After relocating to Berlin, presumably to channel their inner Bowie, ex-Brightonians Esben And The Witch return for a gig at London Road’s Bleach on Friday 22nd May. Since they’ve been away, London Road seems to have re-branded itself as the new Berlin (or something). Perhaps they’ll feel inspired to stick around.
“We only moved [to Berlin] at the start of the year, so it’s hard to know what effect it’s had on our songwriting,” guitarist Thomas tells SOURCE. It’s been great so far; we spent a bit of time over there when we played shows in the past, but it’s been good getting to know the city better. I just walk everywhere I can, to try to get a feel for the place. It’s certainly a lot more vast than Brighton in that respect.
The band’s migration means they haven’t had a chance to line up many tour dates, but they’ve been busy recording. “We’ve set up a kind of rudimentary studio in the basement of our house,” says Thomas. “It’s already been a very productive time, it’s great to have a place to write and record music that’s basically just an extension of where you live. It means that writing, in particular, can be more instinctive. If you have an idea, you can work on it straight away rather than sitting on it for a week or so, till the next rehearsal. I think that’ll have an influence on the way our music sounds.”
Alas, he reveals, this doesn’t mean they’ll be showcasing new material at the Bleach gig. “The show will be focused on [the 2014 album] ‘A New Nature’. Having spent the end of last year touring that record a lot in Europe, our relationship with those songs is really strong now. The familiarity that comes from playing them over a few months makes their live incarnations more powerful. We are hatching new plans, but there won’t be anything ready to be aired by the end of this month.”
The aforementioned LP was recorded with mercurial producer Steve Albini — an experience Thomas clearly relished. “It was brilliant. We learned a great deal working with Steve. In the past I have found the recording process difficult. When you’re repeatedly playing guitar parts to get them as technically tight as possible, it can be a struggle to play them with feeling. I found Steve’s methods injected more enjoyment back into it; embracing imperfections and one-offs. Essentially, it’s a more human approach. Having said that, we have no plans to work with him again at the moment. I guess all that will depend on the type of record we want to make next.
Do the band have a preferred Brighton venue to play at, we ask, and might it be different from their favourite to visit as a fan?
“There always seem to be loads of new venues opening in Brighton. Like Bleach, right? That’s not been going too long. I’m really interested to see what it’s like. In terms of my favourite places to play, I find it difficult to say because it tends to depend heavily on how the show itself goes. I had a fine time playing The Hope with Thought Forms a few years ago. My favourite places to watch shows here are probably The Prince Albert or Sticky Mike’s, I reckon.”
And is there anything he misses about living in Brighton?
“I mainly miss sitting around on the beach, and playing football down Hove Lawns with my buddies.”
Esben And The Witch play Bleach on Friday 22nd May 2015