Spring has sprung, as they say. Which means that I have completely lost all ability to focus, and instead have started fantasizing about the beautiful beach vacation I’ll never take. I won’t be soaking in the California sun this spring, but I can at least live vicariously through Brandon & Leah’s sunny Malibu sound.
Brandon Jenner (yes, that Jenner, as in son of Bruce Jenner and brother of Brody Jenner) and Leah Felder (daughter of the Eagles’ Don Felder) grew up together in Malibu. They were happy to ignore the glitz of Hollywood, and instead spent their time surfing and listening music.
Their new single, “Life Happens,” oozes sunshine and sand. The pop-folk duo’s chemistry in the video is undeniable, and they look like they’re genuinely having a great time. Brandon’s acoustic guitar paired with Leah’s bubbly ukulele and bright vocals lend “Life Happens” all the qualities of a summer anthem in the making. I see road trips, bonfires, and bikinis. Brandon & Leah’s self-produced debut album is due later this year, and they’ll be the first to tell you that they’ve got more to offer than beachy grooves.
Check out our interview with Brandon & Leah below.
Crushable: You guys grew up together in Malibu. How did you get started making music together?
Brandon: Well, we both played in some different bands growing up in Malibu, and we also played in a few of the same bands. When we were young, in high school, we started playing music together… We’ve been in a handful of bands together, and Leah and I were the two consistent factors through a few different bands. And then it just kind of ended up Leah and I, just playing, and that seemed like the perfect fit. We’ve been playing music together for quite a long time.
How would you describe your sound?
Brandon: I would say that our music is kind of hip hop-based, reggae-influenced soul music with a beach flavor.
Leah: I like that! I would definitely say that our music reflects a lifestyle. It’s Southern California, going to the beach, surfing, it’s a really laid back lifestyle and I think our music and our sound really reflects that.
You were recently voted MTV U’s Freshmen video of the week. Congratulations!
Leah: Yeah! We were so excited! We didn’t know we were in the contest, until a friend called me and said, “Hey, you’re in a contest and you’re losing.” I think we had 1% of the vote because we had no idea. So we took to our Twitter, the Brandon and Leah Twitter, and Brandon’s Twitter, and my Twitter, and our Facebook page, and within 24 hours we were in the lead. It was huge. It was humongous for us. We were just so pumped.
Wow. Extra congratulations for turning things around so quickly! Twitter is magical.
Brandon: Yeah, it was a fun moment, and it’s an honor to be on MTV. The video premiered on Buzzworthy on MTV, which was awesome, and MTV U was huge for us. We just can’t explain how excited we are about it.
Leah: Also just that fact that people voted for us. People wanted to help us. Just the support for us, it’s really incredible how people have reacted to this first single, and the amount of love that we’ve received is amazing.
And you’ve got an album coming up?
Leah: Yeah, we have an album coming up sometime this year. We’ll probably be putting out a couple more singles and videos before the album comes out.
And what was the process of recording that album like?
Brandon: We write a lot of our own stuff, and we also write with a few different people. We write a lot with Boots Ottestad, and Rune Westberg, Simon Wilcox, and a couple other people. We like writing with other people. We produced the record on our own, we have a studio out in Malibu. We produced it with a guy named Jorge Vivo, who is a great engineer who we’ve been working with for a long time, he’s a really good buddy of mine. We also had a few other writers that we would work with, we’d work with them in the studio and get stuff from them. It was great. It was a big collaboration, with a lot of different people.
Leah: And our studio is in Malibu, it’s about a four minute walk from the beach. So we have our dogs there, and there’s a studio cat that lives there. When we needed to take a break from making the record, we could go walk down to the beach and hang out, and take quick little surf benders. So that really helped give it sort of a SoCal feel.
“Life Happens” is a really fun song. Watching the video, it really looks like you guys are having a great time together. What other kinds of songs can we expect from the album?
Leah: Well, all the songs on the album, there’s a whole array of emotions. I think that “Life Happens” definitely has a happy feeling to it, but there’s a whole array of feelings. So while there’s stuff like “Life Happens,” there’s also some other stuff that’s a little different. That was the goal for all of us. We were really trying to write and reflect what we feel inside. It would be dishonest to write an entire happy album.
Growing up in Malibu, I would imagine you had a lot of access to the L.A. music scene. There’s so much music in L.A. though, that it could be an overload. What kind of scene did you guys gravitate toward? Did you go out and see a lot of live music?
Leah: I would say that growing up in Malibu, Malibu is sort of separate from L.A. It’s about 30 minutes away on a long beach road, the Pacific Coast Highway. And there’s not a lot going on there. It’s sort of different now, but when we were growing up it was more like a beach town. So up until I was about 18 or something, it was all just Malibu. It was the Malibu bands, our friends and our local bands playing there. It wasn’t until we were 18 and of age that we’d go and see other live music. But I feel like a lot of our musical tastes and styles developed while we were hearing those other artists. We really relied on the music that we purchased from stores and listened to on our stereos, just like regular kids. We never really jumped into the L.A. scene until we were a little bit older.
Who are a few of your favorite artists to listen to now?
Brandon: We like a lot of different stuff. I’ve been listening to Ray LaMontagne a lot lately, and Jack Johnson is always in my playlists. Ben Harper is another big one that we listen to a lot.
Leah: I recently discovered Raphael Saadiq. I heard a song, and then I discovered more of his music online and I really like him. I think his voice is spectacular.
If you could collaborate with any other artist, who would it be?
Leah: Without a doubt, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson. Have you heard K’NAAN?
Yes! I’m a huge fan of his.
Leah: I love K’NAAN! If we could get K’NAAN on one of our songs, I would be so excited to do it.
Do you guys have a tour scheduled?
Brandon: We’re not touring right now. We’re just playing locally. We’re playing some cool showcases and some cool performances locally in L.A. We’re still just working on pushing the single “Life Happens,” but once we get a few more tracks out there then we’re definitely looking to hop on a tour. We’re just trying to stay local for right now and do everything we can around here. I would say the first tour that we’ll do, ideally we’re just going to focus on California. We have a radio tour coming up, where we’ll be going to different radio stations and talking to them and playing a few songs.
Is it really different for you guys to play outside of your home turf? Do you feel different when you’re playing shows in Malibu or on the road?
Brandon: Well, yeah. Malibu is a small town, like Leah said.
Leah: It’s actually more nerve-wracking to play at home than to play anywhere else. I much prefer playing a humongous show with a lot of people, rather than a smaller show with fewer people. But we’ll always love our hometown, and love our friends and family, and the fans that we have out there. So it’s different.
Where do you see yourselves in a couple of months, or a couple years?
Brandon. Touring. We love playing live. That’s pretty much why we do it all, you know. It’s so much fun to get in front of people and share that energy with fun people. So we really, really, really want to tour, and travel, and meet people. That’s our main goal for now.
For more on Brandon & Leah, check out their website.