INTERVIEW: Julia Leiby

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WRITTEN BY: Samantha Sullivan

Even though it’s only been a year since the Coronavirus came to The United States, it feels like it’s been an eternity since shows were a thing. Dancing with a bunch of sweaty strangers feels like a fever dream in a world where we’re all condemned to stand 6 feet apart. Consisting of photos shot at Everybody Hit’s (RIP) from 2017-2019 Julia Leiby captures the nostalgia of going to gigs in their photobook, “Another Show To Take My Pain Away.” With shots of locals like Blue Smiley and Laser Background as well as some touring bands, the book is a love letter to live music. 

Samantha Sullivan: INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND TELL US THE FIRST SHOW YOU EVER WENT TO? 

Julia Leiby: My name is Julia Leiby, I also go by Jay. I’ve been going to shows since I was like 11 years old. My mom took me to see Modest Mouse when I was 11 at a venue in DC. The next show after that I think was Death Cab for Cutie when I was 12 or 13. My parents both really like music and it’s cool cause growing up in the DC area a lot of places were all ages and I got to go to a lot of cool shows. 

Kevin Sullivan of Field Medic (shot by Julia Leiby)

SS: WHAT WAS THE PROCESS OF MAKING “ANOTHER SHOW TO TAKE MY PAIN AWAY?” WHY DID YOU INITIALLY WANT TO MAKE IT? 

JL: Basically, I used to go to a ton of shows before COVID and I would try to take photos at them. I realized that I had a nice collection of photos from Everybody Hits which actually closed in January of 2020 before COVID. It was because the landlord was selling the building so they had to close but I got the idea to make the book out of boredom. I had to quarantine for 10 days or whatever because I was working at this coffee shop and 2 of our employees got COVID and I had worked with 1 of them the day before she had symptoms so I had to quarantine just as a precaution. I was negative but the coffee shop ended up closing for like a month and a half, so I wasn’t working and I had a lot of free time on my hands. I go through my archives a lot just cause I like doing that but I realized that I had a good body of work from Everybody Hits, so I decided to work on a book. I felt like people would like to see it because people are missing shows a lot right now and the community that comes along with them. I had chosen my favorite photos from the venue cause I had posted some of them on Instagram before although some of them I hadn’t and then I laid it out in InDesign. Ultimately I decided to use Fireball printing to get it made. I had a friend in New York design the cover for me and then I had a friend in Philly help me with the text and stuff. That’s kind of how it came together. 

SS: WHAT WAS SO SPECIAL TO YOU ABOUT EVERYBODY HITS? 

JL: I don’t know. I live in the Kensington/Fishtown area anyways so it was one of the closer venues to me which is always nice and I have some friends that live pretty close to it as well, some of my best friends. There was just something about it. It was a good place to hang out with people and a nice place to see live music. I’m in a band too and we played there twice. It was really fun both times. I just feel like it was really a place where people could come together. There wasn’t really one specific reason why I just knew that people were missing that venue a lot and I thought that maybe people would enjoy a reminder of it. 

SS: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE MEMORIES FROM THERE? 

JL: One of my favorite sets of photos in the book is this show that was this band from New York called Big Ups. I’ve known them for a while but they ended up breaking up at the beginning of 2019 and they played a final Philly show at Everybody Hits and I got some really nice photos of it. That was one of my favorites. The first show I ever shot there which I mention in the intro to the book was Blue Smiley, Complainer, Ovlov, and Preen. That was a really good show. There’s just so many good ones. Field Medic played there a few times. 

Andy Moholt of Laser Background (shot by Julia Leiby)

SS: THIS BOOK COVERS THE SCENE FROM 2017-2019. WHAT WAS IT LIKE? WHO WERE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE BANDS AT THE TIME? 

JL: There are even some bands that aren’t in the book that I have photos of but didn’t include. I remember seeing Shannen Moser there a couple of times. I have a bunch of photos of Andy of Laser Background, we played with them actually and I had a lot of fun with him at that show. Strange Ranger played there a couple of times and the shows that Mel Grinberg put on their company is called Home Outgrown, I shot a bunch of those. I’ve got a nice portrait of Mel in there too. 

SS: WHEN DID YOU FIRST START GETTING INTO SHOW PHOTOGRAPHY? 

JL: It’s been a long time. It was in high school pretty much. I got my first camera, it was a film camera, a point and shoot and I would just take photos of the flowers in my backyard and fun stuff like that. I started going to shows as a young kid and then in high school I was going to a lot of shows still and I would bring a little point and shoot cameras and take lots of photos and videos. I shot everything and I put them on my Flickr and to this day I have about 3,000 photos on there. That was cool because I didn’t need a press pass or anything to use those crappy little cameras cause I wasn’t shooting for a publication, I was shooting for myself still. I had a photography class in high school that was film, only black and white, and we had a darkroom and I took that for a couple of years. I decided one day to study photography in college and try to make it my career. I started doing radio station stuff in college and I eventually became music director my sophomore year and really got into more of the scene. I started booking shows my junior year, like house shows. Then I would also bring bands into the little studio that the radio station had and we’d film videos of them playing and we’d record it. We did that for a lot of bands it was really fun. 

SS: WHERE DID YOU GO TO COLLEGE? 

JL: Ohio University.

SS: WHAT WAS THE MUSIC SCENE LIKE THERE? 

JL: There were some good local bands there. When I got there a lot of hardcore bands would come through. Then me and my friend started booking shows which was really cool. We’d bring bands from mainly New York and DC and stuff. I had a band from Seattle once which was really fun. There were some local emo bands. I remember seeing Saintseneca and The Sidekicks and All Dogs a bunch of times. Saintseneca, they’re from Columbus, that’s like the closet big city it’s like an hour and a half away. Saintseneca played the first house show I ever saw when I was 18 so I just really love that band. 

Isaac Eiger of Strange Ranger (shot by Julia Leiby)

SS: WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF LIVE MUSIC IS GOING TO BE LIKE? 

JL: I don’t know, it’s hard to say I guess. I feel like once people are vaccinated, once everyone is vaccinated, there’s going to be shows again. I think people are really itching to play. Some people have done live streams and stuff which I feel like definitely have gone up in popularity since this has happened. I’m kind of hopeful that there are going to be physical shows again but I don’t know when that will be. 

SS: WHAT’S THE FIRST SHOW YOU WANT TO SEE WHEN IT’S SAFE AGAIN? 

JL: That’s hard. I would love to see Dehd again, they’re a band from Chicago. They put out a really good record in 2020.

SS: NO WAY THEY’RE LIKE MY FAVORITE BAND! I WAS ACTUALLY SUPPOSED TO SEE THEM WITH VUNDABAR AT THE CHURCH BUT THEN CORONA HAPPENED. 

JL: Sh*t! That would’ve been a great show. Vundabar is so fun live too. 

Dehd (shot by Julia Leiby)

SS: I’M SURE. I HAVEN’T SEEN THEM LIVE BUT I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO. 

JL: They’re cool! Me and my friend actually booked them in 2014 or something at a house show. It was fun. Dehd is awesome. I think they were my top band for the past year. 

SS: THEY WERE MINE FOR 2020!

JL: They were mine for 2020 as well. 

SS: WHY DO YOU THINK LIVE MUSIC IS SO IMPORTANT? HOW HAS NOT BEING ABLE TO GO TO SHOWS INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU THINK OR FEEL ABOUT IT? 

JL: I think it’s important because it gives people a kind of release. It’s a place where really special things can happen. You can meet your friends, or someone you’re dating. You can really find a community and feel like you belong somewhere. I called the book “Another Show To Take My Pain Away” which is like — do you know The Rolling Stones song “Dead Flowers?” 

SS: YES.

JL: When he’s like “another girl to take my pain away” is one of the lines. So I took girl out and I put show because I feel like live music really does take your pain away for a second. You could be having a really shitty day or a really shitty week and then you go to a really good show and you feel really good for at least 2 days after or something.

SS: YEAH, I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. DO YOU THINK THAT ONCE IT’S SAFE TO GO TO SHOWS AGAIN PEOPLE ARE GOING TO APPRECIATE IT MORE? 

JL: Yeah. I totally think so. I would make myself go to a lot of shows and stuff even if I wasn’t feeling like it because I would always say to myself if you go out something cool will happen or you’ll meet someone new or see an old friend or something little like that and it would always happen, something good would always happen. I wasn’t one to sit at home and miss shows but there’s still a few, of course, I didn’t make it to. I think I’m going to be going to a show every night if that is happening again. 

SS: SO MANY SMALLER VENUES HAVE SHUT DOWN DUE TO COVID-WHY IS IT IMPORTANT THAT WE CONTINUE TO SUPPORT SPACES LIKE THAT? 

JL: There needs to be a band for smaller bands and local bands to play. It’s kind of where smaller bands can get off the ground too. If they’re able to open for someone sort of big at Boot and Saddle or something and then they get more notice, stuff like that. Places like Johnny Brenda’s too and Ortliebs that are still around. It’s also a really cool way to see a band in an intimate setting, like a bigger band. When bands would do the thing where they’d play 3 nights at Johnny Brenda’s, I think that’s the best. Like when Japanese Breakfast did it and when Lucy Dacus did it. I don’t know it’s just special. The smaller venues are really integral to touring. 

SS: I AGREE. I REMEMBER WHEN DEHD PLAYED AT BOOT AND SADDLE I THOUGHT IT WAS SO CRAZY TO SEE THEM IN SUCH AN INTIMATE SETTING. 

JL: I was at that show! I took some photos of Dehd after that and they posted one of them it was sick!

Julia’s photobook “Another Show To Take My Pain Away” is available to purchase here.

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