Rachel McMahon speaks to Sarah Sheil and Andrew Bushe of Dublin’s underground quintet, Estel…..
Relocating to Dublin from Roscommon, keyboardist Sarah Sheil met with drummer Andrew Bushe while the former was performing at Eamon Doran’s almost ten years ago. Bushe remembers his initial impression of her pre-Estel trio, “It was messy, but it was good messy”. With the drummer on board, present-day Estel started to take shape. Now comprising of Sheil, Bushe, Tommy O’Sullivan, Steven Anderson and Aonghus McEvoy, Sheil explains, “There has just been loads of different line-ups during the years, but me and Bushie would be the core two that have been there from the beginning.” Of their recent recruit, Aonghus McEvoy on guitar and synth earlier this year, Bushe says, “He’s a bit of musical genius. He plays very well with Tommy”. Sarah laughs, “And he’s got lovely long hair.” Bushe agrees, “Yeah, he looks great. He looks like a King of Leon. Kind of a skinny, straggly-haired good-looking bloke.” Sheil interjects “And he wears designer glasses – put that in.”….
Planning a gig to mark the release of their latest album ‘Untitled’ on January 9th, the group will also be celebrating their ten-year anniversary. The album, a collaboration with bassist Mike Watt and saxophonist Steve MacKay of The Stooges, will be released on January 9th. “We had opened for Mike Watt’s band in 2005 and he had kept contact with us. He’d email us and ask us to send him t-shirts, and he’d wear t-shirts when he was performing with the Stooges”, recalls Bushe. “So when we were doing our fourth album ‘The Bones of Something’, he offered to put a vocal or something on it. So we sent him off tracks and he sent us back stuff”, he explains. Meeting up again in Dublin following The Stooge’s performance at Electric Picnic two summers ago, Watt suggested getting both bands together in the studio. A time slot was organised for the next morning. “When we turned up to pick up Watt, Steve MacKay was there and he wanted to come too. He’s like the original sax player in the Stooges since 1969. We were just like ‘This is insane’”, says Bushe…..
On the cover of Estel’s albums is Sheil’s artwork. Regarding the role the art plays in their largely instrumental band, Sheil says, “Some people say they’re like a soundtrack to the paintings”. Agrees Bushe, “I think it gives a visual reference to it”, adding however, “We never meant to an instrumental band really. Our first album has vocals on some of the tracks and it’s just coz we had someone in the band who could sing. It’s never like we went ‘Let’s not have a vocalist’, we’ve just found that none of us can really do it that well.” Asserts the drummer, “If someone came along who could do something else and fit in the band and sing, they could sing.” ….
Following a small Irish tour in January with fellow experimentalists, Das Wanderlust, some German dates are penned for February. On returning home, the group will be getting to work on the release of a further two albums in 2009 – a subsequent album with Watt and MacKay, as well as Estel’s own latest fifth record…..
With their ten-year anniversary fast approaching, Sheil reflects on their commitment to experimentation that has withstood a decade of various band line-ups and music scene trends, “For me now, you go through stages. You do lose your enthusiasm …it’s like anything. It’s like a relationship –you go through bad patches and the spark goes for a bit”, she muses. “And you have a really, really good rehearsal and you jam and you come up with something amazing and it just kind of comes back. But you do have to work at it and not get too downhearted when things aren’t going your way. Especially when you’re a band like us, when you might be flavour of the month one year. And then the next year… You just have to keep going and not go by trends”, the keyboardist concludes. “I think the underground thing in Dublin, maybe everywhere, it’s gotten very… you know, stuff is hip and then it’s not and then it is. So you get used to kind of ignoring that”, adds Bushe. “You get used to just operating in your own little bubble, where you just go ‘Fuck it, we’ll impress the people in the band and hopefully other people will like it’. But you stop wanting to…not like you don’t want to impress other people, but it stops being important. You start making what you think is good after a while, instead of wondering what other people are going to think about it”, comments the drummer…..
Of this approach, Bushe says “It’s kind of given us a freedom to do more stuff that doesn’t sound exactly like Estel now. We’ll put something on an album, we’ll just go ‘That’s good’, we’ll just do it, rather than going ‘Maybe we shouldn’t put that on because it doesn’t sound like the rest of the album’, or ‘It doesn’t sound like what Estel sounds like’. We’re just starting to get a bit more open.” Sheil considers, “Whether you like the music or not, sometimes you can hear the honesty – that you’re doing it because you love it and you’re not trying to be trendy or whatever… I think people appreciate that.” She deems, “This record is the most different of anything that we’ve recorded.” Notes Bushe, “But it’s taken ten years.”….