INTERVIEW: ESYA

Performing under her new moniker ESYA, Ayşe Hassan (Savages, Kite Bass, 180dbm) has been busy crafting electronic sounds designed to delve in to the obscure and absurd nature of life. Having recently self-released her second EP titled Absurdity of ATCG (I), her trademark thunderous basslines are now fused with urgent synths and brooding vocals which captivate by their marked urgency to tell the truth.

Propelled by her desire to always be creating, her new (and older) projects are as eclectic as her influences; ranging from Gazelle Twin to Hannah Peel. We caught up with Ayşe before her headline gig at Hackney venue The Glove That Fits to talk about her new EP, her plans for the year, and what first inspired her to venture in to electronic music… 

Hello Ayşe, what are your anticipations for tonight’s ESYA gig at The Glove That Fits?

With this project, it’s brand new because it’s electronic and I’m singing, so I have slightly different concerns compared to if I was just playing bass. I just want to make sure that everything sits correctly in the mix, which is hard as I’m behind the speakers so I have to trust the sound engineer. I’m excited. I really enjoy doing something that scares me. I feel scared again – in the good way – in the fluttery way when you play in front of people and you’re nervous.

You released your first EP Absurdity Of Being last year. How does your new EP – Absurdity of Atcg, Pt. 1 – differ? What have you learned in the interim between the two releases?

The whole idea of the EPs is that they’re going to be a trio. The first one focused on the construction of the voice, which is my voice and the fact I’ve never really sang live before. This must be the fifteenth time I’ve sang live. The second EP focuses more on electronics which is also quite new to me, as I’ve had to go through this learning curve of learning how to use the equipment I have and how to make it sound good in multiple venues and spaces. The third EP is going to focus more on sounds and bass, so it’ll be a record led by bass and electronics, which I’m writing now. I write a bit every day, I’m constantly writing. The difference between the first and the second EP is that with the second one I was more focused writing the electronics. So on the vinyl I decided to put out, I didn’t want the first few tracks to have a split, I wanted a continual 16 minute song, because that’s how it was originally written.

That sounds really cohesive. The title of your new EP references ATCG – the building blocks in human DNA – how did this influence the sound of your music? It’s quite a unique concept.

I think it’s just me focusing on what I’ve been going through in the past 6-8 years. Life is kind of insane, and it’s kind of absurd and I feel like the whole concept of it and the experiences we go through have a humour in them, but also a beauty that we’re all here on this planet and it’s all a bit mind-blowing. On a more microscopic level – or not [laughs] – being in a band like Savages and playing to thousands of people, and then basically going back to starting something [like ESYA] from scratch is kind of absurd. I find it funny in a strange way because you should never be too comfortable, life has a funny was of messing around with you.

I think the ATCG title is fitting because everything that I sing about on the two records is a reference to the life that I lead, so I feel like it encapsulates every kind experience. There’s so many angles that I was looking at that title from, and I really liked that it could mean so many things to so many different people. Depending on your own experiences, it’s quite ambiguous. I felt that was also relevant to what I was going through and I wanted to express that all of this is absurd so just enjoy life.

Sounds great. What kind of reaction have you had from fans and critics so far?

I self-released both records, so I’ve had a limited budget and I’ve been working in order to earn the money to put out my EPs. I’ve only got 50 vinyl left of the new EP, and I’ve sold out of the first one which is amazing, and most importantly people are responding well to the music. It’s different to what I’ve done before, you’re hearing my voice and everything is recorded by me. I’ve done everything, which has been a challenge in itself. I’m not a Producer, I’ve never really recorded myself other than to write demos, so it’s been a huge learning curve which I’ve found quite empowering.

One thing that used to frustrate me in the past with other records, is that I felt like I didn’t have as much control as I would’ve liked. There’s so much beauty in imperfection, so [the recording] doesn’t have to be perfect. The vocals on both EPs were recorded with just a handheld microphone, so it’s pretty lo-fi if you compare it to a studio record. The bass is recorded in a similar way as well, and I love that. I feel like we’re bombarded with over-produced stuff at the moment and I wanted it to be honest. I’ve worked a job that I don’t particularly like in order to put this record out there, and it’s really amazing that people have purchased it. I really appreciate that.

Having been on a label before, it’s really interesting to see the differences and learn how to navigate an environment without the help of a label. PR was a big thing, when you’re doing it yourself you have to think of everything. How to be creative with getting the word out. I come from a very particular world where I started playing punk bass and have always done things myself, and then being in a band where we were lucky enough to have the support of a big label, and then going back to doing it all myself – I have a lot of respect for musicians who don’t have that kind of support. Because it’s hard, really hard.

Being in different bands sounds like it’s taught you a lot then. From Savages, Kite Base, 180db, and now your new solo project – can you talk me through how each has led to the other? What’s different between what you’ve released before, and the music you’re writing now?

I absolutely love playing live, so me creating this new project was born out of the frustration of being on other people’s schedules. I can’t control when other people need to rest and I do respect that, but also for myself I need to keep playing live, it’s in my blood. Even when I was a teenager I used to put on shows in my house at house parties and get friends bands to come over and play – my neighbours hated it! I was originally thinking with this new project that I was just going to do living room shows, nothing at a venue. So I can go back to really being up close to people and doing the things I’ve missed doing for so many years. It’s that intensity when you’re close to people who really love music, and it’s just you and them, so close to each other.

With Savages I was a bass player, but we all came together to write. I knew at some point because we’d been touring so intensely people would need to take a rest, so midway through that time I started Kite Base, because I wanted to have another option of being able to tour and play. Also, when you’re with three other people who are as passionate about the music you make it can be complicated, it can be amazing but it can be dysfunctional.

With Kite Base it was easier because we were a duo, two halves make a whole! We achieved some really cool things, we put out a record that I love, and we supported Nine Inch Nails [on their American tour] last year which was incredible. That was just the most ultimate of dreams. To actually be able to achieve that in a slightly different way was really special to me. Kite Base was self-funded and we went through stages of having managers and not having managers, so it was another short sharp lesson of how to use what I’d learned through Savages and put it in to practice, which I think is a really great thing to do. We sorted everything for ourselves so it was quite intense. The cost to get out there, and bearing in mind we were self-funding everything, we knew there was no way we weren’t going to say yes to the tour – but the logistics were quite stressful at points. If my visa got turned down, I would’ve cried!

Alongside that, me and Faye [Savages’ drummer] decided to write together. I love working with Faye, I really connect with her so we thought we’d do collaborations. We’re working on a record at the moment and it will feature lots of guest singers, people who we admire, and we’re really happy with the people we’ve worked with so far. My first shows [as EYSA] were just in living rooms performing to friends in America after the Nine Inch Nails tour, just to try out whether I could sing live. I knew I was going to put out an EP because I had so much material and I didn’t want to waste it.

That’s interesting, with the singing, did you always know you could sing? Or was it a confidence issue? Or something that you picked up along the way?

I always wanted to focus solely on one thing. I didn’t want to sing while I was playing bass because I wanted to focus my whole attention on playing one instrument and to lose myself, which I did. I remember many years ago Jehnny [Savages lead singer] joked about me having a mic and I remember thinking “I do not want to sing”. I don’t feel like I’m a natural in front of a mic. Maybe it was because I’d never tried it, but it got to a point where I was so frustrated because there were no shows coming up and I didn’t know when I’d be performing live again, that I thought I’d just try it. How scary could it be? Turns out, it was quite scary!

I think the way I sing has an honesty to it, and I’m talking about things that mean a lot to me so it wouldn’t have worked if someone else was singing it other than me. I remember saying to Jehnny not that long ago that my respect for people who front and sing lead vocals in a band has gone up so much, because having to go through that process is so hard. Even just thinking of the things you say in the spaces between songs! I had a different idea of what that would be before I did it, and it takes a lot of balls. To do it well and master the techniques with the mic and your environment. I’ve gone from playing my bass with my eyes closed not giving a shit about anything other than performing and playing as well as I can, not worrying about my environment and just losing myself. Also, for practical reasons – I can just get in a car with my synth and my drum machine and that’s it. I can be there, and I can sing.

That sounds great too. Who inspired you to first pick up a bass? And who or what got you in to using FM & Analog synths?

With the bass, it was the frustration of wanting to play an instrument but feeling like I couldn’t. At the time I was listening to a lot of David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails and I feel like with the bass, it wasn’t really one person or one thing that inspired me to play, it was a series of things and influenced by what I was listening to. I remember getting really in to Nirvana and thinking “I just wanna play something”. Then I happened to meet someone who needed a bass player, but I couldn’t play bass at the time. They were like “you don’t have to know how to play bass!” which in the context of the band I didn’t really, and I loved that. So I got in to loads of bands who at the time who were just loads of dudes and I was always just the female bass player. Then I got in to a band with Gemma [Savages guitarist] and we had a great lead singer and things were going well, and then when he left Gemma & I wanted to keep going – but I was working full-time and we wanted to play at least three times a week – but then we found Jehnny and then we found Faye, so it all came together. What’s really important is that I’ve always trusted my instincts. I’ve always known that I love making music, even just for myself. I lose myself in what I’m creating.

What advice would you give to anyone who’s trying to learn either of these instruments?

Just do it. Even if you feel like you can’t play, there’s nothing that’s stopping you. You can always learn. With the electronics, you don’t have to have super expensive gear. I use a keyboard Yamaha DX reface which is £200, and that’s quite cheap compared to other equipment. You can make music from sound recordings, I’ve done that in the past. Do what feels true to you, you don’t have to learn to play an instrument in a particular way, go with what feels right for you. That’s what I did with bass, my style has come from not really learning how to play. I play really low, which is terrible for the back, but I always wanted to be able to play like crazy and to be really solid at keeping the rhythm and lose myself in it and enjoy that moment. Over the years, I’ve been thinking more about tone and stuff, but I think you should do what scares you. If you’re scared to play a particular instrument – just do it. Once you’ve done it, you can just create.

If you’d told me that I’d be singing and playing electronics when I was 16, I’d be like “No way…” so you don’t have to stick to one thing. If you connect with an instrument, just go for it. The more you play, the better you get.

That’s great advice. What are your plans for the rest of the year?

I’m thinking about playing some more shows that are in record stores and are really intimate, because that terrifies me! Technique-wise, I think that’s a really good learning process to go through, and to connect with people. If I can play somewhere where people literally love the records on the shelves around them, that’s really sweet.

The third ESYA EP and the record with 180db will probably be coming out later this year too.

Who are you listening to? Recommendations?

Hyperstition duo who are playing with me tonight, they are two members from a Sheffield-based band called Blood Sport who I love.

I also love Gazelle Twin. I went to see her at Red Gallery – it might not be called that anymore, but it’s a venue near Old Street – and after she came off stage I was like “CAN YOU SIGN MY VINYL?!” and she was like “are you kidding me?” [laughs]. She’s been an inspiration to me actually, because it’s just her and her partner live, and she’s a Mother as well. I really respect how hard she works and how she juggles all of those things. She’s amazing. Her second album Unflesh, that was the soundtrack to my nightmares and I remember telling her that! It comes from a dark place, but it’s so powerful. The honesty in it, that’s why I was so attached to it.

Hannah Peel, slightly different vibe, but she is incredible too. It’s not the typical thing I’d listen to, but the way she plays violin is amazing. I did a tour with her as Kite Base, she played and so did I Speak Machine and after watching them I thought they were both amazing. Tara [of I Speak Machine] is a genius with electronics. These women are pioneers when it comes to electronic music.

Thanks so much to Ayse for answering our questions! Buy your copy of ESYA’s EP Absurdity of ATCG (I) here.

Photo Credit: Chiara Ceccaioni

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: Mags On Earth – ‘Queen Of Modern Scenes’

An electronic exploration of what feels like wasted youth; Mags On Earth has shared her new track ‘Queen Of Modern Scenes’. Fueled by her unease about “yolo” culture, the song and accompanying video have a “nocturnal, staying home on a Friday night kind of feeling” that we can easily relate to.

Taken from her debut EP Girl in the City, ‘Queen of Modern Scenes’ deals with the feeling that you “ought to use your youth in a certain way”, explains Mags. “You’re supposed to be on the move, experiment and nothing is enough. It’s a feeling of pressure”. Fortunately, Mags On Earth is able to deal with this pressure by channeling it in to creating her songs and editing the visuals that accompany them.

Watch the video for ‘Queen of Modern Scenes’ below and follow Mags On Earth on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Fiona Regan 

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

WATCH: Birch – ‘femme.one’

The title track from Birch’s debut album, ‘femme.one’ is a good introduction to the complex electronic layers of Birch’s sonic world.

The sound is layered and complex, but deceptively soft and minimalist seeming. Because her lyrics are delivered almost conversationally, her message can be missed sometimes. Here, for example, she is thinking of those “who have gone before me”, and an energy that she “can’t contain”.

The accompanying video shows a young woman completing a range of physical training activities in the early morning. She begins in the grey light not long after sunrise, on a wet roof on top of a tower block in an urban setting, with simple stretch exercises and shadow boxing. Then she is running along empty streets past shutters on closed shops.

“The words of our mothers are the ones that we live by” concludes this poignant, delicately powerful song.

Watch the new video for ‘femme.one’ here:

Cazz Blase
@CazzBlase

Photo Credit: Off Season Creative

Track Of The Day: Little Pale – ‘The Way You Used To Be’

A bittersweet reflection on life before technology took over; London-based newcomer Little Pale has shared her debut single ‘The Way You Used To Be’. It was her sultry remix of The Stone Roses’ classic track ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ first caught our attention, but her debut single is a wonderful example of her ability to write electro-pop tunes laced with melancholy.

Speaking about ‘The Way You Used To Be’, the songwriter explains: “It’s a reminiscing of the old, and comment on the new. Since the rise of tech, things have become so saturated, and while it definitely brings more opportunities, it does give me a longing for a simpler time”. Little Pale – so-called due to her stature and pallor – has overcome self doubt and feelings of anxiety to create her own sounds, and we’re excited to see what else she releases over the coming months.

Listen to ‘The Way You Used To Be’ below and follow Little Pale on Instagram for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: La Lune – ‘Grape Soda’

Brighton based dream-pop artist La Lune has shared her sugary new single ‘Grape Soda’ and its a bitter sweet exploration of “love, lustful addiction, and self-destruction”. She’s also shared a hand-illustrated music video to accompany the track, made by graphic designer and fashion student Eva Kubacka.

La Lune has been writing, producing and releasing music with a DIY ethos since she was 18. Now at 20 years old, she’s beginning to capture the attention of BBC Introducing, BBC Radio 6, NME, and Spotify, landing a spot on New Music Friday UK with her recent collaborative release, ‘Heartstop’.

Her refreshing and ambient sounds are reflected in her approach to promoting and sharing her own music too. Masked beneath her pseudonym and with a subtle social media presence, La Lune is using obscurity to protest against the over-sexualisation of women in music, stating that her music should be listened to and judged at “face value”.

With songs as catchy as ‘Grape Soda’ and mesmerising visuals to match, we’re sure La Lune’s approach to music will be respected for what it is: pure and well produced. Watch the video for her new single below and follow La Lune on Facebook for more updates.

La Lune UK Live Dates 2019
June 10th – Komedia, Brighton
August 11th – Boardmasters Festival
August 18th – Twisted Village Festival
(More to be announced soon)

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

FIVE FAVOURITES: Grace Savage

Grace Savage is a four-time UK beat-box champion turned electro-pop artist. With her ability to produce catchy beats and write witty relatable lyrical content, her live shows are an impressive spectacle; and her performance at Loud Women Festival last year made a mark in our musical memory. She’s set to release her new EP Cracks on 17th May and will pre-empt the launch with a headline show at Bermondsey Social Club on 15th May (tickets available here).

We caught up with Grace to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and make sure you listen to her single ‘Snowflake’ at the end of this post.

Amy Winehouse – Frank
I heard this album for the first time when I was 14, hanging out in my friend’s bedroom. I instantly fell in love and knew this woman was something special. The tone of her voice, the sensitivity and intelligence of the lyrics, the infectious melodies..I didn’t know much about music technically at the time, but I just felt the soul of this album to my core and I still listen to it today as much as I did back then.

I learned the song ‘Fuck Me Pumps’ on the guitar and it was the first song I ever sang in front of another human being. It was a producer who’d seen me beatbox in a talent competition, and then invited me to her studio; she asked me to sing something for her and I was absolutely terrified. I sang Amy’s song and she must’ve seen something in me because we then worked together as a songwriting partnership for four years. So this album will always have a special place in my heart.

P!nk – Can’t Take Me Home
I cannot even begin to explain the level of obsession I had with P!nk as a young girl. Posters on the bedroom wall, dyed my hair pink at 13, got my tongue pierced at 15, my email address for most of my teenage years was pink_b!tch@hotmail.com – it was a LOT. She was this bad ass lady with bright pink hair and so much attitude and I just wanted to be everything she was. She was a great role model for me as a young girl who didn’t fit in with the ”girly girls” and this album (although when I listen to it now sounds SO dated) was a big part of my teenage years. I’ve followed her career ever since and I’m seeing her live for the first time this summer….I think I might explode with nostalgia and happiness.

Nirvana – Nevermind
This album inspired me to learn the guitar. I went through the classic “grunge girl” stage for about a year (black nails, big nose ring, nirvana hoodies, eye liner, really bad skate boarding) and it was all heavily influenced by this album and Kurt Cobain’s genius. I was always such a hip hop head/r&b and pop music girl, but something about Nirvana really got me. The guitar riffs, the husky tone of his voice, the weird lyrics and the “don’t give a f***” attitude of the whole band was really refreshing against the shiny manufactured pop bands I was exposed to in the 90’s and early 00’s. This album introduced me to a different kind of music and really let me indulge my emo side.

Ms Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
Ahhh it was so close between Lauryn and Missy Elliot because both had a huge impact on me growing up, but seeing as this is about ALBUMS and not ARTISTS… I had to choose this one. I remember I was about 14/15 and my mate said he bought this album and didn’t like it so he gave it to me to try. I’m so glad he did, because BOOYYY it is ICONIC! I fell in love with her voice watching Sister Act and I fell in love with this album the moment I heard it. Triple threat: singer, rapper, writer. There were really no other artists around like her at the time and her voice is unparalleled in my opinion. I still can’t think of anyone who sings, writes and raps as fluently and excellently as she does. She is one of a kind. I saw her perform the 20 year anniversary of this album in London last year and it was a beautiful experience.

BANKS – Goddess
This is the only “modern” album on my list but no less impactful and meaningful to my life. This is my break up album. I must have listened to it and cried to it and ran to it and danced to it and slept to it and then cried some more to it almost every day for about a year. When it came out, the production was like nothing I’d ever heard before and her lyrics and tone were so unique and dark and sexy, I was immediately like “WOAH” who is this girl? I’ve seen her live a few times now and she never fails to disappoint. ‘Waiting Game’ and ‘Brain’ still continue to be some of my favourite songs in existence – the slow driving kick drum, the long builds throughout the whole song, the deep driving synths and the tribal feel to her vocals drenched in reverb. Beaut. Thanks for getting me over the worst break up of my life. I owe you one BANKS!

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

FIVE FAVOURITES: Jackie Mendoza

Born and raised in the border city of Chula Vista, California, Jackie Mendoza blends the cultural influences of her hometown and her motherland of Tijuana, Mexico, creating eccentric pop, Latin-driven dance beats, and vibrant soundscapes. She’s just released her debut EP LuvHz via Luminelle Recordings; a 6-track exploration of love and relationships.

We caught up with Jackie to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and make sure you listen to her single ‘Mucho Mas’ at the end of this post.

1. Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise
It was hard to narrow my list down to 5 favorites but these are some albums with the most spins. It was funny to find that most of these are from 2009-2011…which reaffirms how impressionable I was in my late teens and how these albums paved a way for my own music. My older sister showed me this album when I was a senior in high school and learning how to drive. I blasted this album the first time I was allowed to take the car out by myself. This is an album I connected with 5 seconds after listening to it. The sound was so interesting to me and unlike anything I had heard before. It incorporates pop elements into experimental electronica and never seizes to include the Latin influence; everything I love in one big sound.

2. Air – Talkie Walkie
I used to do my homework to this album while I was in middle school. I wanted to cover the song ‘Surfing on a Rocket’ and make it my own. Before Garage Band and Ableton, I had to download programs from questionable websites if I wanted to overdub my vocals on top of a track. This album sparked my imagination to think about producing and writing music because I wanted to sound just like Air.

3. Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager
This album really helped me get through a lot of teen angst. I went through stages of depression in high school and while I had to take antidepressants, this album was a big help too. I felt understood and helped me appreciate solitude.

4. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
This is another album I would play through and not skip a single song. Like Air, Animal Collective is another band that sparked my interest in producing music. The vocal harmonies, abstract lyrics, and experimental instrumentation stuck with me and I’m still inspired by it today. This album reminds me of summer in San Diego. I’m really lucky I had the opportunity to work with their producer, Rusty Santos. Working with him was really enriching and felt almost effortless.

5. Carla Morrison – Mientras tú Dormías
I hadn’t thought about singing in Spanish until I heard this album. I saw many commonalities in Carla’s music; ukulele, soft vocals, and electronic sounds. Hearing her music encouraged me to write in Spanish and to not be afraid to write love songs.

Photo Credit: Tayo Okyekan

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut