Austin, Texas, USA

"The easiest way to describe Austin-based Leach's sound is 'like TV On The Radio took a bunch of acid.'" (Indie Shuffle)

Band Press

Top 10 Austin Albums of 2015 – Ovrld

Every song on Kokedama, the swooning but consistently sharp synthpop album Leach put out this year, seems perfectly designed to soundtrack any number of the real life mini-epics that we all collect, which define both our romantic and our capital-R Romantic lives. The rush of “Waiting on You” is meant for the moment a lover races through the airport to catch The One before she departs, security logistics be damned. The delicately optimistic “Down to a Science,” by equal turns soft, sad, and sweet, should kick in as a seemingly crumbling couple revives their commitment with the right kind of subtle smiles and eyes. And “Grown Up,” with its playful lyrics and commitment to atmosphere, seems constructed as a dizzy, glittering homage to the highs of a so-late-it’s-early, kiss-under-the-neon-lights kind of night to remember.

What sets these songs, and the rest of Kokedama, above the fray is Leach’s stellar, inventive pop craftsmanship, meticulous production, and surprising lyrical statements. When you expect the language to skew broad it is beautifully specific, when you expect boastfulness Leach instead trembles with uncertainty. Kokedama is pretty pop with a racing pulse and a complete lack of pretension (and pretty’s no insult); it’s an album to reach for when you think you might be ready to fall in love again but you need a reminder of why. – Kayleigh Hughes

Leach - Kokedama – Hillydilly

As we’ve mentioned many times before, we’re suckers for unique-sounding vocals, and with Austin-based artist and producer Leach, he’s not only a fantastic, standout voice, but his production is surprisingly just as good. On his latest project, Kokedama, we find all of these quality traits coming together, and we’ve no doubts that you’re going to love what music he’s created here. From the woozy, swerving electronic of “Tru Luv”, to the classic-rock vibes of “Blueberry Queen”, to the peppy, synth-laced “Tiptoes”, prepare to have Leach becoming a new artist that you hold in a higher regard than most.

Top 25 Austin Songs of 2015 – Ovrld

Austin has most genres covered pretty well but few figures in the scene are unabashedly making pop music. Leach is an exception, a young genius with a knack for gorgeous melodies and beautifully arranged pop symphonies in miniature. “Grown Up” serves as a perfect distillation of the best qualities of his album Kokedama, inventive and spry and just the right of melancholy. For the moment, Leach remains an underappreciated local. But if there is any justice in the world, he’ll soon be a global superstar. – NH

Down to a Science: Leach's Kokedama Forces Austin Pop to Open Up – Ovrld

2015 has been a year of sonic experimentation in Austin, anxieties over the future of the scene spilling over and inspiring anxious music where sounds twist into unexpected forms and genres that had gotten a little staid suddenly open up and branch out. While a lot of that has come from the new wave of punk pranksters, starting with Big Bill on down to US Weekly and Popper Burns, there is also a growing number of pop eccentrics, artists trying to carry some of that rogue “let’s mix shit up” mentality to more “traditional” genres. Bedroom pop daredevil Leach puts himself at the vanguard of this latter movement in Austin with his new mini-album Kokedama, a suite of seven tracks that shows Leach’s melodic talents as well as his envious production skills while also questioning what pop can or cannot be.

Named after a “Japanese art form in which the artist grows a plant out of a bed of moss,” Kokedama is essentially constructed around a desire to make art in anti-gravity, to pair the traditional with the sublime. Leach’s linernotes state that he made the record in order to confront his artistic insecurity and the notion of a botanical artform that had a plant growing in essential weightlessness appealed to him. It’s fitting then that the entire work has an airy quality to it, defined as much by Leach’s open production as by whistling synths and lungfuls of vocal expression. The sound is casual but deep, invigorating in its emotional frankness yet not so serious that it can’t get playful as it comments on artistic insecurity. As Leach puts it in “Blueberry Queen,” “Got a record that I think you’d like/Or I wish you’d like,” the backing beat eager to please in its boom bap intensity even as Leach’s vocal illustrates his nervousness, his fervent desire to be liked.

Even as Leach is wanting you to like him, he’s pushing at your expectations, so you get tracks like “Waiting on You,” which deliver handclaps and shimmery guitar lines and a pretty melody but back it with a twisty, unexpected beat that places its emphasis in nontraditional spots and exercises Wrong Theory with the intrusion of borderline annoying percussion. Leach wants you to like his art but he doesn’t want to change his art in order to accomplish that, the expectation is that you’ll meet the work on its own terms and embrace its eccentricity while easing into comfort with the more traditional elements. The album even begins with “Tru Luv,” an electro-soul number that shows that Leach knows how to craft an indie hit, borrowing elements from TV on the Radio and Junior Boys, giving samples of every piece of his range, from baritone speak-singing to falsetto crooning.

Where “Tru Luv” is more somber and traditional, Kokedama’s single “Grown Up” takes the opposite tack, building up from a playful synth line like something from a lost Gregg Araki film before dialing it back to give Leach’s near falsetto verse room to stretch and play. The entire song is rooted in play, in fact, with Leach asking whether his face looks funny as he makes an odd sound, the video simply showing him jumping rope and lip syncing. It’s one of the least rhythmically focused-songs on the album, the percussion strictly summer sprinkler hi-hats and big bass booms, the spotlight instead given to all those mischievous sounds and Leach’s disarmingly fragile voice. “Tiptoes” is similarly minimalist but there the beat is more dominant in the mix, snaps and kick beats pushing back at Leach’s breathy delivery, the arrangement adding increasingly complex percussive variations even as Leach’s vocal subtly mixed.

Kokedama’s biggest surprise comes in its final moments, though, as Leach breaks from his digitally focused influences to unveil “Down to a Science,” a closing number that bridges French pop structures and the kind of ethereal acoustics Grandaddy and Earlimart had, well, down to a science. Where Leach’s arrangements make up a lot of the appeal for the other tracks on the album, “Down to a Science” is stripped down and light, basically just a double tracked guitar paired with a subtle toy organ line as Leach sings like he’s trying to keep his voice down in a silent, darkened house full of restless relatives.

That’s a fitting close for an album built around a need to not only be liked but respectfully heard while keeping your head down in a scene that talks a big weirdness game but so infrequently practices it. Being weird in punk means standing out from the pack with unusual perspectives as well as sounds but in pop it means being weirdly quiet and unorthodox, skewing towards the ethereal instead of the bombastic. Kokedama proves Leach isn’t just comfortable in those quiet moments that make other pop hopefuls cringe, he relishes them.

--Nick Hanover

Stroke of Genius – Dallas Morning News

With the Internet turning the music industry on its head, the band rehearsing in the house next door could become the next big thing. And that’s what the four teens in indie pop group Seastroke hope.
These musicians’ songs are solidly constructed, which isn’t common for young bands. The group’s first batch of pop tunes has Irving producer and Air Review member Jeff Taylor’s fingerprints all over them — no filler, just sub- four-minute tracks with dynamic arc and heartfelt emotions. (Exhibit A: fragile plea on “Sailing” ... “Please don’t break my heart, no not again.”)
Lead singer Stuart Leach recently took time to answer questions about the band’s origin and its future.
What’s the origin or significance of the band name?
There’s no real significance to it, other than that we like the abstract imagery it presents. We love band names that present some sort of image but aren’t too narrow in doing so.
Musically speaking, who are your biggest influences?
We have certain groups we all love and are collectively influenced by — groups like Radiohead,
Whitest Boy Alive, Maps & At- lases, Grizzly Bear, Department of Eagles and Mew.
How did you get connected with Jeff Taylor?
Three of us attend Irving Bible Church, where Jeff Taylor is the technical director and studio pro- ducer. We’d tossed around ideas for places to record, and the Swan (the studio at IBC) just felt like the right place.
We loved Air Review’s debut
album, Landmarks, which was recorded there. At the time, we knew nothing about how recording worked, so it was great to have someone as patient and musical as Jeff help our ideas come to fruition.
What’s your assessment of the state of the Coppell music community?
It’s looking good. It seems like the majority of music is coming out of churches. Playing worship music is a great experience for learning to play in front of crowds (not saying that should be one’s reason for playing worship!).
I like that so many Coppell bands have gotten into the record- ing end of things. It’s a great way to see where a song falls short.
Do you think being a suburban band makes it more difficult to get exposure and book shows? If so, how do you combat that and
land gigs opening for national- touring bands such as Chicago indie outfit Maps & Atlases?
With the Internet, it’s easier to book, but networking is more diffi- cult in the suburbs when it’s such a chore to casually experience live music without burning an hour round-trip.
To combat adversity, we get lucky. The Maps & Atlases gig was landed because, on a certain Sun- day, I chose to wear my M&A shirt. My friend Joy saw it and told me that she grew up with the drummer. Short story shorter, we’ve landed a gig with one of our favorite bands.
What’s next for Seastroke?
Right now, we’re looking at playing some acoustic gigs here and there for charity and friends.
We’re nearly done writing material for a full-length album, which should be released by the spring. It’s gonna be good.

Leach - "Kokedama" – Cereal & Sounds

Something is to be said about an artist who can write, perform, and record their own album in a seemingly effortless manner. Austin Texan Leach has recently released Kokedama, and it is surely one to be put on repeat this summer. With a strong voice housing even stronger lyrics, and a sound that is undeniable groove-inducing, Stuart Leach’s combination of electronic soul is perfectly executed in this 7-track journey. Kokedama is available for online purchase here, or for free here. Spread the love and support the music!

Out of Focus – Ovrld

Musically, Leach has the sound of Animal Collective and Passion Pit constructing perfect bedroom pop without interruption, sweet synth sounds for the shy and awkward footed. But Leach’s “Grown Up” video is that awkwardness made maximum, just Leach skipping rope and mouthing his lyrics as the song plays on. The effect is akin to a Miranda July performance art piece, though I’m not certain that’s intentional. Regardless of whether it is or isn’t awkward on purpose, the video nonetheless fits the message, basically arguing that being “Grown Up” means embracing your fun and rolling with the verbal punches, ignoring whoever’s out there ready to judge you for skipping rope like no one’s watching. It’s a simple, basically static video but it’s hard to take your eyes off of it because it’s just so endearingly honest.

Out of Focus – Ovrld

I guess the accidental theme of Out of Focus this week is simplicity, as every video assembled here is built around a simple concept and simple execution. But the simplest might be Leach’s “Tru Luv,” which has the bedroom pop boy wonder stuck in a bleak black room scanning YouTube clips, the colors lighting up his face as he mumbles along to the song. “Tru Luv” is what starts Leach’s new album Kokedama off, a bit more revved up than the bulk of what follows, the distorted bass lending Leach’s impressive but usually subtly mixed voice some growl. It’s a strong enough song that it really doesn’t need much ornamentation, though I must confess I had hoped Leach would have given it a little something extra. Admittedly, “Tru Luv” as a clip fits the intimate intrusion of Kokedama, so maybe I’m wrong to make such a demand.