Easy Life: Indulgent Vibes

British indie RnB group Easy Life were due to play some huge international headline tours and festival slots this year before the pandemic struck. Headliner recently caught up with Sam on bass guitar, saxophone and backing vocals and guitarist Lewis to learn how they’ve been honing their production techniques in lockdown, using their time to focus on a new album, and why they can’t be without their trusty Fender guitars.

“I’ve just been doing some gardening and working on the house to be honest,” replies Easy Life’s Sam when I ask what he’s been up to recently. “But mostly we’ve been locked away in our studio during quarantine.”

The Leicester-based studio - where the group’s guitarist Lewis joins us from - is where the boys have been working on their much anticipated album following the release of their successful Junk Food EP earlier this year.

With Leicester being one of the UK’s first cities to be slapped with a ‘local lockdown’, it’s no surprise that they’ve been spending a lot of time in the studio, as well as developing their own home recording setups and honing their individual production skills. I’m quickly told that Lewis especially has been “producing his arse off constantly.”

“From March until around June I was just looking for things to do because obviously everything got completely cancelled, and our schedule was left empty,” reveals Lewis. “I started producing all sorts of music, anything from techno to proper old school hip hop stuff - one thing that has come out of lockdown is that my production skills have grown massively.”

Rather reluctantly, Sam goes on to fill me in about the massive year they had planned:

“We had a beautiful summer of festivals and our first couple of big headline slots lined up. We were meant to be heading to Japan for the first time, we had our first big American and European tours, and a couple of big London shows at the start of the year.”

And off the back of winning Best New British Act at the 2020 NME Awards, it was certainly looking like the start of a very positive year for Easy Life, although it’s refreshing to learn that they remain ever the optimists, as their name would suggest.

“We've literally had so much useful time to be writing, and we've made so much more progress on the album than we would ever have made doing live shows and festivals and stuff,” says Sam. “We would have been chasing ourselves to put a record out that we’re happy with, so I'm glad we've got the time to sit down and focus solely on that to be honest.”

Lewis adds, “I've kind of forgotten about all the things we could have been doing and accepted the fate that we've received - we just look for the positives in it.”

I like the single coil or thinner sounding tones as opposed to big, thick, meaty tones, which is why I love the Musicmaster so much.

Easy Life - consisting of Murray (vocals, synthesiser, keyboard, trumpet), Ollie (drums, percussion) and Jordan (keyboard, percussion, backing vocals) along with Lewis and Sam - have enjoyed some huge success in music over the last few years, despite not actually having been together for that long.

“We'd all been sort of circling around each other for years to be honest,” reveals Sam. “Me and Murray went to secondary school together, and from the moment we met we started playing in big brass style bands. A few years later, we started forming our own self-written music kind of band.”

Lewis and Ollie were also friends from a young age, and grew up making original music together.

“Then Jordan is like a local Leicester legend - he was a drummer in a reggae band called By The Rivers, who were literally our heroes at one point. You can’t walk down a street in Leicester without someone shouting at him.”

The two separate bands played a show together, and while nothing immediately came of this initial meeting, they soon started looking for willing members to come together to form the Easy Life project.

“Jordan happened to be a percussion soloist that we wanted to come in and essentially be a Bez on stage for our shows. He just stuck with it and picked up the keys and everything else that we threw at him.”

“In the early days of Easy Life there were no real rules, especially when we played live,” Lewis recalls. “We’d just go off and play 15 minute long jazz instrumentals, and then Jordan would come on stage and play percussion for 10 minutes and then go to the bar and Sam would play saxophone for 10 minutes - we would basically just mess about on stage for an hour, but there’s a bit more structure now.”

The group’s first single Pockets blew up as soon as they put it out as a free download on Soundcloud:

“It was the first thing we'd written without trying to actually find the single - it’s kind of lazy and sloppy in places, but that's just kind of who we are, and it’s a track that makes us happy. People just picked up on the vibe and it was a bit of a lightbulb moment for us.”

Originally putting music out via Chess Club Records, the group were soon poached by Island Records with whom they released their debut mixtape Creature Habits.

“Chess Club were very supportive of us doing exactly what we wanted, and pushed us to be as wacky as we could be,” remembers Lewis. “People want music that’s slightly weird and unique, and our first EP definitely was that. I think that’s probably why the labels started showing interest. Chess Club opened up some big opportunities for us.”

Subsequently, 2018 was a bit of a whirlwind year for the boys. They released four singles, appeared on Later with Jools Holland, played South by Southwest and completed their first UK tour.

“We expected this nice methodical plod upwards, and instead everything just came at us really quickly - to be thrown into SXSW was at the time ridiculous, but incredible,” describes Sam. “We owe a lot to the BBC Introducing scheme because they were the ones who sent us out there, and they’ve helped us in our careers from the very beginning.”

In fact, one of the last big benchmark shows that Easy Life played was headlining the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury 2019, which to the boys must seem like a lifetime ago now.

“I think this period of no shows has really helped us re-evaluate just how amazing all those experiences were, and maybe how we took them for granted,” offers Lewis. “We're all raring to get going again, as most people are, because there's no better feeling than playing to thousands of people who are singing your lyrics back to you.”

Sam adds to this sentiment: “Things all feel a bit disconnected at the moment, but I feel like we're all definitely going to benefit from having had this time to work on our own things. I'm developing all of my instrument skills and building a little home studio.

“While I feel we probably needed a little bit of time away from each other, there's literally not a single member of this band and the crew who we don't love, so we're very much looking forward to getting back on the road and just feeling like a little family again.”

While a lot of Easy life’s sound is based around synthesisers with everything produced on a laptop, Sam and Lewis are both big fans of using Fender guitars to bring a real sense of musicality to their live sets.

“I'm actually working on a guitar at the moment which was my first ever guitar I got from Fender back in 2011,” reveals Lewis. “It’s a Mexican Standard Telecaster that my great grandma bought for me just before she passed away. So I’ve been playing Fenders for the last 10 years now, and there's a reason why I've never really been trying to play anything else.

“I recently acquired a Jazzmaster, and it's got so many tonal variations that I can get everything out of it. When I first started, I thought it would be awesome to be playing loads of different guitars, but then as we started touring more, it just became quite tedious swapping all the time because I was on a Stratocaster, a Gretsch and an old Fender ‘70s Musicmaster. With the Musicmaster it sounds like the pickups need rewinding or something, but I like that really thin sound. It just sounds like there’s a filter taking all the lows out - it’s awesome.”