Esben and the Witch

Brighton trio, Esben and the Witch, has been steadily gathering momentum since the release of their debut album Violet Cries at the start of 2011. Their uncompromising sound is being heard not only in back rooms and dimly lit bars, but it is also making its way steadily into our musical landscape. We caught up with Rachel Davies, Daniel Copeman and Thomas Fisher to see what it’s like to be the band of the moment.

Nominated for BBC’s Sound of 2011, what has the past year been like?
To be honest, it’s difficult to summarise. A lot has happened; recording, travelling, playing shows, thinking about the record, talking about the record, all things we’d never done to such an extent before. Being nominated was an odd experience, whilst flattering, it carries with it a certain level of expectation that none of us are entirely comfortable with.

Your artwork is well-defined, who’s responsible for the creative vision?
All three of us are responsible for the aesthetic; it’s of the utmost importance. Rachel specifically came up with the concept for the video. She had the idea years ago and never really considered that she may ever be in a position to realise it. We’re really happy with that video because it captures and accentuates the lyrics and music.

Your sound has been described as haunting and ethereal – not necessarily words you’d associate with mainstream appeal – what does your success say about the current state of British music today?
I think that people will always be interested in music with a darker hue. We’re trying to write music that’s not just haunting, but also at times claustrophobic, dense, delicate and sparse. Being evocative is key. Having said that, I’m not sure whether we really appeal to the mainstream, I suppose that remains to be seen.

What kind of experience are you trying to create in your live shows?
The aim with the live show is to create something that envelops the observer. We want to generate an environment in which people can forget that they are standing in a venue, so they can be immersed in the music. That’s the aim, whether we achieve it or not isn’t really for us to say.

You’ve shared the stage with bands such as The xx and Foals – what was it like being on the road with such established artists?
It is a pleasure to have supported both of these bands; great people and musicians. We take what we can, particularly when we ventured to the USA and Canada with Foals. We don’t really know what we’re doing when it comes to touring on that scale, so any advice we can glean from those who know what’s going on is always appreciated.

What would you like to happen for the band in 2011?
We’re on tour at the moment and will be for most of the year. This is something we’re pleased about; having the chance to perform the songs from the record gives us the opportunity to reconnect with them. These live forays will be interspersed with the occasional writing and recording that takes place as a matter of course.

Bethany Rex