Esben and the Witch Tell Fairy Tales: An Interview
ELM: I really enjoy your reverence for fairy tales. What is it about them that appeals to you?
TF: I wouldn’t say that we revere fairy tales. We are drawn to the imagery that some contain and appreciate the way others work as quite subversive, moral stories. That, however, is about as far as it goes.
ELM: Do you have a favorite myth?
TF: Not a favourite one as such, I find most mythology interesting on some level though. We recently spent some time in Bremen and that is a city built upon an interesting tale, it’s constantly alluded to in the architecture.
ELM: In an interview for the Quietus, you mentioned writing in dimly-lit rooms by the sea. Do you always like to write by the sea?
TF: No, not necessarily. This was just the place we were in when Violet Cries was written. It seems to me that the contrast between that small space and the deserted coastline it overlooked may have been quite influential to us at that time. I think in future we may travel inland and take a different approach to writing.
ELM: I was just reading about a new electronic movement called “witch house.” Do you believe it exists, and, if so, is that how you would classify your music?
TF: I have heard it mentioned so in the sense that people reference it and use it as a term to describe things it certainly exists. I’m not sure exactly what it refers to though and from what I do know of it I don’t really see how it has any relevance to us.
ELM: In a similar vein, there seems to be a revival of the spirit of 80s goth somewhat with artists like Zola Jesus and others picking up where Siouxsie and company left off. Do you feel like there is, in fact, a neo-goth resurgence?
If so then this isn’t something we are consciously part of. We are often compared to Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees for example and whilst it is flattering to an extent we have little to no knowledge of their work. We will continue to do as we’ve done before; keep our heads down and concern ourselves only with our own plans without wondering how we fit into genres, scenes or whatever.
ELM: Who are your favorite writers?
TF: JG Ballard, Iain Banks and of late Cormac Mccarthy.
ELM: I’m interested in “Argyria.” I’d never heard of it until I heard your song and looked it up. Can you tell me more about the song?
TF: The song was one of the first from Violet Cries to be conceived. We wanted to write a song that built up gradually but that was controlled. That became too much at a point and then fell away. We were and still are interested in large dynamic shifts. How sitting an intense wall of noise next to a fragile lament can accentuate the effectiveness of both. “Argyria” was in some ways a culmination of this way of thought.
ELM: I found “Swans” to be a really interesting song. Can you tell me more about that?
TF: We always wanted Swans to be the last song on Violet Cries. We see it as a song that plays with the credits at the end of a film, a time for reflection. It was inspired by Victorian funeral processions and we wanted it to sound, at the end, like a travelling party is disappearing from sight, down the road and over the horizon.
ELM: What are some of the most inspiring places you’ve visited?
TF: Plitvice National Park, Lydford Gorge, East Hastings, Mont St Michel, The Oregon coastline, too many other places to mention. All of these are inspirational for differing reasons and in some cases not really inspiring at all but influential and significant nonetheless. We have been fortunate enough that we have had the opportunity to travel more of late.
ELM: What music were you raised on?
TF:When I was younger it was Prog, almost exclusively.
ELM: What would you like to sing about that you haven’t yet?
TF: I’d prefer not to reveal anything specific. I’d like to think we’ll write songs about all the things in our minds at the moment. We find inspiration for our music in all manor of places, in books, landscape, cinema, the internet. It can be something quite direct that can inform the narrative of a song or something more abstract that moves us to write.
ELM: What is your songwriting process like?
TF: It is very collaborative. There is no set process in place but in the past it has tended to begin with one of our number sharing an idea. That can be anything from a guitar loop or a synth drone to a vocal melody or a bassline. From there the three of us all gather round and experiment with different ideas, different instruments and start to form a song.
ELM: Are you active in any social causes?
As individuals, not as a band.