Conversation: Chris Leo

Chris Leo, of the Leo clan, writer of books (his book of shorts, Feathers Like Leather is going into its second pressing), member of bands (The Van Pelt recently reformed for some shows, also formerly of The Lapse, and Native Nod), and sometimes expat discussed a few of these topics with us a week before he takes the stage as our featured reader at our Vol. 1 Brooklyn Story Series.

You got the band back together, and your book is going into the second printing, seems like a pretty good summer?
I guess history told us the 90s would start coming back around the 20 year after mark, but can we make this one quick? The Van Pelt were asked to play a reunion show at SXSW, we had a blast, so we agreed to do 3 more shows; NYC, DC, Philly — but that’s it, well…we’re compiling a final album of singles and unreleased tracks and so probably when that comes out one more show in Boston, but then that’s it! Feathers was in and out of first pressing in a wink. No press, just quick hands. Fantastic.

You spend time between New York and Italy, that doesn’t seem so bad. Are there specific things you can think about that you miss about each when you are at the other?
NYC: hyper-serendipity, korean delis, people always ready with the answer “yes”.
Italy: the cities, the architecture, conviviality, comfortable women, everything you put in your body is locally grown, the sea on all sides

How long have you been living in both places?
When I was touring heavy I would always spend extra chunks of time in Italy. When I finally figured out how to set up shop in both places a couple years ago (that is, just do it), I stopped touring as much.

How did the relationship with Heartworm begin?
I went to Italy in the fall of 2007 with the intention of finishing my novel “We Pulse in Pink” and my screenplay “Irreverent English” but got carried away with this collection of shorts I was working on called “Feathers Like Leather” and another collection I’m calling “Tales of the Vox Super Voltus: Geophilological Faulterings”. By the time I returned in the summer of 2008 “We Pulse in Pink” and “Irreverent English” were still skeletal, whereas the other two had become behemoths. I remember the day I finished editing “Feathers”. Though my first two books came out on Fifth Planet Press, that company is more of an outgrowth of the Eyedrum gallery in Atlanta rather than an up and at ’em operation. I needed more than a handful to start reading my books. So that day, when I finished editing Feathers, I was just about to start sending it out when I got a mysterious email from Wes Eisold at Heartworm asking “Where can I send you some books?” He sent me a sack of Heartworm releases that I ate up immediately and voila: amici.

What have you been listening to lately?
Jovanotti, Berte’, Brian Lehrer, Lopate, Carra’, Mina, Amadou & Mirriam

What have you been reading?
Buzzati, Vittorini, Simon Winchester, Anais Nin, Junot Diaz

You, Ted, and Danny are pretty talented guys, are there more Leo siblings? Are they too busy excelling in sciences or mathematics to master writing and music like you three?
There’s one more: Amy Leo, my sister who lives in Sweden and copy edits the Ikea catalog. They made 500 million of those last year, which makes my sister the most read human being on the planet.