Meet The Drummer: Leila O’Sullivan of LIINES

Words by Lindsey Anderson
Banner Photo Credit: Ric Harris 

You must be doing something outstanding to be named one of the most exciting acts to emerge from Manchester. 3 piece punk band LIINES has been releasing music since 2015 but 2018 marks a huge moment for the band. Early this summer, LIINES released their debut record ‘Stop-Start’ and it has audiences buzzing with excitement.

Folks who have been following the band since their 1st single ‘Never There’ in 2015 are truly in for a treat. ‘Stop-Start’ is a supremely enjoyable listen from start to finish. With driving bass lines, hard-hitting percussion and a vocalist with a tone that has garnered the band comparisons to Sleater-Kinney & Savages, the band has successfully pulled off an ear-catching debut that’ll leave listeners wanting more.

Tom Tom got the chance to chat with Leila O’Sullivan about the album, her history with the drums and the goals she has for herself this year.


What was your 1st introduction to drums? What was it about drumming that intrigued you?
I was lucky to grow up in a music-loving household listening to artists from Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac. My parents could play a few instruments and my mum used to be a music teacher, so I was encouraged to learn to play music from quite a young age. First it was piano, but when I started to get into grunge and indie music, I naturally wanted to learn how to play stuff from my favorite bands at the time, like Nirvana and Hole, so I taught myself the guitar. It didn’t take long for me to get fascinated by drums, especially when I started playing covers with my friends and there wasn’t another drummer so I just went for it. I instantly loved the different styles, sounds and energy you could get from drums.

My first ‘kit’ was a cheap drum pad from Argos which I got in my early teens. It even had some foot pads so I could coordinate my limbs! Before that I had driven my parents mad hitting chopsticks on my desk; using my lamp as a cymbal! So to play on something that made actual drum sounds, that made me feel like a proper drummer which was an amazing feeling! I think I was able finally upgrade to a third-hand kit for my 17th or 18th birthday but by then I was already hooked.

How did you become the drummer for LIINES?
Whilst I played in a band in my late teens, it was more covers and we only played a couple of gigs. I didn’t really do much drumming until my late 20s when I joined a Manchester band called Hooker who needed a new drummer. It was the first ‘proper’ band I rehearsed and gigged with regularly – and I absolutely loved it. The buzz of playing is something I will never get tired of! It started out just playing their songs, but eventually we started to write new stuff where I was able write my own drum parts and that was really exciting. Over time the style of music was changing from a grungy sound to something more sparse, post-punk and bass and drums driven, so we decided to change the name of the band and refresh everything. That’s when LIINES was born!

You all recently released your debut record! From a drum standpoint, how was the creation and recording process?
We did! Our debut album ‘Stop-Start’ came out on May 4th. We’ve been writing and playing some of these songs for a few years now, so to get them recorded and to finally release them into the world has been a huge and very proud moment. The response has been incredible too. In terms of writing, Zoe (McVeigh – singer and guitarist) writes the core of most LIINES tracks; like a melody or rough structure. She will come to rehearsal with an idea or shell of a song and we’d go from there, working out the other parts. Drums and bass are dominant forces in LIINES music, which is obviously an exciting prospect for me. They’re interesting too as our songs can range from having drums running at full pelt, to something much more sparse.

Regardless most of our tracks are quite pacey which makes for exhausting rehearsals, gigs and then times that by 100 for recording sessions! I recorded 5 tracks in about 6 hours last summer for the final album recording session and it nearly killed me! But when you know you’ve got the take you need, it makes it worthwhile. It was cool playing with the drum sounds with our producer too; which was the first time we were paying more attention to stuff like that. All round it was a great experience and the pride in the final product is huge!

Photo Credit: Blake House Filmmakers Co-operative//L-R: Leila O’Sullivan(drums), Zoe McVeigh(vocals/guitar), Tamsin Middleton(bass)

Where do you pull inspiration for drum parts?
Drums have always been one of the things that turns me on to certain bands and songs – if the drums are interesting and really give something to a track then I’m sold! So I’m really aware of that when working out drum parts – I like intricacies, without being complicated or without losing the impact or pace of a song. Our tracks are often no longer than 2 ½ minutes so there’s often seemingly no room to get many intricacies or rhythm changes, but I love that challenge and it’s nice when those elements – the way I hit the toms, or hi hats – are noticed by people at gigs or in reviews. Although a native Londoner, living in Manchester for the last 15 years means I’ve been surrounded by influences like Joy Division. But also the amazing styles and sounds in a lot of goth music. Both have definitely influenced my style.

Do you have any favorite drummers?
I love Janet Weiss’ drumming for Sleater-Kinney – a band we often get compared to. I don’t think it’s necessarily my drumming, but still it’s a pretty cool comparison! They also have such an amazing energy when they play live. I really love the drumming in Foals and The National as well. The latter probably less expected especially, but the drumming in both of these bands has always leapt out at me with such interesting and varied styles. I keep spotting new elements in the drums I’ve never noticed before when listening to any of these bands. There’s loads more too. I get fixated on most drummers I watch live, I find it fascinating seeing how others go about it!

Goals for yourself as a drummer this year? Things you’d like the band to achieve?
As we’ve just released our album we want to get out and play as many gigs and festivals as we can to promote that. We’ve had some great support slots this year and in doing so played some of the biggest venues we’ve ever played. Hearing your drums and band boom out in bigger venues like that really lifts you and lifts your playing. So we want to get in front of as many new people as we can.

As well as touring the album, we’ve been writing new music. It’s been so nice to be back thinking about fresh music and what drums work with that; want to keep the ideas fresh and interesting. I want to keep progressing as a drummer without changing things up in terms of impacting the LIINES sound.

What music are you listening to now?
My stereo is pretty eclectic. But some stuff I have on repeat at the moment are awesome Danish trio Nelson Can, Sink Ya Teeth, Nadine Shah, The National, Belly and Breeders!

When you’re not drumming, what other things do you like to do?
There’s not a huge amount of time for much after LIINES and working! But I try to get out and about and stay healthy where I can. But I try to get to gigs where I can. Otherwise, life really involves being stuck in front of a laptop doing work or band admin or rehearsing or gigging!


Pick Up ‘Start-Stop’ here


Keep Up with LIINES
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