With perfect command over melody and rhyme, the outfit meld soaring acoustics and pastoral folk into a stark musical template.
Over the years, they have gently ebbed and flowed, swelling into a rich tapestry of guitar, vocals, organ, cello, violin and percussion, with Leo's baritone croon underpinning it all.
Their first full-length effort, Eternal Love & The Death of Everything, introduced the world to the heft of Leo’s emotional punch and off-kilter creativity.
Now back with a new album, And Then There Was This Sound, which was recorded by Manc cohort Kiran Leonard, it seems Leo has hit his creative peak.
Ahead of its release on Friday (20 July) via Icecapades, Leo lets us in on how it call came together...
How did you first get into making music?
My dad had his old guitar lying around the house, I think I was about eight when i first picked it up. He taught me a few chords to start me off and from there I was constantly writing music, although I didn't think of it as ‘writing music’ at that age, I was just making up bits. I also had Cello lessons for a few years in school and remember having a keyboard and some percussion instruments around the house.
How did Cult Party come into being?
It started in 2011, I had just left high school and my music teacher had sold my girlfriend at the time a Tascam Portastudio tape recorder for £20, which she then gave to me as a birthday present. I also had a microphone that I stole from school. I think I made the first Cult Party recording on the same day I saw The Devil and Daniel Johnston for the first time. I suddenly realised that the boundaries I felt were in place in terms of song structure and recording technique and presentation didn't really exist. From that point I was writing and recording a few songs a week, a process which eventually slowed down in a big way, and also became more refined and thought out as I began to study art alongside making music.
I don't know if there was much thinking behind the record. I was more just feeling around, piecing elements together. The first song Hurricane Girl, which runs at 20 minutes and makes up the entire A side of the record, I started writing in that early period of songwriting I was talking about - I think I was about 17. It was only about two minutes long then. Since then it grew into this thing; a fluid narrative that continued to expand for years, all about weather spirits and the weather as a consequence of sentient action as opposed to just random occurrence. The album is less philosophical and thematic than the previous one. I'm trying to take you to a place without explaining it to you, I guess.
How and where did it come together?
It came together entirely in my bedroom. Matthew Brown engineered the entire thing, as well as playing the violin. It's the first release I've done that was recorded entirely digitally, just because of the scope of the songs and not wanting to limit the music and its potential. Once we had the songs tracked we brought in Sian, John, Johnny and Kiran for extra vocals and guitar parts. Then after a long period of mixing it was finally ready to be called finished.
What’s next for you?
As well as playing shows around the UK I'm working towards an art show in London. There are no solid plans for another record but there are some songs floating about that could definitely turn into something more at some point.
Do you have any words of wisdom for new artists?
Have a vision. Send yourself mad over it. You don't have to even understand what it is, just try and work towards this sense of what your creativity looks like at its centre. I don't know if that makes sense. Just keep making things. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing. Go on a big walk. Swim in a lake.
Who has been getting you excited this year?
It's not new music, I don't keep up with that so much, but I've been listening to Philip Tabane a lot recently. He was a South African guitar player and lead a band called Malombo. Apparently the drums they used were made from a tree specific to South Africa or to a certain region within that area of the world. His music is great though, it can put you in a very light and open state of mind.
Cult Party play at The Lock Tavern, London, on 7 August.