RIOT Introducing #031: Premium Leisure

Premium Leisure perfectly personifies a care-free groove that marks the end of a pessimistic 18 months for music fans everywhere.

Recognisable to many as Willie J Healey’s guitarist, Chris Barker shares a love of retro songwriting. Hints of White Denim & T-Rex are smothered in optimism and presented with an unflappable nonchalance that makes for an effortlessly likeable listen. 

Premium Leisure’s recent EP, Easy FM, is out via Peckham’s new Plum Cuts label and sees many names from Oxford’s lively music community contributing. Willie J Healey, Palace, Be Good and PETSEMATARY all play a part in the feel-good 4 track release.

Hey Chris, congratulations on Easy FM, it sounds great: how long have you been waiting to release this EP?
Hello, thank you very much! The songs were all written in 2018 and mainly recorded that year. I worked with producer Oli Barton-Wood on the final touches and he did a swell job of mixing them over the past year. Whilst it seems like the tunes have been kicking around for a while, all things considered, I feel very lucky to have been releasing music over the past year.

Was it an intentional decision to create such a care-free sound in panicked times? Or a happy coincidence?
It was a coincidence, but the intention was to produce some uplifting tunes. I wanted to write something that had a productive and positive message that was less personal to my problems but might ease the worries of anyone who listens in. It may not be the most appropriate message for these times as this has been, and still is, a time where we cannot be throwing caution to the wind, but a little bit of a conscientious care-free attitude could be good (if you wash your hands).

The Premium Leisure project has brought together so many names from the Oxford music scene, how did you orchestrate and organise it?
I hire out a studio in Oxford which is run by good friend and sound engineer Jimmy Heatherington and I invite my bandmates down to play through songs I’ve written. They bring a shed load of ideas, and groove to the sessions, I feel very fortunate that they are always up for jamming with me. It’s not always the same lineup, it often depends who’s available. We record overdubs at my place or – through lockdown – additional parts have been sent online. It’s quite a flexible operation, I just try and make it happen whatever way I can without putting pressure on it and it seems to always work out.

From your perspective, what factors have contributed to Oxford being such a fruitful and community-facing home for musicians?
From my experience, I think the fluidity of musicians and willingness to collaborate has led to a great scene. Premium Leisure wouldn’t exist if Oxford musicians were only part of one project, I’ve just stolen players from other bands I like! Also, Oxford being a small city has a handful of venues in a relatively small area, so it is quite a close-knit community of musicians and enthusiasts. We’ve also had great promoters in the city booking touring bands which opens up a lot of opportunities for local bands.

When will we be able to see you play live?
We are playing the BBC introducing stage at The Big Festival at 3pm on 29th August, Are You Listening Festival in Reading on 9th Oct and supporting the brilliant Katy J Pearson at the Bullingdon in Oxford on 10th October. Can’t wait to get out there playing the new EP!

Premium Leisure’s new EP, Easy FM is available to stream now.

Order one of a limited run of hand-stamped vinyl via Premium Leisure’s Bandcamp

photo credit: Ash Cooke

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