Toronto’s For Esmé creates music that is quirky and makes you want to dance. The band includes Martha Meredith (vox, drum machine, synth), Dave Thiel (bass, electronic soundscapes) and Nathan Crook (guitar, vox). They’ve crafted a new sound for themselves and have never been more comfortable doing it.
They won’t release their new album till later this fall, but they’ve given us a taste of what’s to come with their recent video for YOU, directed by Kristen Waterson.
YOU’s video takes place in an old school in which the band curiously explores with their flashlights in hand in a slowed down, dreamlike state.
We had a chance to speak with the band about their music and all the things they love about Toronto.
Congrats on the new single and video for YOU. What was the concept behind the video?
MM: ‘You’ is about romanticizing the past. Maybe we all do it. I know I do it a lot. I also romanticize the way people used to dance–it was so much more energetic! The concept stemmed from watching old footage of people doing the Twist… but it became a real adventure in revisiting the past. We actually filmed a lot of the video at my old high school, which was such a trip! Having to be so uninhibited in a place where you used to be hopelessly awkward is a weird thing. Maybe even weirder than singing about your high school love affair while dancing on a table in the library. Or maybe not.
Your new single You has a dance vibe with sweet synth and drum pads where as some of your previous work has been more Indie rock-pop. Are you heading towards a new sound or just testing the waters?
MM: I always wanted to make music like this, I just didn’t know how. It took the dissolution of a few creative collaborations for me to buy Logic and start arranging and writing songs electronically. I don’t think I knew I could do it, you know? It was a total game-changer for me and I feel like I’ve finally found my footing. This record is also the first time Dave, Nathan and I were in the studio together. We bring such different styles and skills to the table and we meet in this really beautiful place. We want people to really feel it all when they listen to our music, the beat, the space, and all the feelings.
Where did you record/mix the single and who produced it?
DT: We recorded the full album with James Bunton, single included. Primarily the tracking was done in Martha’s living room and James’ studio space. We did do drum tracking at The Lincoln County Social Club as well with James and John Dinsmore.
Who does the songwriting? Do you split the duties when it comes to arranging and writing individual parts for live shows?
MM: I am the principal songwriter. I love to write and compose and am always trying to shed light on some element of the human condition. I am the happiest in the world when creating a new piece of music. Dave is our resident audiophile and tech-expert, helping shape the sounds in a unique way, and always helping me achieve what I hear in my head. Nathan is our theory-head, he strengthens the songs from the foundations (and writes all those delectable guitar parts). Our beloved producer James Bunton is part 4, challenging us always to make everything better.
Dave is the brain behind making it all work live. He works so hard to ensure that what we created in the studio can be translated into the live setting with the right depth, space and drive. This way, Nathan can focus on the guitar and vocals, I can focus on the drum machine, singing, looping and dancing my face off, and Dave can still play the bass while making sure all the electronic pieces accompany us just right.
When can people expect an EP or LP?
MM: ‘Sugar’, our 8-song LP is coming out early in September. The vinyls are hot fire. You’ll get to hear more songs between now and then—but we’re all about the full album experience.
Do you find it’s easier to write a happy or sad song?
MM: I used to find it easier to write sad songs. I think it’s easier to feel creative when you’re feeling emo, but I think that has a lot to do with when you choose to make the time. With this record I made a deliberate effort to focus on more positive and empowered experiences. It’s way more ‘me’ to be celebrating life and living in the moment, and I wanted to make those feelings contagious. I think we’d all be happier if we could be a little less inhibited.
How long have you been a band? What keeps the fire going?
DT: We’ve been a band as you see us for just over a year now, but the project name For Esmé has been around longer. The band has evolved and changed quite a bit in that time. The fire is kept going because we’re such great pals (aww). It’s a total joy to get to spend so much time with these people. We also don’t spend TOO much time together. We have separate lives and working schedules as well.
What’s your proudest moment on and offstage?
NC: Onstage? Every successful show, every successful note, not only from myself but as a group; experiencing harmony with everyone onstage is better than any other high you could think of.
Offstage: just knowing that I have my own tiny family that I helped create in this epic city (I grew up in a small town, so living in Toronto is kinda like living on Mars)
MM: When strangers dance to our music! I love watching people get lost in the moment.
Is scheduling a challenge with members being in other projects and having other commitments such as day-jobs etc?
DT: It absolutely can be. We set regular times to get together and adhere to them, just like you would have to do if you worked for a fast food chain, or whatever. You show up for work. Things need to get done.
If you had to collaborate with one Toronto band, who would it be and why?
DT: Had to? I would LOVE to collaborate with more Toronto bands. Hard to pick just one, but Kira May. She and Charles (Tilden) are extremely creative and have some killer ideas.
What do you do when you’re not doing anything musical?
NC: I like to climb trees, look for sounds and colours in nature and go on long walks with my girlfriend, brandy, and our dog bucket.
MM: I like to go on adventures outside, listen to records, read all the books, and I really really love to dance.
Top 3 artists that have inspired you?
MM: So inspired by actors/writers Norah Sadave and Amy Nostbakken right now! I had the pleasure of seeing their show ‘Mouthpiece’ at the theatre centre the week before the last and it made me feel so many polarizing emotions all at once. They are brilliant.
DT: Royal Canoe
NC: Annie Clark, No Doubt, Hendrix
Favourite place to eat in Toronto?
NC: Tough call! So many great places! I love Wallace and Co. for breakfast, libretto for lunch and the Roncy public for late night wine and cheese, but I also love to cook!
What do you think of physical vs digital album sales? Do you have a preference? Are CD’s done?
I love vinyl. We all do. I prefer vinyl because it is meant for people with attention spans. You experience a collection of songs the way the artist wanted you to hear them, on the journey they hoped you’d take. I also like to see, feel, touch the artwork. A record is so many things. I wish we all made more time to listen.
NC: You’ll have to follow our socials to find that out ?
What is one thing about each band member that people wouldn’t expect?
DT: Nathan’s has a dog named Bucket and he is the band mascot. If you’re out during the day in the west end you WILL see them together.
MM: Dave is always blaring classical music when I get in his car and I love it. We like to have band meetings over scotch.
NC: Martha has two cats named Gary and Henri and her dad makes the best maple syrup around!
Sneaky Dees nachos, Hey Meatball spaghetti or a superfood salad from Fresh?
Queen or College St?
Queen Queen Queen
Trinity Bellwoods or Highpark?
The answer has always been Bellwoods but we’re all starting to fall for High Park a little
EP or LP?
LP (re: attention spans)
Early bird or night owls?
Both! Inconsistent. Such different joys in each.
Road or studio?
So what’s next for the members of For Esmé?
MM: So many things! We want to play everywhere. We want to collaborate with so many artists. We’re playing NXNE, Wayhome, collaborating with Jared Raab, Philippe Blanchard, Spencer Cathcart… we’re putting out this record—we are in for a hell of a summer.
For Esmé performs on June 17th for NXNE at The Horseshoe so be sure to catch them!