Premium Leisure first caught my attention with the glistening single ‘Remedies’, a jangly guitar driven number. The simplistic yet inventive guitar matches with the soft vocals had me instantly hooked. Not to mention the subtly tongue-in-cheek lyrics. It’s music blossoming in positivity and wonderfully infectious.

The Oxford artist continued this form with the latest single ‘Ready For Forever’, a 70’s tinged psych pop number that is remiscent of ELO. As always, it is easy listening that has a magic way of making you feel uplifted.

It’s safe to say we’re fans of Premium Leisure (Chris Barker), whether that is through his own music or guitar work with Willie J Healey. We caught up with him to chat about his forthcoming EP, creating music with Willie J Healey and much more!

Kieran: Hey! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! How have you been?

Chris: I’m very lucky to say that I’ve been keeping busy and it’s quite nice to be releasing music whilst gigs are on hold, it’s taking the edge off somewhat.

Kieran: So, first off what’s the story behind the name ‘Premium Leisure’?

Chris: It was something I simply used to say when good times were being had and seemed like a suitable name for the band. I obviously don’t tend to quote the phrase anymore.

Kieran: What was the leading factor in starting a solo project and how does it differ from playing with Willie J Healey?

Chris: I’ve always written and recorded my own songs and I have been writing and playing with Will for many years now. When Will began forming his band, we all wrote, recorded and performed together and learnt a lot from each other, so naturally I pulled the same guys together, plus gigging pal Ash Cooke (from Be Good), to collaborate on the songs. It all came together really quickly. I love being part of the WJH project and wouldn’t have started Premium Leisure without it. The writing processes for each project are very similar, but the songs originate from different places, so I get to see both sides of the creative coin. With these batch of songs in particular, I’ve had more to say and been able to put this into the Premium Leisure lyrics.

Kieran: When writing music where do you normally draw influence from?

Chris: The majority of my songs come from noodling on my acoustic guitar and developing these ideas with the band, so each member has a big influence on how the tracks end up. My songs tend to be a comment on certain mindsets which have probably come from conversations I’ve had at the pub or news articles. Things that stop me in my tracks or take me back.

Check the latest video and single ‘Ready For Forever’ here:

Kieran: Has there been any particular artists that have helped shape your sound?

Chris: I’m really into the production on Alabama Shakes albums and Jamie by Brittany Howard. I think the guitar playing on White Denim’s ‘Corsicana Lemonade’ has really influenced my guitar tone and playing. I also really love the live sounding records produced by Blake Mills and the spontaneous performances he captures.

Kieran: Has the pandemic and recent events affected you as an artist? Has it had any impact on your songwriting?

Chris: I’ve been playing a lot of guitar at home which has been great, but lyrically I have struggled to find inspiration. I tend to draw on conversations or experiences, which are often indirect quotes from what people have said, and obviously I haven’t been out and about a great deal. I’m not finding my current experiences are generating very interesting ideas and I think we’re all getting our fill of lockdown stories at the moment!

I’ve been playing a lot of guitar at home which has been great, but lyrically I have struggled to find inspiration

Chris Barker Premium Leisure

Kieran: How do you feel the musical landscape is going to look post pandemic?

Chris: An abundance of double albums maybe? I hope artists are still being inspired to write. Social distanced gigs are great for the meantime, but it must be hard for new bands to get off the ground with the increased ticket prices that are needed, so it’s harder for music fans to discover new artists this way. I’m also worried that we’ll have missed a year of bands forming and getting in a room to jam, where I think the real magic happens!

Kieran: Have you found having the extra time during lockdowns a good thing or a bad thing for your creativity?

Chris: I’ve managed to keep busy with lots of projects, I’ve been in the studio producing a band when the restrictions eased and also been mixing some tracks for some other artists which has helped to feed my creativity. Often I find that I am more creative when I relieve capacity by doing nothing and tapping into parts of the brain I don’t visit frequently.

Kieran: Outside of music do you have any other creative outlets?

Chris: Not really. If I get a spare moment it is either down time or more music, I’ve always got writing, playing, producing, mixing that I want to do.

Kieran: What can we expect from your forthcoming EP?

Chris: The EP is a selection of songs written over the past year or so, some we’ve been playing live and some that came together more in the studio. For these songs, I started writing more positively, questioning the things that I value in the way I spend my time and thinking about being more proactive. I wanted to produce something that isn’t submissive to all the issues we can hear about.

Kieran: Lastly, we like to end on a story. Can you tell us of anything weird, funny or gnarly that has happened to you whilst on tour or in general?

Chris: The only slightly funny story that springs to mind was when I temporarily silenced a member of security with my pick whilst playing at a venue in Sheffield. He was sitting down on the footstep of the barrier at the front facing us and playing really loud videos on his phone. It was extremely annoying for us and the audience so I threw my pick at him and it landed on his phone screen and scared the living daylights out of him. I myself was quite shocked with my aim. He kept quiet for the rest of the set but later we saw him being dragged out of the venue by his…well…colleagues I guess, so I imagine he pissed off the headline act in some way too!