Q1. First of all, for the uninitiated, could you briefly introduce Estel?
A1. It’s far too epic [long and boring] a story to be made brief! The band started in 1998 with Sarah at the helm and since then we have put out four albums and several singles with more on the way in the next year.
We started out playing mainly instrumental lo-fi underground stuff and we have graduated to playing hi-fi underground stuff.
Even though we don’t play genre specific music, we adhere to the principles of independence and d.i.y. put forward by the punk scene and underground metal scene.
Basically, we’re an underground band influenced by most interesting stuff we come cross, be it black metal or filthy sixties psyche.
Q2. I find it very hard to define Estel’s music, at times it is pure rock, others it just sounds like some bizarre nightmare and it is quite often heavy enough to match a lot metal bands. How would YOU describe your music?
A2. Well as individuals we listen to tons of music that we don’t all like. This ranges from metal to noise to punk to classical to bluegrass to zappa. The points that we’d [almost] all agree on would be black metal, punk, folk, prog/kraut, stuff like sixties/ seventies movie soundtracks and tons more random crap.
So, I guess that our sound would be the place were all of this stuff crosses over and meets. If I had to describe us i’d have to say we sound like Phillip Glass on crack conducting Goblin, early sonic youth and hawkwind whilst they ineptly play the instrumental black flag records.
Q3. I often think that a lot of music is centred around lyrics, so being an instrumental band, how is song writing handled, and what would your inspirations for writing be?
A3. Well, for our inspirations, see above.
We never decided to not have a singer, it just evolved that way over the years. We are not adverse to voices on our records and we have collaborated with many vocalists over the years. Each of our albums up to this point has at least one voice on it, either singing conventionally or doing something a bit more arty.
The other advantage of not having a singer is that we are not constrained by the idea of having to do the verse, chorus deal. This gives us the freedom to fuck around and play for extended periods when we feel like it without hurting the poor vocalist’s ego.
The writing of the music is very democratic. All pieces are written in the room [normally based on a cycle or a riff from one of us]. We find a piece, chase it down, play it and then edit or lengthen it sufficiently until we feel that it does what we need it to do for us and then hopefully an audience of listeners.
Q4. Estel have some really great and bizarre names for songs and albums (“you racka disciprine” “journey to the center of John’s ma” and the epic album title “My Dreams Are Like Rabbits, they built a tunnel, fell onto the pavement and died”) since you have no lyrics how do you come up with these names? Is there a theme running through songs and/or albums?
A4. The titles tend to be either; band jokes or something funny that catches our eye in a movie or on t.v. or something like that. ‘You racka disciprine’ is from south park. ‘…John’s ma’ is me slagging my mate John’s ma and the ‘dreams…’ title was based on the description of a dream that Sarah had. Again, another advantage of not having a vocalist or lyrics is that we can name a song whatever we want and it won’t clash with the ‘meaning’ of the piece.
Q5. You have recently done some recordings with the legendary Steve Mackay and Mike Watt, could you tell us a little more about this?
A5. Well. It all started in 2005 when we opened for Watt’s band, the secondmen. He watched us sound check and dug us, resulting in us chatting backstage for a couple of hours, we just hit it off well. While we played our set Watt stood at stage right and as we left the stage he insisted that we keep in touch with him. We thought that nothing would come of it, but lo and behold, he contacted us and we struck up a corrospondance and he eventually asked us for an Estel shirt to wear at the Leeds festival with the Stooges.
A while later he wore a different estel shirt on both nights of the Stooges atp headliners.
When the Stooges played in Ireland last year, we met up and set up some recordings. On the morning of the recordings we found out that Steve Mackay was coming! Talk about a mind blow. The second session was recorded when the stooges played recently . Both of these sessions will be released as separate albums over the next seven or eight months. For all you trivia nerds- the first session was the first time that Watt and Mackay had ever recorded together.
Q6. Estel have been going for almost 10 years (I think) and I’m sure some members of the band has been a part of the Irish underground for much longer than that, what is your opinion of the (current) Irish underground?
A6. Yeah, members have/do played in/with [amongst others] the waltons, yurt, happystack, sirkillalot, cruachain, pete the killer, Adrian Crowley, blood red dolls, evil kinevils, apostles, deep in the woods, drainland, tarred………
I think that the current Irish underground is in a precarious position, it could go either way really! By this I mean, that there’s more music and social stuff going on then ever before, but, an awful lot of it is genre specific – made for little sub- cultures within the bigger ‘scene’. ie; crust, hardcore, punk, post rock, metal core etc… This behaviour basically splits what could be a much bigger all inclusive movement into smaller, easily dismissible scenes that shy away from cross pollination and therefore produce ‘cookie cutter’ music and mindsets. I assume that most, if not all people involved in the underground music scene here would like to live in some sort of alternative society or at least they think they do. Why, then, would you risk cutting yrself off from new music and experiences that could broaden yr horizons as a person and artist? Tsk, tsk!
Q7. One of the greatest things about the “off-the-wall” nature of Estel is that you can fit in with a lot of different styles of music (i.e. at gigs etc.) where do you feel you fit in best (and worst)?
A7. I think that we generally fit in with most scenes. We’ve had a couple of bad experiences within every scene [indie, punk, metal..] This normally involves the usual blinkered dullards who believe that different is bad. This is fine by us, who wants to count said blinkered dullards amongst one’s supporters? Not us. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool if you don’t like us, but don’t walk out of the venue before we play then write about how crap we are on the net whilst using a pseudynom , that’s just being silly. Enough of my bitterness! Next question!
Q8. What are your plans for the future of Estel?
A8. In the next twelve months we hope to release our own fifth album, Steve Mackay/Mike Watt/ESTEL volume one, Steve Mackay/Mike Watt/ ESTEL volume two and a compilation of early, out of print singles, tapes etc… That and the usual gigs.
Q9. Finally, is there anything you would like to add to close this interview?
A9. Thanks for having us. If anyone wants to collaborate/ play with us or have us play in their town/ release stuff with us get in touch.