Dear Leaders are Patrick Burland, Jess Whelligan, Tim Wong and George Wigmore. With Manchester and London roots, the quartet have developed a very international sound, taking elements of krautrock-influenced electronica, West Coast dream pop and that most English of genres shoegaze to brew up a sound that swirls and captivates. After hearing their new track, we decided to find out more about the band and their sound.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. What’s the story behind Dear Leaders and how would you describe your sound?
I’d say our sound is dark, dreamy, synth-sodden. Occasionally ‘krauty’. Often loud. Sometimes quiet. Our more recent songs were all written with love from a dark basement in North London, where we used to practice. I think this lack of natural light took a serious toll on our music.
The very compressed story of Dear Leaders is that me (Jess) and Tim started playing music together in Bristol back in 2010. We bonded over a shared love of weird synth sounds and lo-fi electronic music. Our friend Paddy then joined us on drums, and we started to play live. Over the course of a few years we all moved to London, released our first EP Not Summer and were joined on bass and vocals by my old friend and serial musical collaborator, George. We’ve been playing live and releasing music as a four-piece ever since.
Your music has a very DIY, almost raw edge to it. Is that a deliberate rejection of the very polished, pristine commercial mainstream or a more natural development of your sound?
Haha, yes… I think “raw edge” is probably a nice way of putting it! I think the answer here is “both”. Our music sounds DIY because it is. We’ve self-recorded, mixed and released all of our own music over the past seven years (with the help of very patient friends).
At the same time, I don’t think we’ve ever aspired to create something “pristine”, even if we’d been able to. I’ve always had a soft spot for music with a rawer edge to it, whether it be scratchy folk tunes or the lo-fi sounds of bands like Yo La Tengo. Music that hasn’t had the human compressed out of it.
The band members live in various parts of the world – how does that impact on the practical side of making music together?
At the moment I’m based in Barcelona, and the rest of the band are split between London and Hong Kong, which makes practicing/playing gigs a little difficult. Our plan is to now experiment with a bit of cross-border recording by emailing each other tracks to record on. I’m as curious as anyone to see what we come up with. In terms of playing live, it’s a just a question of waiting impatiently until we’re all on the same continent again.
Could you tell us a bit about your most recent release, Reading and its accompanying video? I’m sure I recognised the skyline in the background!
Reading is probably our most “krautrock” song to date, and we’ve always had a lot of fun playing it live. It’s a meditation on rubbish jobs, hungover mornings and inspired by a visit to Reading University campus.
The song is accompanied by a video made by Manchester filmmaker Andrew Hillock and was filmed in Pomona, a gorgeous piece of wild wasteland near the centre of Manchester, which is now being “developed” into luxury flats. The location fits the song – a patch of wildness in a grey cityscape, like a noisy synth palm-mash drowning out, for a moment, the monotony of a bass riff…
What’s up next for Dear Leaders? Is there more new music on the horizon, other projects?
Like I said, we’re hoping to experiment with some cross-border recording in the coming months, and depending on how things go, we’ll hopefully be sharing with these with the world. In terms of other projects, I make weird soundscapes with a cello in a duo called Ruined Spirit.