The Lazys’ Leon Harrison On Making It as a Rock Band
AC/DC, Australia’s most famous rock export, once sang “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n roll.” 40 years later, The Lazys are travelling halfway across the world to find their rock ‘n roll dreams in Canada, where the rock scene is coming alive in a big way. “Ah, to be honest, the rock scene’s not as good (in Australia) as here,” says Lazys frontman Leon Harrison. “I’m not gonna lie, or anything. There are good scenes in Australia, but rock ‘n roll isn’t really on the forefront. So we’ve come to where it is! There’s a great rock scene in Canada and we love it! We made some really great friends, and we’re marching through!”
The band played for years in Australia, before eventually getting noticed at Canadian Music Week and forging alliances in the Great White North. “We’re all mates from the same town who loved rock ‘n roll,” Harrison explains. “Growing up, I listened to a lot of grunge and a lot rock music, and all I wanted to do was play in a rock band. We found the right bunch of guys; everyone was really committed and devoted to building a band. It’s a lot of hard work to get a career in music, you know? It was just passion and playing a lot of shows. I couldn’t even tell you how many shows we’ve played over the years. The point is that we’re here, and we’ve been really, really lucky; we’ve come to a really flourishing rock scene here in Canada, met the right people and things are starting to pan out for us, which is rewarding and nice.”
That commitment to success means trekking huge distances between cities to get to any place that will have them play, something that Canada has in common with their native Australia. “We’ve got an RV, so we can all sort of have a rest, and things like that. But yeah, there are long drives. We did 12 hours yesterday, and tomorrow we’re driving from Winnipeg to Sudbury, so there’s a lot of km’s. But every city we pull into seems to have this really strong connection with rock ‘n roll, and a strong fanbase. It’s all worthwhile.”
The company they keep also makes it a lot easier to deal with the difficulties of touring. “We got to play with some cool Canadian bands (last fall) like Big Wreck, The Trews, and we capped it all off with a run with One Bad Son. Needless to say, it was so much fun. (This time) we went from Toronto to Vancouver as support for Danko Jones. It was unbelievable! And now on our way back here we’re doing our own shows, which have been great. It’s pretty amazing to do your own shows where people pay to see you!”
It was in support of The Trews that they last played Montreal, and their half hour set was nonstop energy with the band making the small Petit Campus stage feel like an arena. Transposing that level of energy to a longer headlining gig doesn’t come easy, but Harrison approaches touring in the same way an athlete approaches a competition. “You gotta get fit, you know!” he says. “Before a tour I do a lot of fitness stuff, and you try to get as much sleep as you can on the road. But the adrenaline kicks in, and it becomes an easy thing once you’re on fire out there. And it’s fun! You don’t realize you’re getting tired until afterwards. (laughs)”
Touring in RVs and driving for hours isn’t the rock ‘n roll fantasy dream, but the band takes it in stride. “It’s a hard road, and it’s not as glamorous as, say, the ’80s rock bands made it out to be,” he says laughing. “The market’s crowded but it’s all about how hard you want it. You gotta get out there every night and rock out.”
Harrison isn’t about to jump on the “rock is dead” bandwagon either. “These people don’t know what they’re talking about. If you’re a true rocker, that statement is just to be thrown up and put in the bin. There are a lot of Australian rock bands that I love, and now there’s a lot of aspiring Canadian rock bands that I love, that bring high energy and great songs to the stage every night. Our friends One Bad Son are on the road with Def Leppard right now. They’ve worked a long, long time to get an opportunity like that. They’re gonna grab that one by the balls, mate, and go further and further with those opportunities! So, no, rock isn’t dead. And anyone that says so, we don’t want them coming to shows anyway. (laughs)”
Those long hours driving around are of course also filled with listening to music. “In the van, I listen to a lot of downtime music. (laughs) ‘Cause it’s a hard pace performing every night. But who do I listen to? I love Rage Against the Machine, AC\DC, Silverchair, Soundgarden, you know, all the greats. Nirvana, who else…” Leon is interrupted by someone saying something. He laughs and says “I can’t put that on the record!”. He says I listen to Boy George! (laughs) I listen to all kinds of music. I like a band from Australia called Benjalu, good mates of mine. Their music’s a little bit more mellow and what not. Yeah, we listen to all sorts of music.”
Before finding their rock ‘n roll holy land in Canada, The Lazys toured for many years in Australia, and self released a few eps. Some of the material found a new life on their self titled album. “When we decided to go ahead with this record, and took the steps to work with producers, which we’d never really done, we spent a lot of time going through our older music and a lot of time writing new music. There’s probably about four older songs that we felt had a future life, which they do, and now when we rock them every night they come together. The sentiment of the songs stayed similar, but they were produced by different people. Some of them, like ‘Love Your Gun’ and ‘All Fired Up’, they’re the first songs Matty and I ever wrote in The Lazys, and now they’re feature songs in our set. They’ve really come a long way!”
And some of these earlier songs carry on through their love shows. “We’ve got a compilation out, called ‘The Younger Years,’ which collects a lot of the songs from our early eps, so we play three or four songs of our older EP in our headline set, and maybe one in our support set, cause it’s a shorter time on stage.”
The Lazys play with The Rumps, Mooch, Burning Ember, and William Lowery at Piranha Bar (680 St. Catherine) on May 12 at 7 p.m. $10. Click here for tickets.
Jean-Frederic Vachon is the head addict at Diary of a Music Addict.