Born in New Delhi, India, Leis led an itinerant childhood, bouncing from one hemisphere to another, town to town, school to school. After his return from India in the late 1970's, Leis eventually settled in the San Francisco bay area, where Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead gifted him his first guitar. Growing up around open mic nights, he later formed the band The Love X Nowhere (which included Araki in its final incarnation), releasing three EPs and an album, a success that led to Leis being hired as a touring musician with Dan The Automator.
Originally from Osaka, Japan, Araki moved to New York in 1992 to further her study of classical percussion at the Manhattan School of Music. Attracted by the challenges and beauty of improvisation, Araki soon switched her major to Jazz & Commercial Percussion, eventually earning a Masters degree after relocating to California and incorporating African, Asian and European music into her playing.
"I found myself writing melodies that I knew were meant for a horn," Leis says of the material that took shape in 2009 out of the ashes of The Love X Nowhere. "I had fantasies of recruiting an accomplished trumpet player for the band that eventually became Tidelands." Instead, Leis decided to learn the horn from scratch on his own. "Never having played a horn before, I purchased a beautiful vintage Benge flugelhorn and began at the beginning, not able to form a single note."
Since he passed on recruiting a trumpet player, Leis decided to recruit former band mate Araki, who added a Moog to the ensemble of instruments, essentially beginning her own new musical education in learning to play the drums and synth at the same time. Further exploring his earlier experiences writing for cello, violin and trumpet, Leis began using a looping device to write guitar parts that he could later pair with orchestral instruments.
Araki began to transcribe these ideas to standard musical notation and via a connection with musician John Vanderslice, Tidelands was introduced to Minna Choi, conductor of the Magik*Magik Orchestra. "We gave her the framework of the songs and the charts and the freedom to create around what we had already written," Leis explains.
Recording engineer Ian Pellicci (Deerhoof) was the final co-conspirator added to the project, and less than six short but studious months into becoming a flugelhorn player, Leis, Araki, Choi and Pellicci convened at San Francisco's Tiny Telephone Studios to create If...
Musically, the songs on If... are defined by the creative and precise drumming of Araki and her ability to explore her creative voice through the framework of these songs. Further enriched by the incredible players in the Magik*Magik Orchestra, the album also features standout local players such as bassist Nils Erickson (20 Minute Loop), cello player Sam Bass (Les Claypool), and Leis' foremost inspiration as a horn player, trumpeter Ara Anderson (Tom Waits).
Describing the lyricism on the record, Leis says, "I've always valued poetic quality as highly as I do narrative. I think this is reflected in these songs. Inter-personal turmoil, frustration over seeming powerlessness in the face of ongoing war, and a farewell to my previous self-destructive ways of youth are the primary themes to these songs."
If..., the debut album by Tidelands, will be released on July 26th, 2011.