If you aren’t from the Capital Region of New York, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on a little gem called Let’s Be Leonard, a five piece rock, jazz, fusion from Saratoga Springs. Hell, even if you live in Albany there’s a chance they’ve slipped under your radar as they’ve only officially formed in March 2015. This was the case for me, although I’m not sure how this happened given their surge in popularity in the spa city and rapidly growing fan base. They have even played Albany street fests Pearlpalooza and Lark Fest.
Regardless of my own lack of exposure, I recently wised up and sat down to listen to their debut album, Cow, just released on November 29. The album is really quite enjoyable, with a few mellow and romantic tunes sprinkled among a largely high energy and up-beat selection of original songs.
According to guitarist Karl Bertrand, he and Matt Griffin, also on guitar, met saxophonist Connor Dunn at Schenectady County Community College just last year. They added drummer Paul Guay and bassist Chris Cronin in March to complete their ensemble. While the album provides a chance for all members to shine to different degrees, it is Dunn whose impressive and smooth notes serve as the lead in most songs.
The strongest tracks on the album include “Rocky Road,” and “Kindergarten Blues,” which, not surprisingly, blend rock and blues. “Young Sprite” is blues heavy with velvet smooth layers of jazz. Listeners are sure to find themselves wrapped up in the groove with a good head bob – the universal body language for “I’m digging this!” The young band has gone beyond having just potential, they sound like the real thing.
Another sign of Let’s Be Leonard’s sudden, yet warranted, rise in popularity is their inclusion on upcoming bills with other local and better known favorites. They’re scheduled to open for Mister F on December 26, and for Wild Adriatic on New Year’s Eve. Both shows are at Grizzly’s Bar and Kitchen, just over the border in Stratton, Vermont. They’re also opening for Lucid at the Putnam Den on January 1. But for the hard evidence, check them out on their own turf at Café Lena in Saratoga Springs on December 22. Based on both rumors and, now, my own listening experience, I would bet it will be one of many packed shows to come.
Check out their Facebook page for information, music, photos and more
Erin Clary: What or who inspires your music?
Karl Bertrand: We definitely draw influences from the Grateful Dead and Dave Matthews Band in terms of song form and arrangement, we also are influenced a good deal by use of jazz harmony from a variety of artists.
EC: What is the ultimate goal of “Let’s Be Leonard?”
KB: To throw a killer show on the Moon.
EC: How did LBL come to be?
KB: Our three founding members, Karl Bertrand, Matt Griffin, and Connor Dunn met while studying music at Schenectady County Community College close to two years ago and we met our current bassist, Chris Cronin, and drummer, Paul Guay, through the Saratoga/Glens Falls music scene in Winter/Spring of this past year
EC: How old are you guys?
KB: We range in ages 21-23
EC: Is there a theme to your debut album, Cow?
KB: We’d probably have to say the theme to Cow is kind of like a day in the life of a kindergartner. A lot of the songs are generated by feelings you have at the best time in your life: childhood.
EC: Do you play all originals at your shows?
KB: We do play mostly originals, we do a number of Dead covers though and a few others as well.
EC: Where does the name “Let’s Be Leonard” come from?
KB: The name comes from a couple of our members having a convo about possible band names, someone said “let’s be ‘Leonard'” as in just Leonard and someone realized “Let’s Be Leonard” had a pretty little ring to it.