In-Session takes a lot at rising college musicians across New England. In this session, get to know Leech: the performative swamp monster rising out of Emerson.
Aidan Leech is a name that sounds real enough to trust instinctively. It slips off the tongue in a style that gives the character a reality not often granted to stage persona. I told Aidan as much when we talked on the phone recently: “I really thought your last name might be Leech. There was a moment where I genuinely didn’t know.” He laughed at the thought but didn’t seem altogether too surprised (although he did joke about “asking his mom” for permission for the name change); Clearly, his persona of Leech is meant to be seen as much as he is. At the end of the day, it is Leech who is presenting the absurdities of his music as Aidan takes the time to calmly explain it all to me.
For Aidan, music wasn’t something that he learned as a child or took to naturally as he grew up. He says, “I got really seriously into music in about 9th grade.” While he admits his interest came “late,” he describes how quickly he became obsessed with Injury Reserve and Tyler, the Creator. Notably, he had a “deep appreciation for music that stretched all over” which kept his interest in music unique and fresh.
However, this initial interest wasn’t quite enough to push Aidan into making his own music. He began creating his own music the “summer going into Sophomore year.” At that point, he had been working as a photographer for musicians; he grew bored with “just taking photos of artists.” Increasingly, he grew “obsessed with the idea of flipping the role and being the artist.” That obsession ultimately is what made him leap into the artistic realm.
Aidan, in a style classic to him, didn’t wait long after his decision to fully commit to music. As he states, “I never wait until I feel ready.” Rather, he jumps in ready to share while still learning. He initially “started making beats in this pirated version of Logic Pro.” and watched Youtube videos to learn the basics of making beats. Aidan doesn’t hide his newness to music-making, admitting those first attempts were “trash” and reflecting on “trying to be some low-fi, Indie guy.”
For Aidan, or perhaps, for Leech would be a better way to put it, that low-fi, Indie persona wasn’t a good fit. He admits, “I couldn’t get ahold of that. I found myself screaming too much.” That energy is then what he decided to move towards. Rather than try and escape the loud musician within him, he embraced it, letting the persona shape itself.
Leech, through and through, is an organic creature, stepping out of the swamps and into the expressive music Aidan creates. The name, expectedly, followed the same organic process. As Aidan tells it, a friend called him a “leech” due to his habit of never paying for anything. While the friend ~might~ have meant the comment to come off as a critique, Aidan ran with it, proudly clarifying he still refuses to pay for shit on our phonecall. From there, the comment turned into a nickname and the nickname turned into the character that lets Aidan express his music more fully. He says, “Leech is playing on that part of me that wants to do weird shit just because I want to. Leech as a character lets me do that more fluidly.” Leech, in his own realm, lives in a swamp and, apparently, struggles with things like loneliness just like anyone else.
With the help of Leech, Aidan has released his first album “Underbite.” The album’s nine tracks tackle an array of musical expression, forming cohesion only in their lack of it. On the album’s unique sound, Aidan says, “I wanted it to feel like an album and more like a project. I’ve adopted the term album just because that’s what people use.” The tracks make ample use of samples, features of other local musicians, and the many quirks unique to Leech. The listen isn’t necessarily smooth, rather the loud, jumbled aspects of it become its advantage. It becomes an aggressive listen, taking you into the world of Leech in ways that can amp up our less dramatic existences.
The way Aidan created his album speaks to his unorthodox styles of creation. Unabashedly, he admits to not writing lyrics like a professional. For him, the song is set first by the sounds of it all instead of the words. He says, “I have to plug in the mic and freestyle over it for thirty minutes until I get a cadence I like. Then, I go and listen to that and try to put in the words. I like the rhythm first, and then I’ll think about the words.” While for some, this apparent lack of lyrical focus might be shocking, it’s the only way that makes sense in the world of Leech, where everything is a bit more sonic than lyrical in the first place. Like Aidan and Leech, the songs are striking in their instinctive aspects, holding no doubt before their eager execution. As Aidan says, “I don’t like contemplating.” For the musician, this feature becomes his strength, letting the performative nature of the character take itself wherever it feels it must go.
However, that’s not to say Aidan never reflects. Aidan is currently a student at Emerson, which places him in a community of talented and invested creators. Through his musical career, he’s been constantly supported by the friendships he’s made at school. If asked, he can share story after story about the unique ways he has met the many people who have helped him along the way. One friend, he met through a Craigslist ad, giving him access to a recording studio in exchange for photography work. Another friend, Elda Beats, he found through a play he did at Emerson after he asked his director who did the music production for the play. From these narratives, it’s clear that he’s grateful for the people and circumstances that have put him into contact with so many great collaborators; “Building up a community of creators around me has been incredible. This album would not have come out without my friends. We all felt a need to get it done.”
Currently, Aidan and his persona are finishing their pause after the successful release of the album this summer. For this semester, he says, “Now, I want to put it out there though and get it out there as much as I can.” To do this, he’s planning on performing as much as he can which, for a naturally performative person, is an exciting leap to take; “I’m more of a performer than I am a musician. So, this is the part I’m really excited to figure out.”
Aidan might have an array of creative talents and outlets, but he makes it clear that, for the time being, this is absolutely his priority. As he explains it, “this is the art form that has been most influential for [him].” While other interests might come in and out, music has developed him more than any other. From the strength of his album and his commitment to being heard, it’s clear that his dedication isn’t going anywhere shortly. Be sure to stay tuned in to the swamp world of Leech as, from the passion evident in this release, there evidently a lot more on the way. And, as Aidan hones in on his craft, we can continue to expect music that shifts as he learns and experiences and grows from the collaborative communities he’s rooted in.