Born in London and raised in Athens, 28-year-old talent Leon of Athens has been playing music for a long time. Honing his skills at the age of 6, Leon has gone on to release two albums to critical acclaim and take the stage in front of thousands of spectators.
In 2012, as he performed songs in Athens from his debut album, Futrue, The New York Times took notice and featured Leon in a story centered on the Greek elections. Now, with his second album, Global (released this past April), the indie-pop artist has re-teamed with producer Tony Doogan, who has worked with the likes of Belle & Sebastian and Mogwai, and brought on Grammy Award winner Dave Fridmann, a collaborator on albums from The Flaming Lips, Weezer and MGMT.
Greek Reporter caught up with Leon of Athens during his busy schedule to chat about his music, influences, and some of his favorite places to perform (hint: they are both in Greece!).
When did you become involved in music?
I first started when I was 6-years-old studying guitar, piano and music theory. In high school, I formed my first band and then I decided to study music in university. Throughout the years, I’ve been involved in various musical projects. In 2010, I formed Leon of Athens.
How did you decide on what style of music to play?
I think it happened naturally because of my musical influences. I enjoyed listening more to rock and pop music and that is probably why I followed this direction.
Who are your musical influences?
Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Radiohead, The Clash, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, and other more contemporary bands such as M83, St Vincent, Grizzly Bear, Air, [and] Future Islands.
How would you describe your own sound?
Indie rock-pop music which combines folk and electronic elements.
What was the process like making your debut album, Futrue?
It was a great experience. Especially working with Tony Doogan and the rest of the team and staying at Tarbox Road Studios in the woods in Buffalo, New York.
Tell me about your sophomore album, Global, in which you worked with noted producer Tony Doogan and Grammy Award winner Dave Fridmann.
Global was recorded in September 2012 at Dave Fridmann’s Tarbox Road Studios in New York and then we did some additional recording in a house by the sea in Nafplion, Greece. The album consists of ten songs and was produced, engineered and mixed by Tony Doogan. My idea was to blend the sounds of a rock band with acoustic instruments such as the uke, analogue synthesizers and 80s girl-pop backing vocals.
Who in the music industry would you like to work with that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
[Laughs] Brian Eno, Jonny Greenwood, Sinead O’Connor and Steve Reich.
What did it feel like to initially start playing small venues, to now playing for 10,000 people?
It has to do more with the energy of the audience. Of course, it’s a great feeling playing in front of many people, but I have to admit that some of my favorite shows so far have been in smaller venues with a warm audience.
Where has been your favorite place to perform?
Two of my favorite places have been two music festivals [that] take place in the summer in Greece. One is [the] Up Festival in the island of Koufonisia in the Aegean sea, and the other is Saristra Festival in the Ionian island of Kefalonia.
Is there somewhere you haven’t performed yet where you would absolutely love to take the stage?
Coachella Festival in Los Angeles. I’ve seen some videos and it looks great!