Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
With a sound made for filling stadiums, Esoterica have also captured an astounding ability to speak in the softest whisper directly to your soul. It’s a rare mix and one that makes them stand out from the crowd as they encapsulate the stratospheric excitement and oneness of bands like U2 and Queen one minute whilst bringing the heart-rending intimacy of Ana Silvera the next.
Since forming in London in 1996 the band have released four critically acclaimed albums, including the stunning ‘In Dreams’ earlier this year, played throughout Europe and have twice been chosen as touring partners for Marilyn Manson.
It would be fair to say that the world hasn’t potentially seen such divergent and all-encompassing talent like this since the late, great Jeff Buckley and whilst they have yet to be a global straddling act, you feel it’s all just a matter of time. Frontman Tobias Keast tells us what he and the band have been up to in the past few months.
How are you doing?
I’m very mixed, the year started awful my Dad slipped on ice, he got a bleed on the brain and had to have a piece of his skull removed to release pressure; he almost died. Then I went to Iceland to shoot a music video a week later, that was amazing! Then Covid happened and it all seems bad but I get the longest time off I’ve had in my life and spent it playing with my wife and kids.
In that time my Dad, who I was told would likely be brain damaged, has made an amazing recovery; he’s almost 100%. So, this year had horrific lows and amazing happiness, so when I say mixed, I’m happy, grateful and probably still processing it all.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IKV8xX-N78&w=560&h=315]
How have you been keeping busy?
Actually, my life (as a rule) is hectic. I have 3 kids and a wonderful misses and an American bulldog cross, so a lot of time was spent with them. I’ve taken time to clear out the old and set training times (I was very into martial arts). Also, I’ve been recording new music ideas near 200 parts and then I pick the best bits and send them to Luke who builds basic (or not so basic) songs for when we can get in a room and actually record them.
Have you been doing any online gigs?
No, we were asked and we agonised over it… We did a lockdown video we were asked to do by our fans ,check it out below.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7_hMIg13Bc&w=560&h=315]
My partner works in care so we have to be careful, as her clients are vulnerable. Some of the band have people they are shielding too.
Have you changed how you are writing?
Yes, actually it’s been really productive. I have no recording equipment at home but I record ideas in notes on my phone and layer ideas, it sounds bad but it works really well. I send it to Luke who has the studio and he puts it together as a template and all the band can work on them from there. Also, the guys post stuff on WhatsApp. We are planning music videos alongside the songs all at the same time. My instinct is this may end up making some of our best work.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyWIqWxJyHw&w=560&h=315]
Do you keep in touch with your band or other musicians?
Every day, we have a group chat and we all share the comments, feedback and other info regarding how we are doing. We can see what’s doing well, and it helps us to plan videos, artwork, music and gig dates and modify our roadmap. We have been more connected like this because we had to find a way to work with this, so we did.
What plans have you had to change?
We had a few shows booked (and sold out!) they had to be moved. Our London date sold out 2 months in advance so we booked another bigger venue… then Covid hit and we had to decide to announce it or not, knowing people would be unlikely to want to book a show that was likely to move dates, but we decided to go for it. People have been willing to book the tickets regardless, so we are really lucky it looks like that will sell out too!! It’s really important to us because we’ve had better part of a million streams of the new album but the gigs make the large part of our income as a band and it all goes right back into the next release or video and so on.
What do you think of social distancing gigs?
It’s a nice idea, but it’s not going to work long term. It’s the larger part of any small band’s income. If you drop the people do you increase the price? Will that make going to gigs a pastime for the wealthy, or strip every penny from fans? I really don’t like the pay meet and greets. I know bands are looking for ways to make more money but for me music has never been about that, you connect with people and they come from all walks of life that’s the important bit.
Some of the messages we get are so emotionally charged they bring you to tears, we share them in our chat, how could you not want to meet and play for as many of those people as possible. They give meaning to my life.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSX79zEgtIE&w=560&h=315]
How do you think the music industry will have changed?
The music industry has already changed. It’s an ever-evolving thing I have over time come to the opinion it doesn’t matter. It’s about people, in all my years making music, I still see so many of the same fantastic people making things run behind the scenes. Most people don’t even know they exist, but as bands come and go the same people are there making things happen, evolving with their environment and making connections between great music and people. Music is life and life will find a way.
What plans have you got when isolation finishes?
Already well in to new music and planning for new videos and if the shows sell out (looking likely) we will be be able to afford to make them right away, we have gigs we would like to play next planned and our roadmap is budgeted or what we think we can realistically sell there was a lot of a careful planning before we started this album cycle and the response has beaten our expectations all along. We actually have plans up to the end of 2021 already, so nothing changes much for us, just hope we can play the shows soon!
How can people support you?
Same as any band really; like, share, tell your friends.
If you can afford to, get merch and come to gigs.
Post on our pages and just be with us.
All the love, Tobias XX