Slipknot, Skulls, Spotify: How Leeched Are Redefining Hardcore for Post-Modern Age | Revolver

Slipknot, Skulls, Spotify: How Leeched Are Redefining Hardcore for Post-Modern Age

Rising U.K. band talks disparate influences, from Cult Leader to history museums to Flint water crisis
leeched2018creditpolarisephotography.jpg, Polarise Photography
Leeched, (from left) Laurie Morbey, Judd Langley and Tom Hansell, 2018
photograph by Polarise Photography

Laurie Morbey remembers the exact moment when his idea for Leeched took shape. He was in a natural history museum in Manchester, England, looking at a horse skull. "I saw it and thought, I want to start a heavy band and I want that to be the album cover." He later returned to the museum with his brother, a photographer, to take pictures of the skull. One of those images would eventually appear on the cover of Leeched's 2017 breakout EP, Nothing Will Grow From the Rotten Ground. With six songs totaling less than 10 minutes, the EP abruptly introduced the world to Leeched's venomous fusion of hardcore, grind and industrial — a pulverizing sound that's drawn comparisons to bands as disparate as Godflesh and Nails.

The band's record label seems uncertain what to call the British trio, referring to Leeched as both a hardcore band and a grind outfit in the press release announcing their debut full-length, You Took the Sun When You Left. Even Morbey is unsure what to call the music he makes. "I don't know," the vocalist-bassist says with a laugh. "But people have commented that our music is a mash-up of quite a few genres, which I like. I suppose if you were gonna classify us as anything, I'd call it heavy metallic hardcore or something. It sounds pretentious, but I like the idea that you can't really pin it down."

This genre-less freedom might be a result of never really experiencing the subdivisions of the pre-Internet world. At just 22 years old, Morbey grew up being able to absorb entire catalogs from every type of music at the press of a button. "I never went to a record shop with all the records laid out in different sections," he points out. "I just kind of took it all in at once. I think a lot of younger bands are like that." Unsurprisingly, Morbey doesn't listen to music on physical formats. "I have about six records," he concedes, "and one of them is the test pressing for our album."

Leeched formed in Manchester in 2017, when Morbey found like-minded souls in guitarist Judd Langley and drummer Tom Hansell. "There's a massive scene for heavy music around Manchester, and everybody has each other on social media," Morbey explains. "Judd was in a death-metal band, but it wasn't really his jam. He's always been more into hardcore. So he just announced on social media that he wanted to start a new band. We got in touch, and he already knew Tom from shows and stuff."

As it turns out, Morbey already knew Hansell as well. "Funny story: Me and Tom actually played in a two-piece band, just me and him, and it was called Leeched," he explains. "Then we stopped talking for a couple of months. When Judd got in touch, wanting to start a band, he said he already had a drummer. When I walked into the room, Tom was there, so we just carried on as Leeched."

Morbey's journey down heavy music's rabbit hole began with his dad's iPod. "At school, I was the classic kid with long hair who hung out with all the other kids with long hair," he says. "My dad let me download a few songs onto his iPod, but we didn't have broadband at this point — it was dial-up — so it took about a day to download a song. I started to get into Motörhead, and then some kids at school said I should listen to Slipknot. I was like, 'Slip what?'"

leeched-web-lead.jpg, Polarise Photography
photograph by Polarise Photography

He went home that day and downloaded the top Slipknot song on iTunes, which at the time was "Duality." This was 2007 or '08, by Morbey's estimate. His reaction to hearing Slipknot for the first time was visceral. "I couldn't believe it," he enthuses, the awe lingering in his voice a decade later. "I didn't think this was legal! I remember hoping my parents didn't find out I was listening to it. When you're young, stuff like that totally blows your mind. Now I know there's heavier stuff than Slipknot, but when you're that age, it's like, 'Holy shit!'"

Much to Morbey's surprise, his parents were supportive of his newfound interest in extreme metal. "My mum was all for it," he says. "She said she'd rather have me listening to that than going around being badly behaved."

Morbey was just 11 or 12 when he experienced this musical conversion via Slipknot. Today, he ticks off a list of favorites that includes Cult Leader, King 810 and the aforementioned Nails. "People at school were like, 'Oh, it's just a phase. You'll grow out of it.' But I didn't."

On the day Revolver speaks with Morbey, Leeched are preparing to embark on a U.K. tour with East Coast powerviolence crew Full of Hell. Between tours, Morbey works as a sound engineer in clubs and recording studios around town. "It definitely helps with the band," he says. "But for purposes of objectivity, I don't record our own stuff. It's good to have a second opinion. With the band being quite young, I think we need someone on the sidelines doing that. Me wearing all the hats wouldn't really yield the best results."

After growing up "all over the south and north of England," Morbey moved to Manchester to attend school for his chosen trade. He quit after a year, when he realized he could learn quicker on the job. "I was shadowing at a venue called Deaf Institute and started learning fast," he explains. "All my mates at the uni are just now finishing, and I don't want to say I'm ahead of them, but they haven't been exposed to the real world yet. That's not to say that I don't think anyone should go to university for sound engineering. I just think it's a difficult thing to learn in the classroom."

Morbey brings this real-world sensibility to the lyrics he writes for Leeched, especially on You Took the Sun When You Left. In the song "Hollow Point Weddings," he comments on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. "I'd watched a documentary about it," he explains. "Being from England, I'm obsessed with America. But I couldn't believe that a city in a first-world country couldn't even get the water right. The depravity that it's breeding is such a contrast to being in one of the richest countries in the world."

Leadoff track "Cripple the Herd" is an anti-war screed. "I didn't set out with an idea to write an anti-war song, but the theme was kind of floating around with all the stuff happening in Syria," Morbey offers. "But I'm opposed to war, and I think anyone in their right mind is opposed to war."

Still, Morbey doesn't view Leeched as a political band. "Mainly because I don't really know enough about politics to stand behind any view I'd put forth," he says with a laugh. "But at the same time, if someone interpreted our songs a certain way, more power to them."

Meanwhile, the skull motif remains: The cover of You Took the Sun When You Left features a stark photograph of a broken deer skull on its cover. Morbey says it's a fitting visual representation of the band's consistently violent music. "We want to carry it through for every record," he explains. "We used the same layout for both releases, so when you press 'next' on Spotify, the only thing that changes is the skull."