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Interview: Esben and the Witch

Interview: Esben and the Witch

by Tim Boddy, 19 May 2009

Having recently released EP 33 (405 review here), ethereal Brighton outfit Esben and the Witch have started popping up across musical radars of recent. To explain how The 405 stumbled across them, it’s time to be naughty and break through the 3rd person barrier. And here I am. I posted a message on a music board asking for ‘Dark, bleak, misanthropic music’ recommendations. Anything that fitted the words ‘Dark, misanthropic, apocalyptic, moody, gloomy, nihilistic, bleak... but mainly fucking excellent.’ Yes, it had been that kind of week. A host of recommendations came my way, some good, some not, many ignored frankly. Then I received a lovely, modest private message from Daniel from EATW, asking to give them a listen - didn’t even use the opportunity to promote themselves in the thread. So give a listen I did. What I found was close to what I described, especially the '…fucking excellent part’. Self-indulgent story aside, The 405 favourites kindly agreed to conduct an interview with us, to explain some of the mystery behind them. Hello! First up, can you introduce yourselves individually, and who does what in Esben and the Witch? Good Evening. Members and roles are as follows: Rachael – vocals, percussion and caterwauling Daniel – electronics, guitars and thrashing Thomas – guitars, keyboards and trembling How did your gig at The Great Escape go? I understand you were a late addition? Indeed we were, managed to fumble our way aboard at the last minute. We have Mr. Rossiter at the Freebutt to thank for that. All went well, a few technical hitches and glitches but nothing that we haven’t crossed paths with before. Aside from the horizontal rain, what were your general highlights of the festival? The horizontal rain was fine outdoors but foul indoors. Drenched garments and crowded spaces make unfortunate bedfellows. We’ll take turns for the second part of this if we may… Daniel enjoyed the Vivian Girls most of all, reverb laden and scuzzy, a bit like bikini kill having drunk a litre of orange juice. For Rachael it was between Crystal Antlers and An Experiment on a Bird In the Air Pump, all aggressive rhythms and pulsing percussion. Thomas’ highlights were Friendship, despite feeling somewhat haggard at that stage, British Sea Power and also Truax and his Lynch covers. EP 33 fuses elements of a few genres, in particular electronica with post-rock – bringing to mind artists such as Portishead and Thom Yorke. Are they of influence to you? Who/what else would you cite? Portishead and Thom Yorke… We’ll happily admit to those, Third and The Eraser are certainly benchmarks we aspire to. Variously and for different reasons the following are important to us as well: Bjork, Our Brother the Native, The Cure, TV on the Radio, Scott Walker, Aphex Twin, Errors, Cocteau Twins, Anno Birkin, Thomas Hardy, Ballard, Bacon and Bosch. It’d be fair to say your music is fairly dark, eerie in nature and generally laden with atmosphere. In a good sense of course! What draws you to this direction? There’s no design in that aspect of what we do. We are lucky enough to share a disposition… we’re certainly not actively seeking darkness it just appears that some of the more interesting things aren’t always particularly well lit… Obligatory name question time: You’re named after the Danish fairytale of the same name. Why so? The story was something we stumbled across. It’s now become entangled in the ideas and imagery that we are trying to project. And does the story hold any significance to yourselves or music? The title and the tale allude to the same themes and feelings that we are trying to incorporate into our music. What can we expect from you live? I heard rumours you had an owl on a lampost for one show. We feel that it is important to create a setting for our musical endeavours. Sonically the visceral, histrionic, impassioned aspects are exaggerated. The eerie nature and atmosphere-laden elements you referenced to previously are not solely generated by the music but by the aesthetic as a whole. Aforementioned owl and lamppost contribute to this along with cartography, photography and illumination. You’re supporting Deerhunter next week, you must be looking forward to that… Will it be your largest gig to date? Deerhunter are an incredible band, it will be a treat and a privilege to play alongside them. We are excited albeit slightly nervous, as it is indeed our biggest gig to date. Any opportunity though to play the songs we take such pride in is always a daunting and marvellous prospect. Esben and the Witch as well as supporting Deerhunter (Monday 25th May) at Concorde 2 Brighton, are playing tonight (Tuesday May 19th) at The Good Ship, Kilburn, London. Go see! Link: www.myspace.com/esbenandthewitch

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