Five characters, five opinions. It sounds like a recipe for disaster but in the case of Leeways the result is a turbulent blend of sunny music and hard life lessons. Call it reggae with balls, call it belly rock or call it true funk. Leeways focus on your hips and your brains.
All we want is some good education,
so why do we have to cope with discrimination (Borders)
The backgrounds of the five Leeways band members vary: guitarist Andrej and drummer Amir are of Russian-Jewish and Israeli descent, singer rapper Benjamin T and bassist Timothy Riley are from the Antilles whilst the large Celtic cross on singer Siggy’s arm reveals where the giant with the dreads and soft blue-green eyes originates from: France. He is a Surinamese-Breton, sultry and rough. Siggy
pretty much sums up Leeways.
It is a band of brothers whose parents left their home country to provide their children with a better future in the Netherlands; a country where reality struck yet where music offered a lifeline. Together they’ve played for hours, days, no years; at the Pop & Sound design course in Arnhem, and on virtually every board in the area that dares call itself a ‘stage’. Practicing, performing, jamming, more practise. If there is any truth in Malcolm Gladwell’s 10.000 Hour Rule, that it takes this amount of time to become a master in what you do, then the Leeways-men are ultra-masters.
Benjamin: ‘We challenge one another, we egg each other on. Everyone deals with their own baggage. Andrej: ‘What we do is very masculine, the testosterone is often palpable. The band is made up of five powerful egos’ which regularly clash. Finding the balance is sometimes a challenge. But we know it’s worth it and we go for it one hundred percent.’
Leeways debut album was recorded at high speed in Martijn ‘Mailman’ Groeneveld’s studio (who has previously worked with Blaudzun, Dotan, Janne Schra). It HAD to be done or so it seemed. The record floats on Timothy’s fat bass lines, hovering on Andrej’s expressive guitar playing, vibrating on Amir’s rhythms. There are folk metal breaks (End of the weekend), there is p-funk (Diamonds), there is hustling ska (King of the Jungle), there are guest musicians on organ and brass. There is the hilarious Babylonian confusion of tongues interlude (hear too how carelessly the men bang out a deadly Latin groove) and there is Crazy. In this live-favourite, Siggy gets his bagpipes out and proves that it can be just as effective in getting a crowd going as the bass, drum and guitar.
‘We won’t take no for an answer’, is the Leeways motto according to Andrej: every venue, every field, whether there’s an audience of ten thousand or ten, whether it’s a field full of metal heads, a beach tent with skate punks, the finals of the ‘de Grote Prijs van Nederland’ (Great Dutch prize) (which Leeways won in 2014) or the reggae field of the Black Cross: nobody can resist Leeways. Really, the mix of styles, the group’s self-assurance and the experience they have gained in recent years has meant the men never shy away from anything.
Keep burnin’ lives, no rubber
tellin’ me it’s criminology, but the innocent suffer (Criminology)
Not even from a strong opinion. The reggae, the hip-hop and the rock from which Leeways draw, all have a tradition of ‘tell it as it is’. Leeways sings about their own experiences of the multi-cultural society; both good and bad. About friends refused residence permits, about life at the lower end of society, about family, about travelling and how we are all children of this earth. Who want to party. Just like the band. Because that too is Leeways, says Andrej: ‘Living like kings and queens and a drink to go with it.’
Free from all the chains
While the world is turning
Come away with me (Far Away)