Laura Lee is Leezy; an eccentric alter-ego; a woman unrestrained; and the alluring bassist and frontwoman for critically-lauded Texan psych-rock band Khruangbin, with a particular panache when it comes to her personal style. Like an effortless blend of old Western essentials, Las Vegas showgirl flamboyance and pure sex-appeal, all mingling with a variety of 3D textures, graphics and vivacious hues, she has perfected the glam-rock aesthetic both on and off the stage.
Khruangbin’s latest project is a genre-blending body of work that echoes the thematic conflicts of sorrowful emotion and the beauty of bittersweet love. Titled Ali, the eight-track record was created in collaboration with Malian singer and guitarist Vieux Farka Touré as a tribute to his Grammy award-winning father, the late Ali Farka Touré. It’s a collection of Ali’s tracks, rearranged and remade by Vieux and the American band. The project is scheduled to be released in September longside an additional single, but so far, Khruangbin has only released one melancholic single, dubbed “Savanne”.
Leezy’s specific strain of inherently intimate lyricism and deeply thought-provoking soundscaping is an infallibly euphonic exploration of human emotion. With a voice like buttermilk and the kind of style you can’t forget, she has rendered herself an enigma. Here we sit down with the woman behind the band to dissect her style journey and the making of Ali.
1. You’re often recognised not only for your musical dexterity but your unique style panache as well. Your style is very bold, colourful and eclectic even, emphasising an 80’s show ready silhouette, with a wardrobe full of western sets, ostrich feathers, lacey catsuits and more. But how would you describe your aesthetic, personally?
“I’d like to think that Leezy lives in the cross-section of glamour and rock n roll, with winks of camp and superhero. I want to honour my femininity, confidence, and unique position to wear clothing that belongs on a stage. There’s nothing shy about Leezy’s outfits on stage.
“My style developed naturally. From show one, I saw my clothing as an extension of what I create. As a fan, concert goer, food lover, museum regular, I know what I want to feel as an art consumer. So, I try to dress and present for my inner fan. At the beginning of my life on stage, I don’t think I fully had the confidence to fill the clothes, but over time, little by little, the relationship between myself and my alter ego has evolved. I’m fully open to all the drama.”
2. As you’re about to reembark on tour, what is one item of clothing you can’t wait to wear on stage?
“To be honest, I don’t really see the clothes before a tour. I have a fitting in the days leading up to each run–so it’s always a surprise. I kind of like it like that. Typically these clothes are rentals, so most of the time, brands can’t afford to loan them out longer than a week or two.
“I have a custom jumpsuit from Burnt Soul that I believe is best suited for Japan–so I’m holding onto it. It’s superhero forward, very pink, overly playful and staring me in the face every time I walk into my studio; I can’t wait for it to have a life on stage.”
3. As Khruangbin’s wonderful bassist and frontwoman, you have become the face of the collective. What is it like for you being in the limelight? Do you often feel the pressure?
“With Leezy being an alter ego, it allows the character to absorb the attention and limelight. When I started performing with Khruangbin, I used to see the wig and clothing as an armor to protect my personal insecurities when I was on stage, but now it feels reversed–The wig and clothing protect my personal life and identity. As soon as I’m backstage, I immediately take her off and leave that pressure on the shelf, so to speak.
“That being said, I do feel over the course of the last six years of performing, that I’ve found a new confidence and power within myself. I hold onto this Kim Gordon quote very closely, “People pay money to see others believe in themselves.” I think the confidence that I’ve found is simply, the belief in me.”
4. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone who is maybe struggling with really expressing themselves through fashion or is working to discover their personal style?
“Never forget to be curious, playful and try the unexpected.”
5. Do you have any lucky charms? Maybe a knick-knack or an accessory, a garment or a tattoo, etc? Something you can’t leave the house without?
“Tons! I’m so sentimental when it comes to amulets & lockets, in spirit. I have my grandfather and grandmother’s wedding rings that I alternate around my neck. I feel like when I travel around the world, I get to take them with me and see places they never got to see. I have a little tiny statue of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, that my friend Dave Harvey gave to me in a white elephant exchange from a Christmas I spent in Goa. She’s known for wisdom and music, so I keep it in my backpack as good luck. I have a beaded bracelet that says “Queen Leezy” that I received from two gorgeous fans at ACL when I signed their record. It’s lost its elasticity, but I still keep it in my purse as a reminder of the love that’s reflected between me and the beautiful people that come to our shows. And all of my tattoos are this way. They are all symbols that remind me of who and where I am–a tiger on my finger and my moon cycles that remind me of my grandpa; a ziggurat with a stairway to heaven, the shape of Texas, and a symbol from Radiohead’s OK Computer that I got when I was 16.”
6. How was it like working with Vieux Farka Touré in tribute to his father, Ali Farka Touré, on the track Ali?
“Beautiful. Meaningful. A delight and honour. Vieux beams with joy and laughter, and the week we spent together in the studio feels pretty sacred in retrospect. It happened months before the world closed down honouring a timeless artist and musician. I’ll hold that experience in an emotional locket around my neck.”
7. What’s your go-to karaoke track to belt out?
“Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”. Lol.”
8. Can you walk us through your pre-show ritual if you have one?
“3 hours before the show: Dinner. I like to have at least 2.5 hours to digest, just in case something doesn’t agree with me.
“2.5 hours before: Make-up. I’ve become really inspired by the makeup process over the past year. It’s never something I’ve dabbled in before, but I love drawing, painting, and dressing up–so it ticks several boxes for me.
“1.5 hours before: Kombucha on ice, preferably in a wine glass. My mocktail gets me in the mood.
“1 hour before: Ideally I’m fully dressed and ready to go, and I take my Leezy portrait in my main outfit for the night.
“30 minutes before: Band portrait (if we’re ready).
“15 minutes before: Band huddle.
“10 minutes before: Walk to the stage.”
9. What would you say are the top five songs that have shaped you into the musician you are today?
“Marvin Gaye’s “After the Dance”; Jane Birkin’s “Jane B”; Radiohead’s “Let Down”; Barrington Levy’s “When Friday Comes”; and Harry Nillson’s “Caroline”.”
10. What was the last thing that made you cry?
“Saying goodbye to my tour family.”
Photography by Jackie Lee Young.