It was way back in May when we first bought your attention to Brighton three piece Esben and The Witch. Back then we dubbed their claustrophobic, brooding sound “Nightmare Pop”, and with good reason. The band take their name from a Danish folk tale which features filicide, hangings, hideous hags and magical lamps. Dan, Rachel and Thomas weave these fairy tale elements into their music and live shows, which often feature porcelain owls, alabaster busts and victorian lamp-posts, creating an odd, other worldly atmosphere.
Shows alongside the likes of Amiina, The XX, Fiery Furnaces and Deerhunter have seen them hone their sound yet further, crafting a perfect storm from bass lines that rumble and pulse, crackling electronics and guitar that washes over the listener in waves. Like the lamp in the fairy tale, vocalist Rachel’s icy delivery cuts through the darkness that surrounds it. It is a captivating brew, at once haunting and sensual.
We caught up with Dan from the band to talk inspiration, mantras and red wine…
For people out there that have never heard of you. Give us three reasons why they should…
Well, I suppose because we are attempting to make intriguing, ambitious and innovative music. That seems a decent reason to listen to a new band to me.
Can you recall the moment when you first decided you wanted to become a musician?
Not really a specific moment to be honest, probably a build up of seeing people I admired creating great music that was generally relatively unknown and seeing people I had less admiration for create less good music that was remarkably popular.
Getting involved in making it seemed the most proactive way to redress the balance.
As a side note it still feels funny to be described as a musician, that is certainly
a euphemism in my opinion.
Where do your songs come from? What’s your inspiration?
A variety of places really. Sometimes it can be a concept first, some times a riff, sometimes a lyric, sometimes a drum beat. Invariably the underpinning feature of all our songs is that we try to be lyrically and thematically intriguing and interesting while retaining a personal element and musically its a case of trying to challenge ourselves to write in different ways and create something a new. A young lady I have a lot of respect for taught me that. “make it new” was almost her mantra to be honest, sage advice though, I believe.
What was the first gig you ever played and was it a success?
First gig would have been at the Freebutt in Brighton with Jonquil, Revenge of Shinobi (now Hind Ear) and We Aeronauts all of whom are actually wonderful bands and well worth checking out. Was it a success? in that we managed to get on to such a fantastic bill and by all accounts not embarrass ourselves entirely I feel we should class it as a success, so in summary, yes.
What one piece of criticism has stuck in your mind and was it justified?
One piece that was pretty hard not to remember was not actually directed at myself but at Rachel. It was immediately after we had got off stage at Audio in Brighton earlier this year where we were supporting the XX and one female member of the audience saw it fit to give Rachel here appraisal of our performance. She was certainly succinct if nothing else as she shouted “Boring” in Rachel’s ear, was it justified? Christ I hope not!
What one thing has caused you to waste your free time in the past 6 months?
If you weren’t making music, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would certainly need a creative outlet of some kind I imagine so I hope I would be writing more.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
This was not my job but can I use one of Thomas’? He once regaled me with tales of his days as a hospital porter which sounded interesting to say the least. You can enquire further if you ever cross his path but its suitably odd and at times remarkably grim.
We’d like you to make us a mix-tape. Pick five tracks with a theme of your choice.
Can I tie this into to plugging our debut single a little bit? Yes? Thank you! Well our Debut single is called “Lucia, at the precipice” so we thought we would create a 5 song mixtape of songs with female names in the title, so here it is:
‘Clara’ – Scott Walker
‘Madonna’ – Coco Rosie
‘Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down’ – Interpol
‘Emily’ – Joanna Newsom
‘Isobel’ – Bjork
You can download Esben and the Witch’s “33″ EP from www.esbenandthewitch.co.uk for free