Leagues Explore the Collective Us on ‘You Belong Here’

Photo: Heidi Ross

On Nashville indie rockers Leagues‘ debut You Belong Here, frontman Thad Cockrell begins “Spotlight” with an infectiously catchy verse about love, perfectly setting up the LP’s half-hour journey into dance-floor-ready indie rock. The group, which also includes guitarist Tyler Burkam and drummer Jeremy Lutito, sounds effortless on poppy songs like “Mind Games” and “One Hand,” as it employs one hook after another. Cockrell tells tell Hive that he went to great lengths to perfect his lyrics, and that the band just knew how to act swiftly when inspiration struck. It’s a vital combination of instincts and intellect, and it sounds inviting enough to live up to its title. We recently caught up with Cockrell to find out just how Leagues made You Belong Here come together.

You were in the band for eight months before you put pen to paper to write lyrics. What did you do to find inspiration?

I hung out with friends that aren’t musicians. A buddy of mine is a chef, and he has this huge garden that he works in. He uses fresh produce. I went over there and I would hang out in the garden with him and listen to him and his story. And I read [John Steinbeck's] East of Eden, right before I started writing the lyrics for this. One of the things that we all wanted to do, the three of us is we didn’t want to write songs just for us or just for other people, we wanted to write songs for us — you and me — the collective “us.” We wanted to write something that still had weight. Musically, we felt lifted by it. I think there is this idea that if it’s pop music that the lyrics have to be throwaway or that you can’t say much. And on some level, I guess it’s my act of rebellion, albeit a small one, to try and say something that would mean something to “us.” And hopefully that’s what connects.

One lyric that stands out in “Walking Backwards” is, “I’ve been looking for a new emotion.” What do you mean by that?

It’s a strange thing. A new emotion is like a new color. Like, really? Can such a thing even exist? I don’t know. I would love for that to be. Maybe if we could all get in a room and sing that together, maybe we’ll find it. I just feel like as a society, we over-emote or maybe we’re not even connected with our emotions. Sometimes I watch my friends and how they’re living life, and they seem disconnected with emotion, or maybe they’re overly driven by emotion. I don’t know. But it’s just the idea of trying to find something new.

Did all of the songs come easily?

A huge bonding moment for us was when our bass player left. We had only been a band for about a year and a half. We were wondering if we should even keep doing this. It already seemed silly. So we decided to go hole ourselves up in a cabin on a frozen lake in the Midwest and write. And we’re kind of wondering what the hell we were doing. Then we wrote “Lost It All,” the first song after not having our buddy in the band. That song glued us back together. Then “Spotlight” came to us. I feel like we all had a boyish grin, like maybe we found some trouble that we really liked. We were really excited about getting in trouble together.

Leagues’ You Belong Here comes out January 29. Pre-order it via Amazon and stream it below:

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