[Interview] Leopold and His Fiction Tells Us The Story of Ava
Growing up is hard to do. When we are young, we want to grow up fast so we can do what we want. Which really means partaking in the things we feel we are missing out on. And that may be a feeling that we never get over. Life happens. People move, people die, people fall in love, and people give life. These are some of the life-changing events that become a crucial and pivotal moment in our lives.
New life meaning emerges. Sometimes we are prepared and like studying for an exam we take the time out to practice, but still what does it all prepare you for? Bigger and better things? Judgment day? To bring out the best you? Do we have to go through struggle and turmoil to unleash the greatest thing about ourselves? If we are unable to reach greatness on our own, just maybe, the universe has our back.
It's without question that no one likes to adult. Some people drown in their responsibilities succumbing to self-medicating and blissful numbing to avoid the truth of adulthood. Others drink it for breakfast and use it as fuel to ignite the fire they hold within. This is what I saw in Daniel Leopold. He was just finishing soundcheck with the band when I walked into Vinyl.
Daniel: Sunday, huh!? *whew* Done. Part 1 is complete.
Bullet: What is part one?
Soundcheck. We are on like week six of our seventh week of touring for this run. And I love my bandmates that’s all I can say. A little sarcasm in there. But I love them. We’ve just been in the van a lot.
It’s been awhile since you’ve been on tour, right!?
Yeah, like this for sure. Last we did maybe 50 dates or so. There are a couple years there where we were doing 200-250 a year and we are on track for doing that this year
I love these guys. These are some of my best friends. If you’re gonna start a band or a business with friends or family you know what you’re getting into. This band is 12-years-old and people who I wanted to be the most talented. Once you get on the road it’s all about chemistry and technicality is secondary. Luckily, these guys are very talented and really awesome people.
We started touring together in September. Europe three-week run. If that doesn’t get you close, nothing will. We were in Germany for a bunch of dates and the UK for a bunch of dates and to be thrown into place in where certain cities no one is speaking English, but the four of us and you either get along or you don’t. Luckily, we did.
This momentum is skyrocketing from zero to one hundred pretty fast. It’s great and again seven weeks, but between that European trip September, October, between now we’ve just been under the radar. We have to do all preparation is everything. You can’t go on tour without prep. I feel like I’ve been touring nonstop since June. As soon as Mark, our drummer, was the last one to come on board, preparing him with the songs and personality and everything else It’s just been 200% since then. We may have been off the road technically, but we got a new agent, a new manager, a new label, a new foreign agent so there has been zero downtime. I have a five-year-old daughter.
What’s her name?
Ava. That’s her. [shows me her name tattooed on his hand].
This is new for her too, right?
When she was two and three we toured 200 dates a year, but two and five are different worlds. This is definitely a first for us in that aspect too because I was taking her to school every morning or a lot of mornings and picking her up other afternoons. We definitely have a really strong bond that just gets closer and closer as she gets older and older. So it’s interesting, but we Facetime all the time. We live in Austin now and my mom comes in from California to help out and it works. It’s necessarily foreign to a musician way of life.
What does she have to say about you being on tour and being gone for so long?
This is literally the first long one. She calls me and again being five is on that fence where we can talk, but it’s dialogue and not a conversation for a long time back and forth. It’s like ‘I miss you. I’ve been thinking about you.' That kind of stuff and then I’ll stare at her on Facetime and she’s like, ‘Well I’m gonna go' - no no no not yet. What do you do in person? You just kind of sit there.
Is she in kindergarten?
She’s in the second year of pre-K. She missed the cut off with her birthday. She’s so smart. She’s reading already and doing math. See that’s the hardest part being away is that, sure she’s in school, but she learns everything at home still. Pre-k is kind of like a daycare. Socialization is important, but we teach her so much at home. It’s interesting. We’ll see how good the schooling system is.
It seems like she is the biggest inspiration for why you are on tour now and this album.
Yeah, 100%. The band I was in was based in San Francisco before I met her mother while Leopold was on tour. Her mother and I started a band and we toured for nine months. One thing led to the next and we had a baby and that’s how all that started. What that made me do, to be a working musician and at that time being able to afford to live.
San Francisco is definitely not an option to raise a child and be a musician. We decided Texas was much easier. So, I made the move, but I didn’t know one person at all. I didn’t know anybody, but her mother and maybe a few other people. I moved in. Nowhere to live. At that time it was six years of Leopold so in San Francisco you feel like you’re the mayor of the town when you play in the industry. I go down there a month before she is born because we toured all the way up until she was in her seventh month of pregnancy.
Both of you guys? Shut up!
Yeah, cause we were in the band together. Probably up till the sixth month and then we were home for a minute, but then we played ACL the festival [Austin City Limits] and that was technically our last show. That was in September and then she was born in November. So, we had like one month off which was insane. So, in that one month, I drove all my stuff from San Francisco to Austin like one car load which I pretty much have in the van right now. Just amps and clothing. I moved into a hotel down there and wrote the whole album out of fear, out of anxiety, out of excitement, out of just getting off the road for nine months. Not thinking I was actually going to be a musician anymore.
Like I’m moving to Texas what am I going to do to support this child. I opened up a food truck which is huge in Austin, which I’m sure is here too now. I started a food truck and was working that six days a week. Like I have to focus on this child, but then of course, the more the pressure like a diamond the more the pressure like a diamond shines. So it literally wrote the songs for me. The best songs I’ve ever written came out at once. I thought I was writing songs before, but what are you going to write about when you’re a kid. Unless if you go under some serious pressure. As soon as I got to Texas they just spilled out of me, but I’m sure that has a lot to do with the changing environment and the pressure. It was kind of ragtag.
The band that her mother and I were in I formed I brought the rhythm section on I borrowed them for Leopold because they were such good friends of mine and we just toured and we were really tight and just recorded the first half of the album. Again, we had no desire to really do anything. Well, I just wanted to get these songs down. So we got them down. Then I started getting calls like, 'I heard you were in Texas. How long are you here for? You want to play a show?’ Those calls were coming from ZZ Top and The Cult.
Wait, I just busted my back in San Francisco and was working terrible gigs. And then all of sudden I get to Texas and all this stuff starts. Stars aligning and ok let’s do it. It kind of picked up too fast for the other guys which were fine because they had no intention of touring more. I brought on other guys and you know the album has been five years in the making. Literally, my daughter is five and the album is essential five. And now it's out.
How does that make you feel?
It’s really insane. Because for the longest time what I thought was done we recorded thirteen songs with my friends I was telling you about from the first from the other band we recorded thirteen songs. I was like great! We got an album maybe we’ll release it, but we weren’t finding a home. Our label didn't really get it. And I wasn’t in any rush just to get it out. Most people record an album and throw it up on Bandcamp or something and there it is. In my mind, it was just too good. I just sat on it. When the other band members came we recorded a whole other album. We had like twenty-something songs and we just took like the greatest hits made them good. And then the current guys came along and we recorded two more.
We just compounded the whole thing. During the three to four years recording I was like I can’t wait to get this album out and finally start creating more. Sometimes that’s a mental block, but now that it’s out it’s like a big, not like a void, but a gaping, like looking over the Grand Canyon. Like, 'Oh God, I guess I asked for this. Now, what!?' I have to have like four more kids to do something or cut off my arm for inspiration I don’t know. I guess the storm has just passed and now I’m just waiting in the quiet. Well, this is not very quiet. Touring is not the best way to rest. We’ll see. I’m not in a rush. I like when songs happen organically. I use to sit down and write songs, but not really anymore.
In a previous interview, you said that songwriting is a beautiful struggle and something that you felt like you were chasing. I think this was pre-Ava.
Yeah, I was always chasing. Chasing just like everything else. That’s one approach that works. The dig. And then you strike oil and then you’re rich. There’s also another way. I guess there is a fine beauty in letting it come to you. You can’t sit around for it too long either. You kind of have to play both sides.
Photos by Sarah Htun for Bullet Music