Those who experienced March’s Neon Reverb Downtown Music Festival can attest to the fact that it brought out the night owl in all of us. Music fans willing to wait it out were handsomely rewarded; however, when San Francisco trio Leopold and his Fiction took the Aruba Lounge stage at nearly 2 a.m. The blues-inspired rock band is back in Las Vegas for two shows in May, one this weekend at The Bunkhouse and the second the following weekend at The Aruba Lounge.
One of the best discoveries to come from Neon Reverb, Leopold blends roots rock and blues with skillfully crafted lyrics, that make this relatively young three piece (they’ve been together less than a year) a cohesive group that multi-tasks on several instruments to create a much bigger sound. While there is no Leopold in the band, singer and guitarist Daniel James spoke with the Weekly about the origin of the unusual band name and his unique fashion sense.
What prompted the lineup change in your group a year ago?
The old band member- we used to be a two-piece- got his Ph.D. and decided it would be in his best interest to pursue electrical engineering. The day came that the bridge had to be crossed, and it seemed liked it was going to be tough at first, but then I met John who is our current drummer and things just went perfectly. His girlfriend came to pick him up one day and asked if we minded if she played with us. I had an extra bass lying around, so she pulled it out and it just worked.
What did you think of your whole Neon Reverb experience this past February?
We had some trouble getting out of LA that day. All our equipment got stolen three days before. We had, like, $4,000 in equipment stolen in San Francisco and we were going to cancel the whole tour, but we just plowed through it. We borrowed some equipment from friends in LA. We decided, ‘Let’s go to Las Vegas. Let’s make this happen.’ We went on at like 1:30 a.m. The crowd response was phenomenal, though.
Some of your lyrics are so unusual. What is your songwriting process like?
Actually, everything that’s out now was with the old drummer. It was pretty much like a Dylan-esque process in the sense that I would write the lyrics then practice it a few times then I would just bury myself in the song. Lyrically, I’ve always been a fiction writer. I went to school for fiction writing. Initially it was poetry, then I moved on to fiction writing. So, I kind of blended the two, you know, tell a story but make it pretty. Make sure there’s a point; make sure it’s inspired.
Does your background as a fiction writer have anything to do with the name of the band?
Well, Leopold and His Fiction was a character in a story that I wrote while in school. It was kind of my thesis, a novelette. It’s kind of like a Pied Piper story where a guy comes to town and steals people away from being under such a tight reign of authority and they come to realize there is a lot more out there than just working toward what other people want you to do.
Do you play any instruments besides the guitar?
Oh yeah, on the first two albums I played everything but drums. I played bass, organ, xylophone and piano.
Are you going to be playing any of these more unusual instruments at your Vegas shows?
I typically stick to vocals and guitar while on the road, but John, our drummer, has been playing for 22 years and – I don’t know if you noticed at the Neon Reverb show – he plays the organ as well as the drums at the same time. I don’t know how he does it because that’s totally a left-brain, right-brain type of thing. … It’s something to behold. …We each kind of play two roles in the band. We each are kind of bringing a little more than the average trio brings. And Micayla [Grace, bassist] is like the glue who holds us all together.
Any lovers’ quarrels having a couple in the band?
I swear, I have never seen them argue. I’m not all into the stars and everything, but I’m a Pisces and they’re Virgos and we’re just completely fluid all the time.
Where do you get your fashion sense? Your pheasant feather hat and striped pants really stood out at Neon Reverb.
I got the pants in LA , the boots in Salt Lake City, the hat in San Francisco and the shirt in Brooklyn.
Wow, you remember where you got every piece of clothing?
Oh for sure. Even the jewelry I was wearing – I got the necklace just north of Tucson, and I had this other one that I found on the ground in San Francisco. It’s just a collaboration of all the cities that we’ve been to on tour. It’s cool because you get to pull in different elements. Each part of the United States has a different fashion sense. That’s the only time I ever really shop – when we’re on tour. I hardly buy anything in San Francisco unless it’s a big floppy hat with a pheasant feather.