In time for the release of the second album from Derry’s Invaderband, we had the pleasure of chatting to the mastermind behind it all, Adam Leonard. Adam gives us an insight behind the album, the impact of Covid on its release to how he got involved in the Derry music scene in the first place.
It has been four years since your debut album came out to critical acclaim in 2017. Aside from recording the follow up, what have you been up to?
Invaderband played quite a few gigs in support of the album (the best one was opening for CAN legend Damo Suzuki in Letterkenny) in 2017/2018. There’s been a few line-up changes. 2020 was a write-off for obvious reasons, but we did get the new album down. There’s been another line up change since the album was recorded with James Cunningham (ex-Schtum) replacing Gav McCartney on bass. Hopefully we’re stable now… for a while!
Away from Invaderband, I had the world’s most uncommercial 7” single out on Polytechnic Youth (side 1 was essentially metallic clanking noises, but side 2 was nice and tuneful!), I released Part 9 of my 8-part Octopus series – mainly just to make myself smile at the absurdity of that. I did a bit of work with Warriors Of The Dystotheque, adding lyrics and vocals to 3 tracks (one of which got a spin on 6Music), I did a Christmas Single, got a track on a Castles In Space compilation, and also got an electronic album released by TDO (The Dark Outside) cassettes. I made other stuff too which has not come out yet.
Your self titled debut record was shortlisted for the Northern Ireland Music Prize. Did that add any pressure to the recording process for number 2?
Not consciously, no. I don’t think I was even sure there would be another Invaderband album at that point.
In your own words your debut featured “songs [that] are a bit silly”. Your second single from Peter Gabriel ‘Handcuffed Man Shoots Himself’ has more serious undertones. Is that a feature or theme that filters across the whole record?
Well, the 2nd album has a song called ‘Cheese Slices’, so I still like a bit of silliness. But yes, it also covers police brutality, mental breakdown and subsequent memory loss, being cheated on, Britpop artists self-Googling, and trying to communicate with a dead partner. So it’s probably more serious than the first. You tell me!
We tend to find that artists change their answer over time but if we could only listen to one track from Peter Gabriel, what would it be and why?
My favourite Peter Gabriel song is unchanging – it’s ‘Darkness’ – ideally the live version on ‘Live Blood’. It gives me goosebumps every time I listen. So, so powerful. It’s about overcoming fears (and to my ears, depression) – an astonishing track.
How has the release of the album been impacted by the pandemic?
It caused a delay. We had Blast Furnace (studio in Derry) booked for March 2020 to record the album but it had to be cancelled at the 11th hour – literally days before we were due in because of lockdown #1. So that was a bit of a blow because we’d practiced a lot to get tight and we could not record or play live, but we finally got it recorded towards the end of last year, and then mixed and mastered at the start of this year, with the first single coming out in March. So in theory this album could have been released last year, but hey ho – we got there in the end!
While Invaderband appears to be your main focus, you haven’t been shy in releasing music under your own name. Do you find it easier to develop and write songs as part of a band or on your own?
To me it’s the same thing. I always work on songs alone really. Even the co-writes in Invaderband are people giving me a tune and I will add lyrics and vocals to it, and maybe alter the structure of the song slightly, but it’s never a “real-time” collaborative thing. However, James joining has encouraged the recording of improvisations / jams as a new way of producing material, so who knows. I’ve never worked that way, but if I can structure some of the things we play and add words/vocals, it might be a new interesting avenue which is more collaborative.
When you first moved to Derry, did you find it easy to get involved in the local music scene?
Not really, because I was 38 and that’s not a good age to start making new friends, but I just HAD TO so I forced myself. The start of it was really me contacting Chris (McConaghy AKA Our Krypton Son) and asking if he would play with me on a BBC Foyle session I had coming up (I had a solo album out at the time). I’d heard his music online and thought he could be a good fit, so we practiced for that session and became friends. Then after a lot of encouragement from Chris I formed Invaderband in 2012. Through that I met a lot of new people, and now I feel totally at home here.
If you were charged with picking your winner of this year’s NI Music Prize Album of the Year, which album would you choose?
Strength NIA – ‘Ulster Is Dance Master’. A phenomenal band and a phenomenal record.
Will we have to wait another four years for the follow up to Peter Gabriel?
Maybe! I’ll keep making music, both solo and with the band (for as long as they can stick me!). What else would I be doing?
Invaderband released their second album, Peter Gabriel on 24th September 2021. You can order digital or physical copies (including vinyl) of the record via Invaderband’s bandcamp.