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Photo Credit: Elaine Huang

Hear Magazine Chats with Leopold and his Fiction

Leopold and his Fiction Perform in Ferndale at The New Way Bar May 1st

By Kevin Tshiamala

Lead vocalist/guitarist Daniel James grew up in the Motor City, where he soaked up the hip-shaking grooves of Motown and the protopunk resonance of Iggy’s Stooges.  After sojourns in Los Angeles and San Francisco, he settled in Austin. His band Leopold and his Fiction have been making headway gaining fans ever tour stop and playing acclaimed festivals such as SXSW. Hear Magazine got a chance to chat with Daniel James as Leopold and his Fiction ventured across the country.

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Hear Magazine: So you’re from Michigan, where exactly?

Daniel James: I was born in Detroit and as I got older we moved out to like Southfield and Ferndale areas.

Hear Magazine: How did growing up in and around Motown influence the style of music you ended up playing?

Daniel James: When I was there I didn’t really know what I was being influenced by. After leaving Detroit, I realized most of the stuff I was writing was definitely inspired by Motown, late fifties early sixties Motown. Then the resurgence, maybe ten years ago, of the Garage Rock I began writing was similar mindset, but not necessarily Detroit. It was a subconscious thing that came about.

HM: What’s the difference, if there is one, between being a musician in San Francisco, Detroit, LA, and Austin?

DJ: I think it has a lot to do with the work ethic. In Detroit, we’re very blue collar, it is very driven. You work to work. California is definitely more laid back, but it’s also very cut throat because it cost so much to live out there. In Austin itself, not Texas, Austin is super laid back. They’ll gig when they want to gig, they’ll play when they want to play, do what they want to do. Everybody in Austin plays, every single person.

HM: In the bio for Leopold and his Fiction, Iggy and the Stooges comes up more often than other bands. Can you just speak a bit on why this is? Is it something critics brought up?

DJ: I always listened to that growing up. It was always right there, always accessible. It wasn’t until recent years that people started hearing it themselves and tagging that. That was there interpretation of our influences. I can’t deny it.

HM: Describe your style of music; it’s bluesier than rock at times, more soul than blues at times and more rock than punk… how would you describe it?

DJ: Being that we have four albums we have kind of grown from one thing to the next. It is mostly inspired by Motown. People just started labeling us as Rock / R&B and R&B is like…I never set out to write that in my life. I never set out to write Country, R&B, or folk or anything. I really just wrote songs that made sense to me at the time. If someone were to ask me, I would just tell them to come see the live show.

HM:What’s the song creation process, the writing process, how do you get from idea to sound to song?

DJ: We play a lot. When we’re on the road we have time on our hands to play. When were at home we rehearse five to six days a week. It’s kind of like the Chicken or the egg type of thing.  We save the rehearsal space to come up with something that we have to use. So we realize we have part A and part B and so forth. Or I’ll be at home and write a song with all the lyrics then bring to the rehearsal and we try to formulate something that’s going to go around the words. At this point I’ve got some really really amazing guys playing with the band, so it’s really easy to make it happen.

HM: Has anything differed in regards to your expectations as getting in this as a young musician as opposed to now being a seasoned musician?

DJ: When I started it was just writing songs to write songs, being in a band. That was enough at the time. It’s funny because the more attention we got, the more we thought well maybe we should try to package this and take it on the road. We’re at a point right now for the three of us in the band that it’s our career and we can actually sustain off of this. So I mean what are goals now are very different then what the goals used to be. If we come a bit more financially stable, awesome. That’s obviously great no matter what you’re doing. We all love what we’re doing, that’s the best part about it… I’d say we’re living part of the dream right now.

HM: What stamp are you trying to leave on music? What do you want people fifty years from now who pick up and listen to your album from 2016 think of when they listen to Leopold and his Fiction?

DJ: I would hope for a collection of good songs. Let’s say we end up doing ten albums and let’s say there are a few songs off each one that really stand the test of time. Not just like the one song on MTV or like the one song on the radio… I want to write songs that can be passed along. If someone picks up a CD in fifty years and can relate to it. Great!

HM: What are you working on now?

DJ: We just finished up our fourth album. So we just finished mixing it and it’s actually being mastered right now. Now we have to figure out what we want to do with it. We’re trying to really figure out what the best procedure is because we want to make sure we do it right. We’re on the road 230-260 days a year. We really just want to make sure each little step is with a purpose.

HM: Is there a band name you regret using?

DJ: No not all. This is it for me. This is the only band that I had the choice of all that. I picked that out of the gate and it has worked.

[Fan Questions brought to you by Goombacast and Smashin’ Fruits]

HM: Who is on your Mount Rushmore of music?

DJ: Stevie Wonder for sure…Can I just do four Stevie’s?

HM: We’ll take that. So you’re playing The New Way Bar in Ferndale on May 1st, what’s your favorite place to play in Michigan?

DJ: Actually I love The New Way. They’ve renovated it, made it a little cleaner and a bit more comfortable, I like it a lot. This will be our third time playing there and I really like the location a lot. Everything about it, there are a lot of good people there, so I’m excited to go play there again.

HM: What venue, anywhere in the world, would you love to play?

DJ: I would really like to play The Fillmore in San Francisco.

HM: So I always do this, because it’s necessary. Is there any piece of advice you would like to give to up and coming artists?

DJ: If it’s a band not like a solo person I would say just stick with it. Find the right people who have the same interest. Don’t try to mold. It’s like being in a relationship with a significant other. Don’t try to mold the other person. Try to find the person that you want to be playing with, that you want to be in a band with. Find people that compliment the band.

HM: Alright let me stop the interrogation and open it up to you. Any shout outs, things you are looking forward to, psa’s you want to make?

DJ: We’re really excited to get in to Detroit a little bit early on the day off and be able to spend the next day there as well. We’re really excited to spend time in the city again. The guys that play with me Shawn and Trevor are from Texas so every time we’re up there I like to show them all the fun touristy stuff. We just released our video for the upcoming album, just wanted to point that out. Then we look forward to the album coming out later this year.

Leopold and his Fiction will be playing The New Way Bar in Ferndale on May 1st. As Waco Weekly stated, “No Matter what time this band goes on, it’s always worth the wait. Maybe it’s the handlebar mustache of front man Daniel James, or the combination of garage rock, psychedelic festival music, and glitter rock that keep audiences transfixed. If you’re a first timer to a Leopold show, don’t be shy…Get ready for showmanship and revelry; there will be plenty.” This will be our first time at a Leopold and his Fiction concert. We are beyond excited and look forward to seeing you at The New Way Bar on May 1st.

For more information please visit Leopold and his Fiction’s official website: http://www.leopoldandhisfiction.com/

For social media please visit: https://www.facebook.com/leopoldandhisfiction