Interview: Leo Spauls
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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today? I would probably have continued working in a theatre in Stockholm. But I lost the interest to do that when I went on medication. Not sure if they want me back though, I was going psychosis a few years ago and lost my job at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. No one wanted to work with me. And there, you only get one chance.
What do you like to do when your not playing music, and how does that influence your creativity? I used to be the kind of person who went to the theatre a few times a week, even when I wasn't working. But I stopped doing that when I started working professionally with music again. I sometimes read books. But if I want to enjoy myself, it's mostly drinking and having sex. I've been into a few BDSM relationships, which gives me some inspiration. If not, at least the relief of not needing to think so much.
How long has your band been around? The UK band is Elina Tikkanen on backing vocals, Andy Basiola on guitar, Paolo Succo on bass, Lewis Moody on keyboards and Dan Breaden on drums. We met in January 2020 in London, did a few rehearsals, had some gigs booked, but then came the pandemic.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music? I've been living most of my life in Stockholm, Sweden. But I don't think that has affected my music at all. I listen to BBC6 every day and have been doing it for years. The Swedish music scene is different, and to be honest, not very interesting. I feel much more myself in Berlin and London.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you. We came up with the name Leo Spauls & the Dramas. But we never used it. It might reflect something of my past when I wasn't on medication for mental illness.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played. When I was running a theatre company in Stockholm, we did many shows in that venue, some of them were rather good. It had a theatrical ambiance to it that I liked. And worst? Perhaps some of the gigs we played at restaurants where no one was interested in us. But that's a good experience, of course. You must never take the audience for granted. However, trying to please them is worse. Maybe something in between.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you haven't already? I enjoyed playing Monarch Berlin. It's a very indie venue. It's at Kottbusser Tor, and the U-Bahn is running outside the windows. There is a recording of that show that you can find on Vimeo. There are so many venues in London that I want to play. I hope they are still there, but you never know.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket? I am hoping to play live with Mike Garson someday. He made this streaming concert last winter, which was pretty impressive. It had Trent Reznor on it, Yungblud, Adam Lambert, Duran Duran, and many of the Bowie alumni. It appears that everyone he called said yes. I'm also hoping to play with St. Lenox someday, which perhaps is more realistic. I have never met him but listen to his music a lot.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band? First, don't quit your day job. I don't know any musician who hasn't suffered the last year and a half, mentally, economically or both. Being a freelancer is incredibly hard. You need something to fall back on, even if the world is not going through pandemia.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be? Don't try to be good at everything. Instead, focus on one or two things. And keep practicing the piano.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why? At this point, it is "Show me your love". It's about meeting a guy from Brazil on a gay app, desperately wanting to leave his country and come to Europe. It's easy to fall in love with someone like that. Everything is new and exciting in the beginning. However, the reality is something different. Your lover is not the guy you thought he was. Perhaps you are not the guy he thought you were either, and your romantic dream becomes a war zone. You wonder whatever it was that that brought you together in the first place. But you've invested so much in that relationship, time, energy, even money. And now you don't know when to let go. "And the poets sing, love is truly a dangerous thing." is the message in this song. For the poets, for the lovers.
Which songs are your favourite to play and which get requested the most? With three different bands in three different countries, it's a little hard to say. The alternative pride song "Allt det som är du" was popular in Sweden a few years ago. So when we did that one in London and Berlin, I changed it to "Everything You Do". No one had heard it, but the audience appreciated it.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music? I am a pianist, so I usually start with the piano. I am trying to find some chords and melodies I like. Then I go to my computer, adding a few loops. We recorded everything with real instruments on the last album, Mike Garson sending his piano recordings from LA. This time we are doing a more electronic production. The melodies are relatively simple. I want to focus on the lyrics and storytelling. I want to evoke certain feelings and experiences in my life, like going to a gay sauna in Berlin, for example. The idea of gay music is still too limited, I think. We are just ordinary people like everyone else. It's 2021, and being gay is still a problem; in some parts of the world.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music? Relationships are the most difficult things in life. Even if you are desperately in love or attracted to someone, you know it will fade away someday. Half of all the pop songs ever written deals with this matter. The other half deals with falling in love. It might seem a bit cynical, but unfortunately, it's the truth. There are two different signs of the coin here, of course, either you stick with your partner, or you break up and move on. I've been trying both. But, unfortunately, it hasn't made me any wiser.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them? Of course, there is some tension sometimes. But this is my third band since 2016, so there has been no time for any serious disagreements. These people are professional musicians, and they play in many other constellations. So we do what we do and leave it at that.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that's coming up? We are releasing three singles this year on the Animal Farm label. So that's the most important thing that happens this year. Also, this time we are focusing on the UK market, so that's a big step.