and say hello, and ask Siegel if she’d maybe want to try writing some music together sometime.
Scheduling conflicts prevented that from happening before March 2013, but when it happened, it happened. After just two months of writing, recording, and mixing, Hodge and Siegel have a band—Leisure Cruise—and their self titled debut album of darkly hypnotic, danceable synth-based anthems.
The name is somewhat ironic. Right before Hodge and Siegel began working together, news broke that astronomers had discovered three new planets in the Lyra constellation that appeared capable of supporting life. In light of the previous fall’s events, Hodge and Siegel got to talking: What if we had to leave earth and colonize a new planet? They imagined “a final leisure cruise for the human race,”—and the fledgling musical project as a sort of soundtrack for it. “We’re sort of living our lives in a state of leisure,” Dave says, “with regards to using up resources and knowing what’s happening and not really doing much about it.” Not that Leisure Cruise is all doom and gloom (or that it could be, with a name like that). “It’s not this apocalyptic thing,” says Siegel, of the concept. “We’d elect to make a purposeful and exciting exit. Try something new. In my head, I see it as a natural progression in the hopefully delayed inevitable.”
So what would play on this spaceship’s sound system? Something sounding like the future as imagined in the past—yet rooted in the now. Imagine the music of a John Hughes film if it had been written by Bowie, remixed by Johnny Jewel, and fronted by a female Prince, and you’ll start to get the idea. Rounding out the sound is an impressive roster of guests (Metric’s Jimmy Shaw, Blondie’s Tommy Kessler, Liam O’Neil from the Stills, Justin Peroff of Broken Social Scene, and Drake’s Adrian Eccleston). It’s at once dark and light, serious and fun, melancholic and euphoric. Ask Hodge and Siegel about their sound and process, and the answer sounds a lot like what happiness researchers call flow. “We weren’t trying to emulate anything,” Hodge says. “We were just making music.”
In fact, Hodge and Siegel see Leisure Cruise as the product of two musical soul mates meeting at just the right moment in their careers to truly savor it. “I’ve worked with some great singers, but it’s really very effortless with Leah,” says Hodge. Chimes in Siegel: “This is just the truest collaboration I’ve ever experienced—it’s a rare pairing.”