Esteban [Musician Interview]

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Who inspired you to make music?

David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, and Queen, let’s just go with these for now otherwise the list will be endless. Bowie was a pioneer of music and fashion, his biggest influence on us was that he always did his own thing, consistently performing at the top, whilst keeping his personal affairs out of the limelight and pushing the boundaries all the way to the very end. Stevie signed to Motown’s Tamla label aged 11 and hit the top aged 13! For any aspiring artist, this is an inspirational beginning but to go on to produce some of the world’s most important electronic, boogie jazz-funk and to be still performing is utterly jaw dropping – a living legend. Queen came along and re-wrote the rule books during the late 70’s and early 80’s. A band that didn’t really fit a genre exactly, but new precisely how to use their individual talents to spur each other on to write perfect stadium anthems time and time again.

What is your creative process like? Do you start with lyrics? Instruments?  Concept?

Musically speaking, when Liam comes up with new music, he generally brings 3 or four parts to the table which flow and interconnect in a sonically nice way. In a separate way, the lyrical concepts are talked about, researched and written up prior to matching with the music. It’s quite usual for us to bring the two together harmoniously in a near completed state, even with just guitar and vocal lines. We’ve used this process since the very beginning. What then happens is the idea is send to Stephen for cutting and polishing, he’ll arrange the music and re-write the lyrics to suit the mood or story being told. Meanwhile the drums and bass might be demoed to add colour and texture. So, I’d say conceptual ideas account for 80% of the process but the last 20% sometimes isn’t fixed until it’s finally recorded, and that is really important – it means vocal lines, melodies and vocal harmonies and hooks can be freely added, sometimes that can change a good track into a great track right at the very last moment.

What do you feel is the best song you have released/written and why?

Walking Man from our latest album Jackpot Motel, had us all feeling very proud, it was written in a slightly different fashion to most of the other tracks. Liam had sent a demo of the guitar part in the late autumn of 2019 I think – it was the last batch to be recorded but to be truthful, he never slowed his creativity all the way through the making of the album. Amazing really and just goes to show what it meant to him to be playing again.

We were fast filling up the track list and were looking for certain songs to compliment the overall feel of the album. Walking Man became one of two that were recorded in the last session in February of 2020. The other was We Are One.

The lyrical concept came from a long train journey back home after the first studio session in November. The drama came about when I imagined how awful it would be to return home to find my wife had left me! I know that sounds like a terrible thing to write about, and believe me, it caused a real issue but we can laugh about it now and, for the record, I’m still happily married.

Steve tweaked the whole thing to match his vocal approach, he was absolutely alive with inspiration. I remember sitting next to him as he worked, I could almost hear his mind whirling like a storm in a teacup as he wrote. 

I have such a fond memory of Ricky during this recording too. Like, he’d achieved a lifetime goal. He’s a big Beatles fan and I think this track above the others stands out in that way – It’s one for the artists. He was thrilled to nail the vibe, I know he didn’t have much preparation time for this track as such, I seem to remember him just closing his eyes at one point and just letting instinct flow out and over the strings.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

“Don’t chase the money” – Scott Cortez Silverman, Guitarist for Brant Bjork & The Bro’s c. 2006.

If you could be any kind of cookie, what would it be and why? (Most important question)

Snoopy’s Cookies. I had a Snoopy annual from about 1988 with this recipe using evaporated milk, I loved baking as a kid and these cookies always came out gooood! 

How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?

The internet has opened the world up regardless of industry type. The major music labels in general have enjoyed the transition however, for the grass roots it seems the same old story is on the tips of everyone’s tongues – we must bleed for our art! Also, it has become a real challenge to find something truly special amongst the hundreds of thousands of releases happening each week. I know it’s much better for the environment but I used to love going to the record store and picking out 10 to twenty CD’s each week with my tip money – I couldn’t wait to get home to listen to them through the PA in my bedroom. Now, it doesn’t quite hit the spot to hear a compressed track through a mobile phone, great records weren’t all engineered for the digital platform.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

Bring back music shows on TV, culturally they were so important. The Old Grey Whistle Test, The Word, Top of The Pops, The White Room, the list goes on.

What is the most useless talent you have?

Ricky can’t open anything wrapped in cellophane – yes, that’s actually become a ‘talent’ of his!

When you’re done with music, what do you want people to think when they talk about you and your work?

Over to old blue eyes – we did it our way. Actually, to have brought funk and soul to the stage it probably as important as anything else, sure we can rock out or folk it up but, when we are all at full chat singing and grooving and the crowd is pulsing – that’s our thing right there.

What is your most recent project/upcoming project?

Jackpot Motel is the rebirth of an unstoppable journey. Back in 2010, we were one of the busiest emerging bands in the country and in the midst of a monstrous nationwide tour. We could easily regard this period as the pinnacle of the Esteban odyssey; however, it was also what ultimately caused our demise. Long hours on the road, sleepless nights in vans and caravans and too many after parties to count inevitably took its toll on even the strongest of childhood bonds. The party stopped, and we called time-out.

But, like a gift from the heavens, an opportunity arose that none of us could have predicted. We met up in 2018 with our label The Animal Farm, England had just beaten Sweden in the World Cup and, on the banks of the River Thames, it was decided – Esteban’s reunion was confirmed.

What began as a jam, quickly formed the bedrock of a brand new and exciting second album. In spite of the years of separation, we were all amazed at how quickly muscle memory kicked in. The recording was agreed and over 8 winter days, a 16-track album was laid down with every ounce of determination that we all had clearly stored up for a long time.

Now we are a decade on, and whether you know Esteban’s story or not, anyone listening to the Jackpot Motel will be taken on the same voyage the four of us have been on during this decade hiatus. For anyone who missed the party back then, our Dirty Wrecked album is there as proof!

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By Sarah Carswell

After spending 5 years studying language and writing, Sarah spends most of her time thinking critically about popular works of fiction, and after a lifetime love of music they have made themselves a place where they can analyze music and interview musicians. To learn about their struggle with learning to read and write please check out the About page. You can send a message to Sarah by going to the contact page and sending an email with your feedback and suggestions for new content.

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