Spotlight On... Leif Coffield

Following the release of his latest single Only Fascination, originally demoed by his late great uncle in the 70s, we catch up with East Kilbride alt-pop act Leif Coffield

Feature by Tallah Brash | 25 Apr 2024
  • Leif Coffield

Leif Coffield first caught our attention with his Dua Lipa-indebted earworm Fire It Up, and penchant for cheeky online ‘ask-the-general-public-what-they-think-of-my-music’ antics. We’ve just booked him to appear on our Pyramid Stage takeover at Kelburn Garden Party this summer, and ahead of showcasing at Wide Days next week, his latest single Only Fascination came out yesterday. 

The single started life some 40 years ago as an unreleased demo created by his late Great Uncle Des. With his great uncle’s vocals revived for the official release, and additional instrumentation from his parents and cousin, Only Fascination is a true family affair with a sprinkling of Leif's zhuzh bringing it up to date. With all that in mind, we shine a spotlight on Coffield this week to find out more about the musician, the history of Only Fascination and what the rest of the year has in store.

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what/who inspires you as a musician?
Firstly, thank you so much for having me! I’m a music producer and singer-songwriter from the idyllic town of East Kilbride. I’d love to say I draw inspiration from things like the beautiful brutalist architecture in London or the existential dread I feel when I think about our insignificance among the vast expanse of the universe, but I don’t. For me, the music I make now is an amalgamation of the metal I listened to when I was younger and especially in my late teens when I started getting into a lot of 80s music, there’s just some seriously unrivalled elements of tunes made in the 80s. Big synths, big drums, catchy hooks. Stylistically I definitely draw from a lot of artists I idolise, from Prince, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder, to Dua Lipa, Kirin J Callinan, and The Weeknd.

I’ve been enjoying all of your singles so far, and I’m fascinated (pardon the pun) by the story behind your forthcoming new single, Only Fascination. Can you tell us more about the song’s background and in particular about your Great Uncle Des?
Absolutely, it’s kinda strange to be bringing it out. The track just goes so deep within my family it’s mad. Great Uncle Des was part of a band in the 60s called The JSD Band, and they were phenomenal. Scottish folk music pioneers, they toured with David Bowie on his Ziggy Stardust tour, and used to do the club circuit with Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly. MADNESS. But following their split in the early 70s, my great uncle went on to record a bunch of solo stuff. One of which was a track called Only Fascination. 

Although this track was unreleased and largely unheard, somehow, my dad ended up with a tape of it. I remember him telling me stories of how he’d played it to his mates when they were on holiday and for the duration of the holiday they’d all be singing along to this track. My dad decided to tell his mates on the last day that it was in fact his uncle they’d been listening to the whole time, much to their disbelief.

For years, the only sonic exposure I’d had from the track was the phantom auditory experience from the vivid stories I’d been told. That was until September 2023 when Des, recently at the time diagnosed with terminal cancer, had found the track on a hard drive somewhere, and sent it to my dad. 

Hearing it was quite surreal. It was catchier than I thought it would be. It was more timeless than I had expected. It still seems like a crime that this wasn’t released at the time. Given the right backing, it would almost definitely have been a hit. But anyway, I had to do something with it. I’d planned to propose a collaboration with him and re-release it, but as his health was quite rapidly deteriorating, the chances of making this happen were slim to none. 

Just a few days before he passed, on 2 November, The Beatles released the track Now And Then which featured vocals from John Lennon’s old demo that they’d managed to revive due to current AI technology. I scoured the interwebs to find what software they used, and found it. So for two days I worked – almost manically – recreating the track from the ground up and managed to layer in Des’s vocals with my own, which can be heard in the verses. The track also features Dad and cousin Shaw on guitar, Mum on cowbell, and myself on guitar and vocals.

Black and white photo of Leif Coffield, holding a camcorder.
Image: Leif Coffield by Lee Gannon

How did you go about Leif-ifying that unreleased demo and making it your own?
For me the song was just sensational as it was, but at the end of the day it was just a demo, so I definitely wanted to give it a phat synth bass, a luscious 80s polysynth body, and drums that would knock the bolts off a cargo ship. I think that’s possibly how I – as you put it – “Leif-ify” things. But yeah, the biggest thing for me was to stay as true to the original as possible and just draw out the best from the elements that were already there.

What do you think your Great Uncle would make of your version of his song?
If what my dad says is true, then he would be incredibly proud. I hope he would be. It’s genuinely more than just a song to me, and even to my dad too. It’s part of Des’s legacy, and a testament to the kind of musician he was. To have a great uncle that played with David Bowie, Gerry Rafferty, and Billy Connolly… that’s fucking amazing.

Outwith the single, you're playing Wide Days at the start of May, what can people expect?
I am! Expect – if I may refer to my earlier comment – phat synth bass, luscious 80s polysynths, drums that would knock the bolts off a cargo ship, and a modicum of theatre. My band is just sensational man. Sadly due to my dad’s hips, he won't be able to play, BUT, we do have the majestic Iain Pearson on bass who just annihilates; the animal Peter Kelly on drums; and Sorley from Doss on guitar. I’m so excited man. Playing live is my favourite thing in the world, nothing compares to it. I’m looking forward to just being at the conference and meeting everyone too.

And what does the rest of the year look like for you?
Extremely exciting with lots of live shows, with the first being Wide Days. Supporting Sonny Tennet on 16 May at Room 2, Glasgow. Hitting the incredible Kelburn Garden Party on 6 July for the Saturday instalment of self-prescribed pop debauchery on The Pyramid Stage, and sorting out a headline show for some point later in the year. I’ve got a bunch of tunes that are just primed and ready to go too so I’m buzzing to get them out and into the wild.

Only Fascination is out now
Leif Coffield plays Wide Days, Edinburgh, 1 May – get your free tickets here; Room 2, Glasgow, 16 May; Kelburn Garden Party, Kelburn Castle Estate, nr Fairlie, 6 Jul