A Chat with Leisha from This Way North

By Ben Madden | @benmaddentweets

Formed in Canada and based in Australia, This Way North are a band more travelled than many of their musical contemporaries.

Ahead of their upcoming Australian tour, Leisha Jungalwalla from the band spoke to Catalyst about all things music, working in Canada and the story behind their formation.

You’re preparing for your Australian tour (starting on the 26th of April at the Gasometer Hotel), is there anywhere in particular you’re excited about touring?

For me, I’ve only been to Adelaide once before to play, and we’re heading back there on Thursday, so I’m excited there, but actually Friday we fly out to Alice Springs from Adelaide and we’re playing the Wide Open Space festival up there, so that’s really exciting.

I’m really excited to tour there, and Cat (Leahy, This Way North’s drummer) hasn’t been up there before, so that’s somewhere that we’re really excited to play – that’s for sure!

Is it a bit daunting going to all these places and playing shows and festivals that you haven’t played before?

It’s not daunting as such; but you do have to keep in mind that they’re new territories, and people haven’t heard of us in most places anyway, but especially the new places that we head across to. Sometimes you can get a bit – not daunted – but a bit nervous about if anyone’s gonna show up, and if there’s not that many people, but they’re all new places.

We just gotta keep in mind that we’ll be coming back a few times to build up that fanbase, and this is just the start of it all, really. We like looking at it that way, and I love travelling, so it’s always fun to be going to these places anyway.

What’s your dream location to play at/tour?

There’s a lot of places I’d love to play at for sure! I’d love to play the Forum in Melbourne, and touring wise we hope to get over to Europe at some point and do a tour over there. We’re going to Canada; but the States would be pretty fun if we can organise a tour there and get that set up for us.

Can we expect to see any new songs on the tour?

Yeah! We’ve been writing a little bit and we’re gonna be playing a few new songs that we haven’t recorded or played that much of yet, so it’ll be fun to play them, get them out there and hopefully record them in the middle of the year.

Will that be for an EP?

Yeah we’re hoping. We’re just going to play it by ear at the moment, but we’re going back to Canada mid-year to do some more recording with our producer over there who we just did these last two tracks with. We’re hoping to be able to put something out, definitely put a couple more tracks out towards the end of this year and then get that onto an EP of some sort.

‘Pressure’ was also recorded in Canada. What is it about Canada that inspires you to record there?

Well we have a lot of contacts there, and that’s where me and Cat met, playing in different bands. We’ve toured over there a fair bit, so when we knew were both going to be over there for separate things, we thought we should try and step out of our comfort zone, step out of Australia, and find a producer that we could record with while we were over there.

We got in contact with Derek (Downham, producer) who we knew through a few muso mates, and decided to work with him. The reason we’re going back is that he was really awesome to work with, he pushed us in really cool directions, he got a lot out of us in the studio, and we worked really well together with him and his team. It was an excellent experience, and we wanted to capitalise on that by going back and recording with him this year.

You mentioned that you guys unofficially formed over in Canada, can you tell me a bit more about that story?

I was over touring in Canada touring with my other band Jungal, and Cat was over there at that time touring with Benny Walker, and we met at a festival. It was a tiny festival – but an awesome one! – and we just hung out. There were other Aussie bands there, and we all got to know each other. We didn’t really do too much after we got back (to Australia), until we found out we lived near each other. We organised a few jams after we got back from that tour, and it grew really slowly from that. We took it really easy, we just wanted to play small shows around and just do some writing, and it progressed from there.

Do you think having been in those other bands has helped you with This Way North?

Yeah totally. I mean, even just the question you asked before about whether or not it’s daunting going to new territories, we’ve both had a lot of experience before going to new places so we know what we’re getting into. We know that going to new territories, it takes two or three times to get a bit of a following in those places, so we know that generally it’s a long, hard, slow process building up a fanbase.

We both know what we’re in for, and we both know the amount of work that it takes to get a project like this off the ground.

There’s a bit of a shift in sound on ‘Pressure’. Do you think this is due to the more collaborative writing process you guys have undertaken for these new tracks?

We both wanted to try playing something different, we both wanted to try a new sound. We’ve both been listening to a lot of alt-pop stuff at the moment, Glass Animals, alt-J and that have been big influences, and we just wanted to try something different.

Cat’s from alt-country roots, and I’m from a roots/rock background, and we wanted to step away from that and try a new sound. It’s also one of the reasons that we wanted to step out of Australia and step out of people we knew, and go to someone we could go with and record something different. That really worked with Derek.

Can you tell us a bit about the film clip for ‘Pressure’?

It was pretty cool actually. Ever since we recorded the song and had the master of it, which has been a little while actually, I just wanted to basically give someone the song and see what they could come up with creatively with it, and that was sort of my little dream.

We hunted a little bit around in Aus, and it was getting a little bit late in the game, we released the track last week, and it was sort of a month before that, and Derek our producer put us onto a guy called Jonathan Hyatt, who’s based in Toronto as well. He’s a busy guy, he does a lot of high-end ads and short films and stuff, but he knew Derek and he really liked the song and he was really happy to put his idea forward.

It sort of took us on the back foot originally, because it’s such an out-there idea, but at the same time it’s not just a serious band clip. It was something else, and it’s appropriate for the times, but it’s also something that can be a bit light-hearted. We were stoked!

We shot it in a day and a bit, and he sourced all the actors in everything over in Toronto, and we love the clip. The song is for us as well, and the messages that come out of the clip as well are pretty important.

Finally, what are the plans for the rest of 2017?

Just touring, trying to get over to New Zealand, and release a couple more songs before the end of the year. Cat likes to say that she’s got a short attention span, so it’ll be good to get the music out there and build a loyal following!

You can check out This Way North at any of their tour dates below:

Wed 26th April – Gasometer, Melbourne
Thurs 27th April – Wheatsheaf, Adelaide
Fri 28th – Sun 30th April – Wide Open Spaces Festival, Alice Springs
Thurs 11th May – Sol Bar, Maroochydore
Fri 12th May – Milk Factory Brisbane
Sat 13th  May – Ex-Services Club, Mullumbimby
Sun 14th May – The Naked Bean, Grafton
Thu 18 May – The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Fri 19th May – Record Crate, Sydney
Sat 20th May – Paddock Sessions Festival, Woolumbi

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

Sign up for Catalyst Magazine

Get the latest on what's happening
* = required field