ES is a band from London, a mash up of neue deutsche welle, krautrock, techno, Siouxsie-esque goth, proto-punk and on and on. Katy Cotterell on Bass, Flora Watters on keys, Maria Cecilia Tedemalm on vocals and Tamsin M. Leach on drums. They formed in 2015 and have so far released two records, the EP ‘Object Relations’ on La Vida Es Un Mus in 2016 and their debut album, ‘Less Of Everything’ on Upset The Rhythm in 2020.
How did you get together and when did you decide there was some kind of musical bond?
Tamsin: Me and Katy had both been in the late-starter’s equivalent of our first teenage bands, and having got used to the process were looking to do something new with other women, in which we had more autonomy (and self-confidence).
A semi-joke about not wanting to deal with a lead guitarist, along with Katy’s very melody-led bass playing, our fondness for Germanic 80s punk goth.
Katy: I was sick of hearing the sound of my own voice at this time and was struggling to come up with vox that added anything to the overall sound, so we played instrumentally around ideas for ages.
Maria: After Flora joined she told me about this new band she was in (we were previously playing together in the band Primetime) and fair to say I got a bit jealous haha, so I asked her to send the songs they had so far and I absolutely loved them! So then I asked if I could join as a singer. The musical bond I think has always been there, we’ve never really had much trouble agreeing on how a song should sound like or where a song should go. It’s come pretty naturally from the get go.
The artwork of your debut album “Less of Everything” is such a narcotic pearl, can you tell me more about the visual concept?
Maria: The artwork was made by our friend Musheto Fernandez who’s based in Glasgow. He used some pictures from a photoshoot we did with our other friend Poppy Cockburn as a basis. He’s super talented and we’re so happy with how it all came out! We wanted the art to reflect some of the themes that are explored on the album, and to reflect the many juxtapositions and oxymorons used throughout the lyrics.
For the look we wanted a hand made organic look and Musheto played around with a lot of hand made textures with his scanner as well as riso printing.
Katy: We like a lot of the 80’s/90’s 4AD Cocteu Twins album covers and Dadaist/Surrealist collage and wanted the art to reveal/conceal aspects of our sound and wanted to integrate more audio/visual relationship with Musheto who had a mutual understanding and interest with these processes and symbols.
What artists in the post punk scene would you say have influenced you the most?
Maria: For me it’s probably Xmal-Deutschland, Malaria!, Au Pairs and to an extent Bush Tetras.
Tamsin: Except for one song, which was directly influenced by a Total Control beat that I was trying to learn, I’m not usually conscious of specific references when I play. Katy is probably the artist that influences me the most, because I write around her primarily.
Katy: We have a lot of crossover in taste musically, but I am most interested in the edges, frictions and deviancies in internal rythms that we all bring as we often work intuitively. Personally my playing is influenced by various early 80’s anarcho punk bands like Crass, Poison Girls, Rudimentary Peni etc, but also more recent bands such as Good Throb and the whole Power Lunches scene (RIP) as well as more melodic guitar riffs such as Brix, The Fall, 100 Flowers, Neo Boys, Salem 66, Grass Widow, and more obvious stuff like Devo and Talk Talk.
Your music is very direct and sick (in a positive way). How much of your personal experiences goes into your writing?
Maria: Haha thanks! Quite a lot of the songs are based on lived experiences but I usually try to write about things that have happened to me in an abstract or generalised way. I guess I’d say that my personal experiences usually trigger me into thinking about and exploring my feelings in a more generalised manner? Not sure if that makes sense but that’s usually the starting point.
Tamsin: Every band that I’m in expresses different aspects of my experiences – and Es is an outlet for a lot of angst and anger.
Katy: Weirdly in terms of process, working out stuff for Es is the most stylised project I have been involved in and allows me a bit more emotional distance than other projects maybe because I am relieved from the intense role that is being a vocalist and get to just focus on sick riffs. The end result always ends up occupying a great thinking/feeling space that I think is quite special, I like the way its equal part ridiculous and very serious.
Flora: I would say in this band I am particularly interested in representing a sense of emotion in the melodies I write, rather than just a cool progression. Rather than coming to the band with particular references or ideas of a sound for the keyboard I took a lot of my cues from Katy and Tamsin, and later Maria. I think as I have developed my own way of playing the keyboard, the writing remains a collaborative process. It’s a nice space to be in where I feel less of an ego attachment to what I create where I’m trying to prove I’m a good musician and more of an interest in working with one another to make something that gets us excited.
What do you think about our post modern era?
Tamsin: Covid-19 is making the invisible visible. Not that all the terrors – from the acute loneliness of individualism to the continuum of state-sanctioned violence against peoples – were ever truly unseen, but constant distraction dilutes awareness.
There’s a line in Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead that keeps coming to mind:
“All your life you live so close to truth, it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye, and when something nudges it into outline it is like being ambushed by a grotesque.”
Flora: For me, the postmodern era is dead and buried. I tend to think our current social state is structured by a philosophy of post-truth, where meaning is presented constantly in the shadow of left or right politics, rather than from a shared perspective of human rights (real human rights, not getting a haircut or carrying a gun). Over the last decade we have had to re-learn how to consume media and find new ways to argue for social justice in this context but that doesn’t mean that the world is hopeless. As Tamsin has said the current social issues that are all coming to the fore at the moment are not because they have just arisen but because a global pandemic has given us an opportunity as a society to consider if we truly value human life more than ever expansive capitalism.
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