A musician, singer, songwriter, graphic artist, photographer, filmmaker and tattooist, Shannon Hemmett has many creative talents.

The Canadian is best known internationally as the keyboardist and backing vocalist of Vancouver post-post-punk band ACTORS whose most recent album ‘Acts of Worship’ was their best body of work to date and saw Hemmett taking on a more prominent role.

Running in parallel is LEATHERS, an electronic pop project fronted by Hemmett which also sees ACTORS leader Jason Corbett act as collaborator and producer.

Although primarily synth-led and more immediate melodically, LEATHERS is pop music with darker sensibilities seeded by her love of the imperial phase DEPECHE MODE long players ‘Black Celebration’, ‘Music for the Masses’ and ‘Violator’.

The debut LEATHERS EP ‘Reckless’ was recorded over several years and finally released in 2021; the title song was an infectious slice of melancholic synthpop with an alluring vocal despite the heartbreak express by our heroine while exuding a darker spectres, ‘Day For Night’ allied itself to the moody atmospheres of CHROMATICS and ‘Missing Scene’ rocked with a cavernous gothique.

While some songs on the ‘Reckless’ EP like ‘Phantom Heart’ were maybe not that far removed from ACTORS, the following year saw the release of LEATHERS’ brightest single yet in ‘Runaway’, a glorious escapist pop tune that was one of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 30 SONGS OF 2022.

A more Motorik but ethereal number ‘Ultraviolet’ followed-up ‘Runaway’ last Autumn to coincide with confirmation of plans for a full-length LEATHERS album. To tie in with the recent release of a new single in the detached dark disco of ‘Highrise’, Shannon Hemmett kindly took time out and chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the ethos and background of LEATHERS.

How did the idea for a more synth-based music vehicle come about?

It was a natural progression, exploring the sounds and aesthetics that were inspiring to us. We weren’t thinking too hard about where we would end up genre-wise.

LEATHERS is electronic pop rather than EBM or dance, had any particular artists been inspirational in the concept?

Melodies are important to Jason and I as songwriters, so I imagine some of that comes from our love of 80s era songwriting where strong melody is a key ingredient. I tend to listen to music outside of the genre we’re creating within. Right now I’m enjoying a lot of dark techno and the 90s revival that’s going on lately with shoegaze and grunge.

Closer scrutiny reveals LEATHERS to have begun with the release of ‘Missing Scene’ in 2016, why did you choose that track to launch with?

When LEATHERS was in its infancy, ‘Missing Scene’ was the first track we wrote and recorded. So it wasn’t so much a choice, but the only song completed at the time!

The release of ‘Missing Scene’ was before the first ACTORS album ‘It Will Come To You’ in 2018, so did the international success of the band put a hold on LEATHERS?

The idea was to develop LEATHERS in the background while ACTORS toured and continued to release its own material as well. With this more gradual timeline, I was able to develop my songwriting, and my confidence as a performer in real world situations with ACTORS.

The ‘Reckless’ EP was the first body of work as LEATHERS and the title track has this dreamy melodic quality, were the lyrics autobiographical?

I think all music has some kind of connection to our personal experiences, sometimes it’s clear to the writer, and other times it’s more veiled and under the surface.

‘Day For Night’ has a beautiful OMD meets Twin Peaks vibe about it, how did that come together?

We wanted to write a ballad as a counter to the wall of guitar in ‘Missing Scene’, so that was our starting point. I also wanted to direct the ‘Day For Night’ video myself, so I filmed it on my iPhone and edited it in iMovie. It was a super lo-fi video, but I like how it turned out. I spent a lot of time on the lighting and the colour palette so it would have a Lynchian feel.

In a similar situation with Helen Marnie of LADYTRON’s first solo album ‘Crystal World’ which was produced and co-written by band mate Daniel Hunt, the ‘Reckless’ EP saw you working with a bandmate Jason Corbett, did you feel that it was better to keep things in-house? How would you compare your creative dynamic with LEATHERS to ACTORS?

Jason is just my preferred writing partner, together we have a broad set of skills in music and the visual arts that compliment one another. For LEATHERS, the writing process starts with me recording demos on my own, and then I bring them to the studio, where Jason gets involved as producer. ACTORS is Jason’s project, so he is lead songwriter, and then when it comes time, he’ll bring us into the studio to add our parts as needed.

Keeping it in the family, when LEATHERS goes out live, Kendall Wooding and Adam Fink are backing you?

Yes. Kendall is multi-talented with various instruments (guitar, bass, keys, voice etc) and I wanted live drums, so having Adam with us as well was a no-brainer. We debuted the live line-up at the US dates this past fall.

Instrumentally, what synths are you favouring?

We use a lot of the Sequential synths, especially the Prophet-6 and the OB-6 on the recordings. The Roland Juno-6 and 106 are favourites of ours too.

LEATHERS has a less ambiguous image than what has been presented on the artworks of ACTORS while it has allowed you to explore making your own videos, how important is visual aspect to your music?

I have a visual arts background in photography and graphic design, so I produce my own photos, videos, and album art. For me, the visual presentation is a crucial part of the project. All my favourite bands have a strong relationship between their music and their visuals. It’s inspiring and creatively satisfying when the music and the visuals work together to create a defined aesthetic.

With the forthcoming LEATHERS album, are any of the ‘Reckless’ songs being carried over or have you started with a clean sheet?

The song ‘Reckless’ will carry over to the new record because it was the first LEATHERS single release with Artoffact Records, but everything else will be brand new material.

Is there anything you can say about the new album, like its title, any particular favourite tracks to look out for or your own personal satisfaction in its realisation?

We’re almost done recording and mixing the new songs, and the pre-order for the album will start in April. We’ll be releasing a new single called ‘Fascination’ with the pre-order, along with a new video directed by Wayne Moreheart.

How do you think the LEATHERS album will be received, do you hope ACTORS fans will crossover to it or do you think it will have a different audience?

We can’t wait to have a full album of material out for our fans. A lot of ACTORS fans already cross over, but we’re seeing some growth into a different, more pop oriented fan base which is super cool too.

What is next for you, with both LEATHERS and ACTORS?

Both ACTORS and LEATHERS will be playing the Dark Force Festival in New Jersey on April 1st. LEATHERS will also be playing the Verboden Festival in Vancouver on May 13th.

Do you have any unfulfilled ambition, either creatively or personally?

Releasing the full length record will be a major milestone for us. And if I’m allowed to dream a little, I’d love to see LEATHERS as a musical guest on ‘Saturday Night Live’ one day. Let them know!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Shannon Hemmett

The singles ‘Highrise’, ‘Ultraviolet’ and ‘Runaway’ plus the ‘Reckless’ EP are released by Artoffact Records and available from https://leathers.bandcamp.com/






Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
30th January 2023