Nick Hemming's folk-inflected pop act the Leisure Society kicked into life in 2005 after he moved into the same South London apartment as fellow Burton-Upon-Trent, England-born musician Christian Hardy. A guitarist since the age of 17, Hemming had already created scores for his friend Shane Meadows' acclaimed 1999 film A Room for Romeo Brass, as well as 2002's gripping and violent Dead Man's Shoes. On the soundtrack to the latter film -- under the Leisure Society moniker -- Hemming's music sat alongside that of a veritable roll call of achingly cool alt-folk acts such as Smog, Adem, Will Oldham, the Earlies, and M. Ward. Prior to their successful film careers, both Meadows and Paddy Considine had performed with him in the Staffordshire-based early-'90s indie outfit She Talks to Angels. Hemming also garnered additional musical experience with his involvement in the Stephen Lawrie-fronted acts the Telescopes and Unisex.
Although Hemming and Hardy's first London performances as a duo were stripped-down acoustic affairs, their association with acts from Tom Cowan and Will Calderbank's Brighton-based Willkommen Collective resulted in an expansion of the Leisure Society's lineup. Swelling to a septet in 2008, Hardy's keyboard flourishes were augmented by Calderbank on cello, Mike Siddell on violin, Helen Whitaker on flute, Darren Bonehill on bass, and Sebastian Hankins on drums. While Hankins had most recently performed avant-garde jazz in the Yorkshire-based Inertia Trio, from 2001 he learned his trade in a modern incarnation of '70s chart act the New Seekers.
Completed in late 2008 in an old converted chicken shed owned by Calderbank's parents, the Leisure Society's debut, The Sleeper, was eventually released on Willkommen Records the following March. "The Last of the Melting Snow" -- the delicate album opener and lushly orchestrated first single from the record -- was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award a month later, while the chiming, percussive instrumentation on "The Darkest Place I Know" nodded to the Boy Least Likely To. Here Hemming delivered his brooding self-analysis in a similarly twee and whimsical fashion to the Buckinghamshire act. Classic influences were also apparent throughout, with "We Were Wasted" leaning heavily on Nick Drake's "River Man," right down to the Robert Kirby-inspired string arrangement.
The album benefited from wider distribution that summer when it was picked up by Full Time Hobby, and this coincided with prestigious appearances at 2009's Big Chill and Green Man festivals. A further reissue appeared in the autumn coupled with the eight-track EP A Product of the Ego Drain, helping to maintain the group's public presence while the bandmembers worked on a second long-player. That work, Into the Murky Water, was released on Full Time Hobby in 2011 and peaked at number 75 in the U.K., giving the band its first chart position. That same year, they were approached by Ray Davies, a longtime hero of Hemming's, to collaborate on some songs, which resulted in a performance together at Davies' Meltdown Festival. Their third LP, 2013's Alone Aboard the Ark, was recorded at Davies' Konk Studios and again charted in the U.K. They returned in early 2015 with their loosely conceptual fourth album, The Fine Art of Hanging On, which was again recorded at Konk Studios. ~ James Wilkinson