OUTRAGEOUSLY talented and blessed with style, spark and effortless cool, Chris Barker is a natural born rock star.

A familiar face on the Oxford music scene, the engaging virtuoso guitarist is a musician’s musician – most recently seen on stage at the city’s O2 Academy as Willie J Healey’s right-hand man, having provided string flourish to the rising star on Willie’s headline tour and arena shows supporting Florence and The Machine and Arctic Monkeys.

Tonight – Thursday, December 14 – however, it is Chris’s time to take centre stage as he brings his own band, Premium Leisure, to the Cowley Road. The show, at the Bullingdon, will see Chris joined by bandmates Casper Miles (also from Willie J Healey’s band), Jack Kendrew (Venbee), George Purnell (Preen, Low Island), Joel Marten (Emie Nathan, Biig Piig) and rising star singer-songwriter Jonny Payne.

The show sees them launch their debut album Bug Blood (which features legendary Carterton drummer Mike Monaghan of Gaz Coombes band on sticks and Willie J Healey on backing vocals).

“Premium Leisure has been labelled as a revolving door of musicians, fronted by me,” says Chris with a smile.

“I write songs and record them with my friends if and when they’re around. Some are local to Oxfordshire, some in London and some in Berlin.

Oxford Mail: Looking up: Chris Barker of Premium Leisure. Picture by AJ StarkChris Barker. Picture by AJ Stark

“It’s quite collaborative and free flowing when we gig and record, so everyone brings a lot to the table – and the changing line up keeps it fresh.”

And, he says, the line-up for this show is a treat.

“We don’t play a lot of shows in the year, but this one is going to be real special. I’ve pulled a bigger band together of premium rockers, with Jack, Casper, George, Joel and a special appearance from Jonny Payne – so there may be a lot of guitar noodling going on all at once.

“We’re also playing the Premium Leisure debut album in full, some songs which we have never played before and may never play again.

“Let’s see how it goes!”.

It promises to be a thrilling night, with a real buzz and sense of anticipation surrounding the show.

Oxford Mail: Chris Barker playing with Willie J Healey. Picture by Tim HughesChris Barker playing with Willie J Healey. Picture by Tim Hughes

“We try to keep our live shows fresh and exciting for ourselves,” says Chris, who lives in Littlemore.

“There are moments in the songs where we don’t often play it the same twice. This ethos has likely spilled over from the Willie J Healey band, where he’s quite good at dropping us in it and keeping us on our toes.

“The set up is pretty simple, little to no synthesized elements, just a group of musicians that like to play together, bounce off each other and make each other giggle – with a silly lick or two.”

And it’s all great fun.

Oxford Mail: Chris Barker. Picture by Tim HughesChris Barker on stage. Picture by Tim Hughes

“The music making process is pretty relaxed with low pressure,” he says. “We’re all at a stage where we’re part of other music projects, so Premium Leisure is a great outlet to enjoy making music with a bit of freedom – I like to think – and space to try stuff out.

The supergroup-style line-up will be well-known to follows of the local music scene – going back to early gigs at the much-missed, now closed-down grassroots city centre venue, the Cellar.

“We’ve played a lot around Oxford,” says Chris.

“We loved playing the Cellar when I first started the band. It was a great place for us to gig supporting touring bands. We also played the brilliant Ritual Union a few times in Oxford and once in Bristol, along with a selection of shows in London and a couple in Manchester.”

And the night is unmissable for vinyl record lovers.

“We have a limited run of six-track vinyl, selected from the album, with sleeves that will be hand stamped,” Chris says.

“We might have some T-shirts too.

They will be joined by a feisty brace of support acts.

Chris says: “Support is from Blue Bayou, a band really kicking up a storm around Oxford for their infectious live show, and the very cool and very talented Shock Horror.

“See you there!”

  • Premium Leisure, Blue Bayou and Shock Horror play the Bullingdon, Cowley Road, Oxford, tonight – Thursday, December 14. See wegottickets.com
  • Listen to the album at premiumleisure.lnk.to/bugblood.