COFFEE HOUSE SESSIONS: An Interview with Leon of Athens
Ahead of what looks to be an exciting summer for Athenian indie-pop star Leon of Athens, I caught up with him for a chat. His Coffee House Session performance in the Liverpool Guild of Students was full of energy and intent, and it was exciting to learn about the meaning behind some of the music.
Ellie: Welcome to Liverpool! Have you played the city before?
Leon: Thank you! Yeah, I’ve played here twice, both times in Zanzibar. I love the city, it’s probably my favourite UK city because I come from Greece and this feels the most like home. I love The Beatles, and I love the football team, two very important reasons.
Ellie: Yeah, it’s a beautiful city. How are you getting on with the Coffee House Sessions?
Leon: Good thanks! I’ve done ten so far and they’ve all been great.
Ellie: Awesome, where have you played?
Leon: We’ve been to Essex, we’ve played two shows in London, Nottingham, Keele, Loughborough, and a few more.
Ellie: Great! I’ve interviewed a few of the artists and I’m finding that they’re all really enjoying them.
Leon: Yeah, they’re a great opportunity.
Ellie: So do you tour a lot then? I know you attract really big audiences in Greece.
Leon: Yeah! Well I live in London and that’s where the band is based so we play there, across Europe, and Greece, and now we’re going to Florida and Texas and doing an American tour. We’re playing a festival called Okeechobee and South by Southwest, so it’s all pretty exciting.
Ellie: Sounds great, so you’ve got a lot coming up then?
Leon: Yeah! Between the festivals we’re playing radio stations and some other smaller shows.
Ellie: Great. And is there a dream venue you’d love to play?
Leon: A venue I really like is Islington Assembly in London, it’s not a huge venue but there’s something I really like about it and I’d love to play there.
Ellie: I wanted to ask about your name, it’s very powerful. How did you come to the decision to go by Leon of Athens?
Leon: Well it was just Leon when I was in Greece but when I came here I felt that I wanted to do something which would differentiate me, and it pays homage to my hometown. There’s a play by Shakespeare called Timon of Athens so it kind of pays tribute to that also.
Ellie: I like it a lot! And who are some of your main influences?
Leon: My first influences were The Beatles, David Bowie, The Clash, Queen, you know, all the classics. They’re still all amazing, still avant-garde. I like Brian Eno a lot. And then current influences, I like Coldplay up until a certain point.
Ellie: Awesome! Do you go to many shows yourself?
Leon: Yeah! I do.
Ellie: Who was the last person you went to see?
Leon: I went to see my flatmates band called Casual Nun, they’re a very good hardcore band.
Ellie: Awesome. I wanted to ask a bit more about producers too, you’ve worked with a couple of different producers over the course of your albums. Are there any that you’ve particularly enjoyed working with and why?
Leon: Yeah! So all of the songs on this album were produced by David Kosten, some were co-produced by different people but all by David Kosten. He’s great, he produced the latest Marina and the Diamonds album, and he’s produced music for Everything Everything, and Bat for Lashes, bands that I really like. He has his own album too called Faultline, he had special guests on it such as Chris Martin and Michael Stipe and I love that album so it was really nice working with him. He’s very special.
Ellie: That’s great to hear, so how did working with him come about?
Leon: We approached him with demos and he liked the material and we went from there!
Ellie: So tell me a bit about this new album then, it only came out last week right?
Leon: Yeah! It’s been out for a week, it was released 9th February. It consists of 9 songs. The title is Xenos which is a great word for stranger, foreigner, enemy, or friend, it has many meanings and that’s what I liked about it. It was released through Universal Records.
Ellie: Great! Do you have a favourite track?
Leon: [deliberation]…Okay, I’ll give you three tracks. The track that people like most is Aeroplane, it’s a song that I really love as well. Xenos is my favourite song musically, I think it has a powerful story. And Moonlight is another favourite, it’s the track which closes the album and it’s kind of like a lullaby, that’s the one closest to my heart.
Ellie: Well I really enjoyed watching you play Xenos. You just said it has a powerful story, could you tell me a bit more about that?
Leon: Yeah, so this song was inspired by genocide of indigenous people but it refers to any oppressed group of people who are forced to leave their land. On a personal note, it’s about the feeling of estrangement. Greece was the first country where the refugees from the wars in the Middle East went and we have many stories of people, including children and mothers, who were dying in the waters because they didn’t know how to swim, it was something that I came across all the time and it inspired me a lot.
Ellie: Well it’s always interesting when songs have deep meanings, there are so many that don’t and I’m really impressed by lyrics and meaning in music.
Leon: Me too, as a consumer I really look for meaning. I can listen to catchy pop songs to a certain extent but I prefer when songs have something to say.
Ellie: So what are some of your favourite lyrics of all time?
Leon: Space Oddity, amazing. Eleanor Rigby, Under Pressure, OK Computer.
Ellie: Some cool stuff there. You’re obviously a big Beatles fan, have you been to visit any of the Beatles sites around town?
Leon: Yeah! I went to The Beatles story which was good.
Ellie: Oh great, The Beatles childhood homes are great too. So where do you see yourself in the next 5 years then? What are your hopes for the future?
Leon: I want to create good music and that’s my primary goal. I just want to be able to carry on doing what I do, carry on touring, and share my music with more people. I want to introduce my music to people who haven’t heard it.
Ellie: Great! Well thanks for interview and the best of luck with the future.
You can find tour dates and more information here: