John Leccese: Sun Shot for a Groovechild
How would you describe your musical journey with Assembly of Dust?
It’s been phenomenal. We’ve been lucky enough to share the stage with our heroes: Levon Helm, Steve Earle, Michael Franti, Grace Potter, John Scofield. We’ve really, in a lot of ways accomplished some of our goals and we are still wanting more. There’s still more to aspire to, but all in all, it’s just been a great experience. We’re doing things that we’ve only dreamed of – it was only supposed to be a four-night gig.
Has playing in Assembly of Dust altered your approach to the bass?
My style changed quite a bit when I began playing with Reid. The biggest change is that I started playing with a pick. In Groovechild and Percy Hill, I played with my fingers because both bands were more funk-oriented and that lends itself to finger-style bass. But in AOD, the rhythm falls into a different spot and that lends itself more to picking. I had to improve because I had to learn to play with a pick and that’s not easy. It changed my style, but I don’t know if I have gotten better.
How tough of a transition was it, to switch from finger-picking to playing with a pick?
There are certain things I still can’t do with a pick. (laughing) but overall it’s better for the music.
Watching you stage, you appear to be a quiet, steady presence that band members can rely on. Are you the same off stage?
I don’t know if I’m quiet – it depends on who you ask. But as far as the steadiness goes, that’s a term I hear a lot associated with me. I’ve sort of taken on the de facto role of the guy who makes sure they’re in the right spot – every one kind of looks over to me if they’re uncertain as to where we are in a song. I’ve sort of taken on that role, not that I wanted to, it just kind of fell in my lap. I write the setlists for AOD.
Can you take me through your decision process of making up the nightly setlist.
It depends on how many shows we do in a row. The goal is to play as many songs as we can throughout a three-day run. We try not to repeat a song over a two-night span. There are a couple of things that go into it: we like to keep it fresh for ourselves which in turn keeps it fresh for our audience. I try to throw in a lot of twists and turns into in the setlists to keep us on our feet – different openers, different set closers.
You and Adam have been in six different bands together. Can you comment on the chemistry between you guys?
Adam is the closest musical relationship that I have. If it could ever get telepathic as far as musical communication could go, we’ve come as close as maybe you can get, with the relationship that we have.
You played with Nate in Percy Hill, AOD and the Nate Wilson Group. Is it weird no longer playing music with him?
It’s not weird, it’s just different. In a way it’s kind of enjoyable because after playing with Nate for so long, you get accustomed to one thing and then you play with someone else and you’re forced to adjust and for me, that’s always a good thing. I miss Nate’s playing of course and I’m sure we’ll come back together at some point.
Jumping back in time for a sec, what influence did Moon Boot Lover have on you?
When I saw the flyer for the band I cracked up and was like, “I got to see this band because their name is so awesome.” I was blown away when I saw Moon Boot Lover for first time. It was just a trio (Peter Prince, Jon Hawes, Alan Evans) Peter Prince is a true original – the songs were great, the singing was great. And then when Neal Evans joined the band, it went up another level. When you listen to a lot of the late Groovechild material you can hear the influence because I was copying a lot of John Hawes’ baselines and incorporating it into the Groovechild music.
*What was it like when you got the opportunity to join the Moon Boot Lover lineup?&
I was thrilled. It was a nice little time. I wish I did more of that. I’m not sure why that ended.
Going back to AOD, what can you tell fans about the new album, Sun Shot ?
This album for me is the farthest AOD has come sonically and musically. It’s sonically richer, more nuisance, and I feel like it’s more sophisticated. I’m really happy with how it came out. We had a blast recording it and hopefully that comes across on the record.
What are the band’s plans for the summer and beyond?
We’ll be on a bunch of festivals and usually we’ll have more dates in the fall. Hopefully, we’ll be playing more since the album is out and we need to go out and support it.