Making His Mark: Clash Meets Leo Bhanji
Leo Bhanji was born in Los Angeles, before settling down as a resident of Finsbury Park, London, where he produces songs from his bedroom. Plenty has been said about the murky details of modern music making- a world of endless ghost writers, production bootcamps, artists operating as curators, but Leo is an artist whose sound and down-to-earth nature mould him into a profoundly relatable artist.
A flurry of addictive releases – a glorious run of singles that includes ‘Heart of Gold’, ‘Nope!’ and ‘Blood & Guts’ - swiftly caught the attention of Dirty Hit. The standout label boasts an impressive roster of artists including Wolf Alice, the 1975 and current Clash cover star beabadoobee, amongst others. This year has proved to be an outstanding year for the London based artist, who has cemented his place as one of the most exciting artists to listen to in 2020, we talked to him about what has been a truly remarkable year.
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As a music journalist, I’ve suddenly found that questions surrounding the pandemic have slowly become somewhat of an Achille’s heel - it’s the new dreaded question, as sacrilege as asking someone who their biggest influences are. But talking to Leo, it becomes increasingly harder not to. After such a standout year for the artist, it leaves me desperately pondering over what else could have been.
Leo however, sees things in a far more upbeat sense. “I find it difficult to see it as a year, but it’s been a lot of fun. I was in the studio before lockdown, but I was done with writing by then.”
Leo touches on whether he thinks lockdown has impacted his music, commenting: “It’s hard to trace what’s changed because of lockdown and what is just a natural transition. At the moment I’m just playing with my sound, whether it’s related to lockdown or not I’m not entirely sure.”
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The self-produced single ‘Heathers’ is Leo’s latest musical offering, an intricate blend of pop, R&B and hip-hop influences that simply can’t be pigeonholed into one genre. The track was Leo’s attempt to escape from the often hum drum and dreary world we find ourselves in: “I wrote ‘Heathers’ after quickly watching a few romantic murder movies (hence the name) and that Angelo Badalamenti video where he’s like, ‘the trees, Angelo!’ I was working in a shipping container and wanting to make something expressly fictional, which isn't my typical angle”.
The track is accompanied with a stunning video put together by long term collaborator Nick Robin, who Leo wholeheartedly credits for several of his fantastically curated music videos. “I’m actually not that into the video side of things, I’m really lucky to have good collaborators; I work with a guy called Nick Robins who is responsible for most, if not all of them”.
From this a discussion emerges about collaborating, something that the London-based artist is very careful about doing, expertly choosing who to collaborate with and when. “Sometimes I’ll have a cool idea but I won’t be ready to put it all together. The idea of having to justify something to someone else all the time can be really time consuming.”
Talking to Leo is a refreshing type of interview that catches me by surprise; to put it bluntly, there is no bullshit here at all. He doesn’t talk unnecessarily, no arty tangents, answering every question as honestly as he possibly can. “I don’t agonise about certain things; I worry about things like the drums rather than the lyrics. For me the lyrics are almost an afterthought.”
The interview ends touching on what lies ahead for Leo. “I’m really excited to be working on my third EP, that’s what I’m working on now. I’ve built it up in my head and I’m working hard on it. The live show is really exciting, I’ve got a really good idea of who I want to work with. So, it’s just a case of pulling it all together”.
Leo Bhanji is already making his mark, documenting the pain, the love, the sorrow, the absurdity of day-to-day life, with each element laid bare for all to see, through the lens of someone whose discography of limitless promise is forever intertwined with their identity.
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Words: Josh Crowe
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