HOT PRESS Interview. 2000

“For anyone naive or uninformed enough to believe punk rock is a style, Estel is a punk rock band. We hope to see you in the new year, and remember if you are on your own side, who can be against you? Stay positive. Estel.” Insert to debut Estel 7″, ‘One Deep Breath b/w Crunch Crunch It s So Quiet’ (LTP002)

They’ve only been playing together for the last two years, and in the last eight months they’ve delivered two of the finest records to grace my turntable in quite some time. Introducing Estel Sarah and Ashley Sheil on guitar/bass/vocals and keyboards respectively, Andrew Bushe on drums and Grainne Donahue on guitar and bass. In February this year, they put out a hand-stamped record beautifully packaged in handpainted covers. It only got a limited run of 200 pressings, and as a television advert doesn’t say, this record is no longer available in the shops.

But fret not, as one of the most intriguing, individual and refreshingly innovative debut albums to delight these ears in some time is just about to claw its way into the hearts, minds and record collections of open minded music lovers.

It is charmingly entitled Angelpie I Think I Ate Your Face, and while the vinyl release maintains their penchant for limited pressings (only 100 copies record collectors on your marks get set ) it will receive an international CD release on Folkrum Records. Angelpie is an addictive listen a perfectly formed cyclical record exploring a dark and twisted popscape, from the sloping opener ‘Nutputragies’ to the dreamy otherworldliness of ‘Langoliers’. But is it really punk rock? Yes, in that it most certainly challenges convention, not in any hackneyed, preachy, shouty or posey manner, but as a welcome and perfectly crafted alternative to what mainstream rock and pop has become.

Sarah Sheil begins their story, far away in the un-rock n’ roll capital of County Roscommon.

“We lived in Roscommon (Sarah and Ashley). Went to Art College for a year. It was shite. We moved up to Dublin in ’97 and arsed around for a year. We didn’t know what to do about how to form a band, or what was the way to go about it. So, we just wrote some songs. We met Grainne and did our thing in Eamonn Doran’s in the afternoons. Andrew was there for one of those gigs and he started coming along. He thought we were an art project!

“Yeah! They were brilliant! All this noise!” raves Andrew as if he had just witnessed Estel for the first time. “They sounded like the first Sonic Youth album with no drummer. I just asked could I join and that was that. I had been in the Waltons and it was an even more hellish noise. I thought they looked good and sounded good. I could play drums and they were girls, so yeah, cool! I think anyone whose been a fan since the start, not a fan ‘cos that s a silly word for us, rather someone whose been into us, can see a lot more confidence in what we do and a greater focus.”

“In the beginning, Andrew put drums on the stuff we’d already made, but now we all make music together,” adds Grainne. “The 7″ is a good example of that”, continues Andrew. “‘One Deep Breath’ was obviously written before there was a drummer and ‘Crunch Crunch’ was written around a drummer. You can see, sorry, hear a difference.”

And you can certainly hear the difference between Estel and every other hopeful brat pack on Angelpie. Initially, obvious reference points are the sonic freedom that punk and freeform rock outfits from Chicago, Washington and Glasgow brought to contemporary guitar based music. However, it would be a grave mistake to lump them in with the so-called ‘post-rock’ scene.

For starters, three of the eight tracks on Angelpie have vocals, and most importantly Estel have taken the cue from these bands to paint their own sonic canvas, eschewing the traditional structures and constraints of rock, but still sounding refreshing, vital and accessible.

“The front cover probably sums it up,” ponders Grainne. “All this pretty childlike stuff and then the evil sinister stuff and the big scary childlike hand coming in. You’ve got all these childlike keyboard sounds and the evil guitars.”

One of our mates did the album for a total knockdown price of fifty quid a day. We couldn’t even afford that!” exclaims Andrew. “So, we did it in a day and half! But seriously, we had it all down in a day and a half. There was no pressure. I don’t see the point in fucking niggling over a piece of music. You record something and niggle over it for five or six days what’s the point?

“We usually always go with the original take”, interjects Sarah. “Too much music at the moment sounds overproduced particularly by Dublin bands or Irish groups in general,” opines Andrew. “Fifty layers of tracks that you don’t need. If you play your songs properly you can do them in a day. We were certainly a live band before we were a recorded band, and I’d rather represent that on vinyl. A lot of bands have albums that don’t sound like their live sound.”

“So we are not disappointing anyone!,” laughs Grainne.

“See, you can put a chimp in front of a thirty-six-track desk, or you can have someone who knows what they’re doing on a four track and it sounds amazing. All the early Dischord and Touch and Go records were recorded on four-tracks. That stuff still stands up today. A producer can’t make a bad band sound like a good band.”

“Basically, you can’t polish a turd,” concludes Grainne.

Angelpie I Think I Ate Your Face is out now on a strictly limited vinyl run of only one hundred copies from Road Records, Fade St, Dublin 2. Estel release the CD nationally and internationally as in from their launch bash on Monday 30th October in Whelan s.

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EVENT GUIDE INTERVIEW WITH LEE CASEY. (2001?)

Lee Casey interviews Estel.
Estel first emerged in 1998. Since then, they have released a cassette, a seven-inch and an album, all on their own Little Plastic Tapes label. In the course of the past year, having undergone a number of line-up changes, they have toured both Britain and Ireland, appeared on two independent compilation albums and recorded the songs that will make up their next slew of releases. This month sees the issue of a new single on their label, ‘True Stories’/’My Raymond is Contagious’. In addition, plans are underway for a split release with Australian band 99; they are due an appearance on the next Road Relish 7”, and they have organised a couple of Irish gigs with American electroclash duo Winterbrief.
All in all, a veritable cornucopia of activity, it would seem. But Estel is currently fighting an image problem. “People tend to think that we’re gone,” says drummer Andrew Bushe. “I think that we’ve been doing as much or more than a lot of bands, it’s just that we haven’t been playing big venues. I’m happiest now with what we’re doing.”
Grounded in this city’s longstanding hardcore scene, the same creative environment that has given birth to contemporaries such as The Redneck Manifesto and Joan of Arse, Bushe is concerned about the ongoing health of the underground. “In the past couple of years, there are more people coming to gigs than ever but it has really just become entertainment. When bands like ourselves, or Joan of Arse, or The Redneck Manifesto play in a bigger venue there are so many people there, but when you play in The Temple the next week, none of those people are going to come and see you. They only want to go to big venues.”
He sounds a warning note to his peers in the invisible community of bands. “We’ve become a little mainstream, almost, with its own stars and whatever else. I think it’s dangerous to sacrifice what the underground is worth and all the work that has gone in to building it just to pull bigger audiences.”
Bushe also poses some questions to people who go to gigs by local bands. “People have got to ask themselves why all these bands put their records out on independent labels? Why won’t they play with bigger venues? Why won’t they play gigs with bigger promoters? I think that you’ve almost got to ask yourself why are you there. I would hate to think that people were there just to have a chat and nod their heads along. You like to think that people are there for a bigger reason.”
But if these words seem negative or alarmist, Bushe’s motivation is sincere. A passionate advocate of the integrity of ‘the scene’, he is concerned that its message of interdependence and common cause will be diluted as it moves towards greater media and audience acceptance.
“I’d just like people to know there is a bigger picture than what they see and to remember that there is more than just a couple of bands here. Let’s keep it moving forward. There is a whole other scene out there. It’s going to change unless your heart is in it, so let’s try and do something useful with it. One day it’s going to be gone.”

Copyright Lee Casey. All rights reserved.

Ladyfest Cork magazine interview 2007.

This was originally featured in a Ladyfest mag in december 2007.

LF: Hello, it’s great to have you play another Ladyfest gig, for all of those peoples who will be seeing you for the first time will you tell us a bit about yourselves?

Estel- Estel are old. Really. So fucking old. We started around nine years ago. The band was formed by Sarah and Ashley, then they got Grainne, then they got me [Bushie].
We’ve put out some singles and four albums. We’ve played in England, Scotland, Italy and a skillion times in Ireland. We have had so many line up changes since that initial line up. We are completely dedicated to the idea of the independent aesthetic and practice it in all we do. We have never played a single gig for a big promotion organisation, but we’ve turned down plenty. We hung the phone up on mister Sony a couple of times. The cheek! Personally, we’re entertaining, film quoting and slagging machines with a flair for mild mental illness and collecting music. Did that help make things clearer? No?

LF: We like that all the bands tonight are from different places and bring a mix-match of styles and influences to the night. Do you think that the music scene in Ireland can be a bit close-minded?

Estel- Yes, indeed. What attracted me to the underground music scene was that I believed that it gave me the oppurtunity to do what I wanted without rules or expectation other than my own. Unfortunately this idea is being marginalised more and more and blandness and sameness is the thing to aspire to now. I may get a bit ranty now. Indulge me.. When I was growing up I considered myself outside of the loop of the regular chap on the street. As a result of this I suffered a barrage of abuse from the afformentioned regular chaps. Myself and my friends, as would be expected, distanced ourselves from these chaps and eventually graduated to the underground music/culture scene where I believed I would be at home. I loved and still love this culture because I am happy to exist outside of the ‘straight’ life. In the late nineties a lot of attention was garnered on the wave of bands of the time, us included, and all of a sudden previously ‘diy or die’ type bands couldn’t support shit groups or play mcd gigs quick enough in an attempt to get ‘popular’ and be ‘hip’. It turns out that these people weren’t happy to be the freaks and were just biding their time till the cool kids wanted them to be in their gang. I was always happy to be the freak. The scene has never fully recovered from this change in aspirations. As a result it has become largely fragmented, resulting in many smaller cliques with little cross pollination and a desire to ape mainstream trends [post-punk, punk funk and so on.] These genres are basically retro based and ready made so I find it disheartening that for the first time [on such a large scale] in a forward thinking and creative movement such as ‘punk’ that it has largely stalled as a creative force and has become like fucking school with cool kids and gangs and other horse shit.[it’s like fucking kula shaker pretending it was the sixties ten years ago!] hmph. There are however tons of great bands out there like- we are knives, party weirdo, drainland, cian nugent, nn-, bats, vimanas, terrordactyl, herv, janey mac, wreck of the hesperus, dennovissimus, queen kong, deep burial and hundreds more. Basically we need the next generation of people to use punk/ underground music and culture/ ideas to empower themselves and offer an actual alternative lifestyle instead of a boring soulless popularity competition. So there. Phew. Sorry about that.

LF: Estel has been around for quite a while in some shape or form, you must have quite few stories to tell. We’d love to hear ’em!?

Estel-Eh… our stories normally involve our own stupidity or disasters or the merciless goading and slagging of us by us. A few examples would be the time Tommy got mashed at a festival and lost his keys resulting in us having to smash the windows on his jeep to rescue our equipment. Tommy had to stay awake for another day or so trying to figure out what to do until a crusty gentleman he doesn’t remember ever meeting gave him his keys back and saved the day. This resulted in the popular puzzle game ‘Tommy’s key caper’.
I slagged das wanderlust from the stage in Belfast not realising that referring to them as ‘stupid english people’ might be funny, just not there.
Recording with Mike Watt and Steve Mackay from The Stooges was mind blowing. Now that’s a story!
We nearly crashed our fan in thick fog on the way to Belfast when we drove onto a roundabout. I almost shat myself. On the way back our driver almost fell asleep a couple of times! fun, fun, fun!
Aaaaaaargh I can’t think of anything else. Ask me in person at the gig and the anecdotes will pour from me. Honest.

LF: Erm on a more childish festive note, a bit of a Christmas Cracker for ye;
What kind of paper likes music?

Estel- I don’t know. Should I?. Is it something to do with a fan?
Thanks for having us again. It’s chap[ettes] like yrselves that keep us doing what we do and make us happy. Thanks. Go team you! xxxx

 

Steve Mackay – Sax Man, talks The Stooges, Iggy and ESTEL.

GALWAY ADVERTISER, AUGUST 05, 2010

Galway Advertiser 

By Kernan Andrews

STEVE MACKAY, the man who played saxophone on The Stooges, extraordinary 1970 album Funhouse and the 2007 reunion album The Weirdness, and who also toured with the band in 1970 and 2003, is coming to Galway.

On Thursday August 19 at 9pm, Steve will join Irish avant-garde/experimental rock band Estel, on stage for Strange Brew at the Róisín Dubh.

 

The Stooges and Funhouse

Steve Mackay grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to a family of Irish and Scottish descent. From a young age he was surrounded by music and was drawn to the saxophone through his mother’s record collection which included Stan Getz albums and Miles Davis’ Birth Of The Cool. However this was also the 1950s and the revolution in youth culture unleashed by rock’n’roll had a profound effect on the young man.

“There was a rockin’ tenor sax solo on almost every song on the Top 40 in 1958,” Steve tells me during our interview. “When the ‘British Invasion’ [when The Beatles, Stones and Kinks, came to the US] happened all my friends got guitars. Sax wasn’t cool but I was ‘the only one who could play a lead’. Do a Byrds’ song with the sax? No problem!”

In 1967 Steve moved to Ann Arbor, just outside Detroit, to attend the University of Michigan where he “got stoned, tripped, and radicalised almost immediately”. He also started his own band, Carnal Kitchen, a freeform drums and sax duo.

By that stage he had already heard of a band called The Iguanas and their “wild and singing drummer Iggy”. That “wild” man was James Newell Osterberg, who would later become famous the world over as Iggy Pop.

By 1968/69, Steve saw Iggy regularly at gigs in Ann Arbour and Detroit, where he was the singer in a band called The Psychedelic Stooges, and the two men started to get to know one another. Iggy was also taking time out to check out Steve’s band.

“I was impressed when Jim saw Carnal Kitchen’s first big show in 1970 from the front row, so I wasn’t surprised he invited me to jam with The Stooges,” says Steve. However he had no idea that Iggy wanted Steve to record with them as well.

Steve would eventually join the band in Los Angeles for the sessions which became the mighty Funhouse, with Steve playing sax on the title track, ‘1970’, and ‘LA Blues’.

“I didn’t know he had ‘1970’ and ‘Funhouse’ all set up for me,” Steve recalls. “Iggy said: ‘Just play like Mace Parker [James Brown’s saxman] on acid.’ I said: ‘No problem, Jim!”

Steve’s favourite song is ‘Funhouse’, where he and guitarist Ron Ashton belt out the riff with gusto (“What a chance to blow funky and free!”). However the album’s most uncompromising track is the ‘free jazz’ of ‘LA Blues’, which these days Iggy describes as something akin to “a demonic howl”.

“As a finale to our shows we would do what we called a Hippy or Freakout ending in freeform, leaving guitar and bass feeding back as we left the stage while the crowd was still passing Jim around [after one of his stagedives],” says Steve. “Don Galucci, the producer, thought it would be good to make it its own track. We did it all live in the studio.

“I always would brag about how I was high on acid when we did it until I heard Jim’s recollection that he was on acid every day during the recording. Demonic Howl indeed! Forty years later, it still stands up and we do a somewhat abbreviated version in our shows, where Mike Watt and I throw in some Coltrane.”

Steve toured with The Stooges for six months in 1970, performing in Detroit, New Orleans, St Louis, New York, and LA, after which he returned to Carnal Kitchen. However it was not to be the end of his association with The Stooges, who recruited him for live duties in 2003 and recording commitments in 2007.

“Before the reunion I had sat in with J Mascis and The Fog when they came to San Francisco, Watt on bass, Ron Asheton on guitar doing Stooges covers as part of the show,” says Steve. “Then, Scott [Ashton, Stooges drummer] and Ron did those great tracks for Iggy’s solo album Skullrings and the idea of a reunion was born. Needless to say I was delighted when I got a call from Jim (‘Do you need to rehearse?…‘No.’)

“Even if that had been a one-off, what an experience, leading to the kind of vindication very few get to experience. Before you know it, we were going to Spain, France, and Japan and began this incredible journey I never had anticipated would be taken. Jim had been laying the groundwork in Europe for 25 years on his own.

“Regarding The Weirdness I wish I had been allowed more input. I was not allowed to even hear the material until I walked into the session from the Chicago Airport. We have done some of those songs live and they sound far better than the record. It was a pleasure working, however briefly, with Steve Albini.”

Iggy and Steve remain great friends to this day and Iggy has contributed vocals to a track on Steve’s forthcoming album, Sometimes Like This I Talk.

“We talk on the phone regularly, either just for a chat or more often with saxpart suggestions,” he says. “He is a terrific bandleader and we have remained friends all these years. I have learned a lot about when and when not to play from him. I asked him how he wished to be billed in the credits for Sometimes Like This I Talk, he said however I wanted, so we just call him ‘Ypsi Jim’ after his hometown between Ann Arbor and Detroit.”

 

The return

Throughout the 1970s Steve continued to work with Carnal Kitchen, and participated in numerous collaborations, most notably with the Violent Femmes, but despite being an in-demand musician, for years many in the music media believed he had died of a drug overdose in 1975.

“A British journalist named Nick Kent wrote a Stooges/Iggy book and confused me with Zeke Zettner, Stooges bassist who sadly, in fact did die ‘of a drugs overdose in 1975’,” says Steve. “I did almost die of a collapsed lung in SF in 1983 but Snakefinger and the Femmes helped in my recovery. There was, incredibly, another premature report of my demise in the late 1990s when a namesake of mine did in fact die of AIDS in San Francisco, a Google search gone awry. Anyhow am delighted to still be among the living!”

Steve took some time out from music in the 1980s, working as an electrician, but thanks to encouragement from his partner Patricia and Iggy Pop he took up his sax and started travelling again, leading to solo recordings and work with J Mascis, The Stooges, the Radon Ensemble, and The Minutemen’s Mike Watt.

His current collaboration is with Dublin band Estel. So when they take to the stage of the Róisín Dubh, what can audiences expect?

“This will be our first tour together,” says Steve. “We will draw from Estel’s rich, if dark, musical landscape, but as going ‘where no sax player has gone before’ is my tendency, it should be a great show!”

Last year, Steve and Estel released an album featuring four tracks named after the Gospels, plus a cover of The Stooges ‘Funhouse’ (which Iggy loved). The album also features Steve’s old friend and frequent collaborator Mike Watt.

“Watt and I have become close friends over the last years and he has done so much to inspire me,” says Steve. “He is a dynamo of positive and wise energy and I am so blessed to have him in my corner.”

 

The Ultimate ESTEL article.

See other great articles on Ireland’s best music blog- http://harmlessnoise.wordpress.com

RE-INTERVIEW: ESTEL

Sarah Shiel & Andrew BusheFrom early shoots in Temple Bar, Estel celebrate a career spanning a decade in 2009. Not quite a Kurt vsCourtneySid & Nancy or Peter and Jordancourtship, the union of musicians under the Estel canopy boasts its own tale laced with euphoria, arguments and sinister tattooed visions, as rife with birth and divorce as any marriage.
“I got the vibe that they would probably kill for you once you befriended them, which was rather exciting,” confessed Fringilla Montifringilla/Party Weirdodrummer Emily when asked of her impression of first sharing a stage with Estel. “There was a distinct solidarity vibe from them as Irish underground musicians.  I was already aware they had about a million albums but I was intrigued by the magical evil-genius, swamp-girl, kill-your-Ma horrors they composed. Estel are unbelievably prolific, it’s shockin’.”

If you haven’t already heard, the Estel band are an alternative rock outfit with five albums, almost-four EPs, several singles and DVDs under their belt with more soon to come. They’ve played live in Europe and their press cuttings span the globe. Comparisons have been made likening their sound to GoblinGodspeed You! Black Emperor and even Grandaddy. Aspersions have been cast that they’re “art fags” and “not hardcore enough”. Generalisations have been made and paid for.
Over scrambled eggs in the Fairview Grill, drummer Andrew Bushe begins our interview with an informal introduction to his fellow bandmembers. Another is already in attendance: Sarah Sheil is eating peanuts and naming the Rat Pack paintings on the walls. Along with the booths and jukebox and kitsch ice-cream menu,Bushie’s horn-rimmed spectacles and her own leather jacket, we agree they suit the place quite well. What about the others?

Tommy is a fantastic engineer who records our albums as well as many other bands’ work. Bassist Andy is currently in the beginnings of a degree in psychology and also plays some fine guitar, while Aonghus has a couple of degrees including one in ethno-musicology. Sarah is a full-time artist and musician who plays a mean banjo and accordian. I’m a qualified cameraman and chef but I work as a drum teacher and collect weird movies and records.” Not a drinker, Bushie’s sobriety also provides a yang to the band’s ying.
“We have huge, varied music collections but nearly all agree on Butthole Surfers, Throbbing Gristle, Black Flag, Killing Joke, Goblin, Queen, Hawkwind, Frank Zappa, Phillip Glass, Ennio Morriconne, Burzum, Mayhem, Sonic Youth, Minutemen.  After that, having very different tastes means we constantly turn each other on to stuff that we otherwise wouldn’t hear.
“None of us are too pushed about political interests but it’s safe to say we’d all fall to the left of the fence. This does not however, instantly allege us with PC bleeding heart crybabies! Basically none of us go out of our way to behave in a manner that would cause offence to an intelligent human. For guilty pleasures, it’s safe to say we’ve all enjoyed Flash Gordon by Queen.”

Currently a quintet, members Andrew Bushe (drums), Sarah Sheil (keys), Steven Anderson (bass),Tommy O’Sullivan (guitar) and Aonghus McAvoy (synths/guitar) recently toured a five-track Untitled 1EP across the country. This latest in a long line of releases is especially precious. Recorded under an auspicious jamming haze, the EP is a collaboration featuring the bass notes of Minutemen’s Mike Watt and renownedStooges saxophone player Steve Mackay – the very same who lent wind to Zu’s jazz metal, the man whomRolling Stone claimed died in 1970. As friends rather than idols, Untitled 1 is tight and shrill, a dark dance across a canvas, one which now hangs proudly in the Estel gallery. As a truly independent band, theirs is career built from scratch, for the elusive ‘right reasons’.

We couldn’t find a drummer and convinced ourselves we didn’t need one. Those gigs proved us wrong…

Beginning in 1999, Estel saw Sarah, her guitarist sister Ashley and bassist Grainne Donohue find their feet with Saturday afternoon shows. “Estel’s first two gigs were just Ashley, Grainne and myself as we couldn’t find a drummer and convinced ourselves we didn’t need one,” begins keyboardist Sarah. “Those gigs proved us wrong…we were terrible! Bushie must have seen some potential because he offered to play drums. We decided to take him up on it as being atrociously out-of-time wasn’t really working for us.”
Atrocious maybe but independent from the start and not in a Riot Grrl reactionary way. Preferring the pragmatic approach, the three women had set about compiling their music into a set list. Men always dominated Irish music but Feminism was just an Estel fact of life…until the appearance of ex-Waltonsdrummer Andrew Bushe at one of the Doran’s gigs.
“I don’t know how I feel about Doran’s to tell the truth,” muses Andrew,  “I played many of my first gigs there so have fond memories of the place but for us it always seems like a difficult venue to pull a crowd into.”
Probably because of the free-house policy. “Basically, every Saturday in Doran’s new bands were welcome to put their name down in the afternoon and wait for their turn to play for no money, just experience.” saysSarah.”Back then myself and Ashley were on a post-rock buzz which prompted us to be mainly instrumental but Ashley could sing so there were some vocals. Coupled with the fact that my keyboard at the time was a piece of shit, I would be extremely nervous on-stage and forget my parts, so most of those gigs are best forgotten!”

“It’s a bit weird to be held accountable for shit that you did ten years ago as a band, for a gig that someone saw you play in 1999. We were really just trying to learn to play well and that resulted in us coming up with some weird stuff. People always remember you as the last time they saw you, which can be a problem for us considering we’ve evolved a lot.”

Did they realise even then, that Estel would still be truckin’ together, ten years on?
“Yep, I always knew I’d be a lifer!” quips Sarah, luckily perhaps, as most of Estel’s album art adorns her body in tattoo ink.
“I’d like to say yes, but the truth is that we’ve just continued to enjoy playing together.” Bushie says. “Eventually we passed the ten year mark.”

It’s a bit weird to be held accountable for shit that you did ten years ago as a band, for a gig that someone saw you play in 1999.

It’s clear that Estel flourished thanks to the hands-on approach of managing all aspects of band-life under the mantle of Little Plastic Tapes, from courting interest from other record labels and distributors, sourcing gigs and promotion, arranging tours, rehearsal space and recording time to art & design and merchandise, DIY at its purest. The uncompromising nature of doing it themselves appeals to musicians who equate success as artistic fidelity instead of wealth. For Estel, a healthy archive of stationary and photographs from past efforts is proof of success.
“We wanted to be in control of what we were doing/creating so that naturally led us to the idea of self-sufficiency. To this day it remains the cornerstone of our work ethic. We still make everything by hand.”Bushie says, producing an old prototype flyer for photocopying, squares of text and images stuck to the paper like a ransom note. “I think a visual aesthetic is very important to an artist in any medium. Whether it’s orange Impulse spines, Raymond Pettibon drawing for Black Flag/SSTCrass‘ collage work or Sarahpainting our album sleeves, it’s a clue as to what’s inside the package. It’s how people recognise your work amongst other artists’. Bands like us don’t advertise in magazines…our merch and artwork is our advertising.”
Sarah agrees. “Sometimes merch is the only way you can make money. We’ve always used my art for album covers and so on, that’s quite important as I feel the art visually represents the music very well. They’ve grown together and complement each other ”

From the first 4-track cassette in November 1999 to the latest black-eyed baby EP cover, Sarah’s artchronicled the band’s evolution. Her early work is tentative, cheery on the One Deep Breath EP and childish on album debut Angelpie, I Think I Ate Your Face. It’s not unreasonable to suggest Angelpie marked the end of Estel’s childhood: Ashley left shortly after its release. Produced by Stephen Shannon who later won critical acclaim for his own band Halfset, it was his first time working with the band. Steve reflects on those early days:

“I had just returned to Ireland from a few years’ travelling and had a really basic recording set-up (an eight-track and two cheap mics) in the basement of my flat in Cabra. I’d met Andy (Bushe) in college and he told me about his band, Estel, who needed to record an album.  I have fond memories of the few days it took to complete it. They were really into the DIY thing, happy to improvise and experiment. We converted one of the bedrooms into a live room for drums and placed the amps in the kitchen and on the stairs…I got evicted shortly afterwards for being noisy! Sarah’s sister Ashley sang on a lot of the songs and and her voice adds to the lo-fi charm of the record.”
Critics agreed. Angelpie, I Think I Ate Your Face was described by the Irish Times as “full of neat touches and sublime rackets” and by Hot Press as “virtually faultless”. Paul Fogarty of the Event Guide had this to say: “After releasing one of the very best singles of the year in the form of One Deep BreathAngelpie takes them a step further – an album brimming with confidence, packed with ideas, one which excites and emotes in equal measures and stands up to repeated listens effortlessly.”
By all accounts, a very successful debut for an experimental rock band, giving their off-the-wall determinism an encouraging push. Though stylistically estranged, the confusion around Estel’s not quite post-rock debut in 2000 seemed akin to those of And So I Watch You From Afar and Adebisi Shank today, not quite Punk, not quite Math Rock, definitely Irish.

The line-up swelled in 2001 to admit Michael Sheil on guitar for one song, Regardez-Moi, released as a split 7″ with Joan of Arse on Road Records’ Relish label (the other song Starting Fights At Taxi Ranks was recorded by Steve Albini, which didn’t do Joan of Arse any harm at all). Releases like this have been the lynchpins of the band’s discography. CD collectors don’t burn with the same zeal as vinyl hoarders and albums on iTunes lack the romance of a rare 7″ single or bootleg DVD. Credit where it’s due, you have to admire the consistent creativity that goes into regular releases in various media, the ambition and involvement in keeping things fresh, For DIY bands, there are no safe choices, every financial endeavor is a risk and so in recent years sporadic CD-format albums and EPs have become the music scene’s stable currency. Green Lights‘ Colin Boylan recently spoke to Drop-d of his annoyance at Irish bands’ sparse habits, and one can only wonder how much difference it would make if all independent bands took a leaf from Estel’s book and competed by way of once-off releases, touring new material to maintain interest and fund more full-length albums.
“With regards to releasing albums I think that it’s important to put out the stuff you write so the listener can piece together the evolution of the band’s style and ideas. Too many  great bands break up having never released a single CDr, why? If you have ten songs that you deem worthy put them out there!”
Such ideals propelled Estel to continue releasing, no matter how stern the scene appeared, and no doubt, each record brought its own lessons. With a decade’s experience, what observations have the band made of the DIY scene? Ideally, what should happen next?
“One of the main things I’ve noticed is a change of opinions.” says Bushie. “There used to be  very honest peer-to-peer criticism [at least with my friends] and we really paid attention to each others’ opinions. Now, it seems more bands look to the audience for approval and get really bummed out if they don’t play to big crowds or if they don’t sell X amount of CDs. The truth of the matter is, you should be fucking honoured if a single person will leave their house, travel and then hand you money they earned to see you on a stage. The same goes for selling albums. Audience numbers + units sold does not = quality of art.”
“A lot of people exist out there, good folks who put gigs on all around the country with no financial gain for themselves,” Sarah counters, “but it seems to me that in the last couple of years the scenes have become truly segregated.  People want to go to gigs where they’re guaranted all the bands will sound and look the same, nice and safe.”

You should be fucking honoured if a single person will travel and hand you money they earned to see you on a stage.

“If I could see two things happen,” Bushie continues, “they’d be firstly, to see more labels like Out On A LimbRichter Collective, Stitchy Press and so on releasing more, so that Punk bands wouldn’t have to look outside of Ireland to get records released on a bigger scale. There are always bands out there making amazing music in the Punk ethic…by “Punk”, I refer to independent, underground music, not GBH and the exploited. These bands can be amazing, beautiful, fucked-up and challenging to the listener. These are the bands that you won’t hear about unless you go looking for them.
“On the other hand, there are bands who lack common sense to resist playing shitty showcase gigs in order to turn up on inane ‘118 Irish Bands To Look Out For‘ lists. I think that they may have missed the fucking point.”
“Secondly, if kids in small towns didn’t have to leave for bigger cities once they reach 18 or 19, if there was a way to consolidate the many school/punk/indie/alternative/goth/metal bands that exist in every corner of Ireland that would result in a much bigger network for ALL Irish bands. Imagine being able to book an Irish tour that lasted for more than five gigs without losing money! Sweeet.”

Estel’s first heartbreak came when founding guitarist Ashley Sheil returned to native Roscommon in 2001. The crack was patched by the recruitment of Jamie Farrell on bass, with Grainne shifting to guitar. Over the next year they reassembled as a foursome – naturally, the music changed. True Stories/My Raymond Is Contagious was the first release under this new line-up, a 7″ funded by Ivan Pawle, a friend who joined the band in live sets as a synths player. Gelling into a new form, Estel gigged frantically, embarking on a very satisfactory UK tour with Bilge Pump.
At this point of 2003, instrumental music was in full-bloom. While The Jimmy Cake and Redneck Manifesto (with The Waltons’ Matty Bolger) set their own high standards, young men in Cork and Wicklow emerged as Rest and God Is An Astronaut. Also produced by Steve Shannon (though in a ’serious’ studio), 2003’s A Guide In Time of Great Danger marked a new point of change, charging into second-album territory with little trace of Angelpie’s successful whimsy. The symmetric line-up pounded out, invigorated by art, combining elements of Krautrock and New Wave for a brasher, progressive sound. Although her strength had always been inventive bass, Grainne’s transition to guitar struck a new line in the sand, its delivery more pronounced than Ashley’s previous offerings, growling with the vigour of earlySonic Youth, adeptly vying with Sarah’s rich keyboards. Rough edges knocked off, the “weird stuff” that resulted in Estel’s music was essentially Irish but clearly marked them out amongst their fellows. Guest collaborations on the album included Hugh Holmes (also of The Waltons) and one Adrian Crowley, who’d become acquainted with Bushie on the gigs scene. On recording with Estel, he remembers the details vividly:
“As I walked into the common room of the studio the rest of the band were playing pool and sitting around. There was this terrifying screaming coming from the studio monitors. I looked in shock at the others and someone said ‘oh that’s the other guest vocalist, he’ll be finished in a minute’.
“I remember the exact date: March 15th 2003 – my son had just been born four days earlier. I’d just played two gigs, really I shouldn’t have been anywhere but home that week. I’d travelled back from Belfast totally exhausted and all my nerves were shot. I had my book of lyrics containing some words for the song which I’d written a few days before – at night in the maternity hospital waiting room. Bushie introduced me to the engineer (Stephen Shannon!) and I tentatively started whispering my words into the microphone. A few minutes later I came out of the vocal booth, disheveled and spent. Everyone was standing there, just smiling.”

Crowley’s single vocal take became the prepossessing, poignant Electric EelsA Guide In Time of Great Danger garnered itself a new dossier of reviews and no doubt, an array of new faces at numerous gigs. Though all seemed well for Estel, behind the scenes a rift had formed and deepened. Tensions mounted, arguments erupted over associates, ethics and style. Despite the album’s resounding success, the line-up was not working and eventually in January 2004 Grainne Donohue and Jamie Farrell decided to leave and start up on their own, marking the biggest turning point for the band to date.
“People drift apart, musically and personally, it happens….” reflects Sarah. “Previous members of Estel took a different path; I think both parties have benefited and are happier for it.”
“We’ve only ever parted on bad terms once.” Bushie interjects. “Considering we’ve had a lot of line-ups I reckon that’s pretty good going. We grew apart, someone was asked to leave. We didn’t think it was such a big deal at the time, they didn’t seem to like the direction the band was taking anyway.  When this happened, someone else left too. To this day, I regret that stuff caused such hurt feelings.”
“So yeah, we had a few capers down the years but no casualties yet. When you’ve been around for as long as us, you’re bound to have line-up changes. You just have to be honest and not be a prick about it.” finalises Sarah.

Grainne and Jamie’s new offshoot, wildly different, was named Cap Pas Cap. Away they went, expanding the No/New Wave sound that began with AGITOGD, resulting in the dainty and deep Not Not Is Fine EP in 2006. Jamie’s work with Peter Symes in the promotions company Skinny Wolves really took off and booking obscure art-rocking bands before anyone else had heard of them eventually led to the successful expansion into their own record label, recently resulting in a split offering from bright Indie favouritesTelepathe and Effi Brieste.

When you’ve been around for as long as us, you’re bound to have line-up changes. You just have to be honest and not be a prick about it…

Down to nuts and bolts, where did that leave Estel? Fed up of being compartmentalised as post-rock and aware of the pitch and roll of popularity tides, Sarah and Bushie rejected the attention of the media and set about rebuilding the band. Enter Stephen Anderson on bass and guitarist Tommy O’Sullivan of the Blood Red Dolls, a sound engineer who’d recorded Estel’s previous incarnation, although the songs were never released. For any band, this new era would be tumultuous and uncertain but if anything, it seemed to inject a new lease of life into the unit. Once again a four-piece but with the balance now weighing firmly in the male favour, Estella had got their groove back.
This became clear on the arrival of album #3, My Dreams Are Like Rabbits, They Built A Tunnel, Fell On To The Pavement And Died, its nefarious title perhaps a band in-joke at the hyperbolic names apparent in the post-rock genre they so keenly sought distance from.  While zines and sites picked up on Estel’s latest, this album did not scoop the rave reviews from Irish press as their predecessors had. Keeping the media at arm’s length had proved to be a double-edged sword.
My Dreams Are Like Rabbits became a truly definitive record in the band’s history, a corporeal representation of their furious determination to evolve and expand on all that had gone before. As with all their goals, they were successful: when ‘Rabbits emerged, it showed yet another mutation of the band’s sound, dark and proggy, the vocal tracks this time coarse and courtesy of Bushie and Tommy on I Am But A Vessel. Three of the songs (Running With Scissors, Instrumental in the Killing and Stab You At A Later Date) had been written with Grainne and Jamie but fit neatly into the new package. Tommy’s engineer capabilities came to the fore, resulting in Estel at their most fully-realised sound so far. Local engineers and producers have always played an important role in the production of their music:
“There’s a mindset that if people don’t like your band, you better pay some bozo in Butthole, Montana, thousands of euros to make you sound like another band that the kids already dig,” argues Bushie. “This causes two main problems: regional scenes lose what made them special in the first place – unique sounds specific to that area. The underground music takes another step towards it all sounding the same.
“Second and most importantly, the money that goes towards paying these people and on flights etc. could well be spent recording with local engineers and putting out more local albums. We have incredible engineers working in the Punk arena in Dublin, give them your money! Eventually people will want to come here based on the quality of the work that was made in Ireland. Does it really matter if people in London don’t like your stuff? It’s still fairly tough to get bookings other than stuff we go out and get ourselves. Surely we should worry about having a good touring network and audience in every county in Ireland before we worry about elsewhere?”

We have incredible engineers working in Dublin…Eventually people will come here based on quality work made in Ireland.

In this respect, it seemed keeping the music press at arm’s length had its drawbacks. At their productive zenith, powering on fourth album, The Bones of Something, the band found the network they needed to promote their music in Ireland had shrunk, not because of a tail-off in quality or inflated ego, simply because cultivating a public image as a currency was not part of the band ethic.
“When we started there were a lot of fanzines around to do interviews with, the bigger magazines had people writing for them that were quite open to interesting music and would do their best to cover unusual records. This has changed quite a bit, for us anyhow. For example, with the Watt/Mackay/Estel CD, we didn’t get reviews in any of the big magazines despite sending out the copies. Surely that record is an important artifact for Irish underground music? It’s far more difficult to get written about these days, not because we’ve been pricks but because we haven’t sucked cock. It’s almost like a punishment for not kissing ass for ten years. ”

Normally, papers and magazines certainly might be interested in such a collaboration – Watt and Mackayhad never recorded before despite playing with the same band, albeit at different times – namely The Stooges, who headlined Electric Picnic in 2006, just hours before the Estel session. However, those who wrote about post-rock in the early 2000s moved on to pastures new and the current field of music criticism is a different shade of green, minus the bitter sap of past rejection. So if it’s not personal, is it safe to suggest Estelno longer garner attention because they’re simply not cool?
“We’re not looking for outward acceptance. We need music to work and please us first and foremost.” Bushie is ambivalent. “With the Internet it’s become easier to take personal jabs at people that you generally wouldn’t take in person. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that a person is entitled to any opinion but you get people likeNialler9 making comments of “indulgent pants”…why go on the net just to slag someone’s work off? After ten years, a lot of people respect us and enjoy our art. On the other hand the country is full of kids that have never heard us. Now the scene has become so genre-orientated they may never be exposed to our music, which is a bit shit really because I think it’s taken this long to really blossom as a band.”

Sarah Sheil & Andrew BusheSarah seems to operate very much in the here and now, united with the structure of Andy, Aonghus, Bushie and Tommy, focused on music yet to come. Popular opinion is irrelevant “When we first started, we quickly became flavour of the month but I was a bit lost…we weren’t making the type of music I wanted to be making. With the line up we have now, finally we’re writing and performing the heavier, more atmospheric music I always had in mind. We have always tried to involve interesting people and friends with a guest vocal or laying down some guitar or synth tracks to keep it challenging but in the last two years we have met and recorded with some great musicians I consider very important in the development of Estel, musically and personally.”

“At the beginning the band was very tight as a unit, on and off stage. As time progressed and line-ups changed…we lost the rapport that we once had with each other as people. It took us a while to get that back.” Bushieis matter-of-fact. “I think that at the start we had the same motivation that we have now – to put out good records and to make the best art that we can without compromising ourselves. We get up on stage to try to purge ourselves, reach another state through music. There are moments when it synchronises…you forget the other guys, the audience, and most importantly, yourself as an individual.”

We get up on stage to reach another state through music…when it synchronises…you forget the other guys, the audience, and most importantly, yourself as an individual.

We as humans learn who we are by what we like, and by shaping art, give it the power to shape us into individuals. Estel make Art. Huff and puff if you like or agree to disagree: the fact is, they think, make and do without demand. Art is attainable perfection. Ideal societies are confined to daydreams and fiction, the notion of paradise is foreign as an island in the sea. With art however, in the right medium, people can create their own ideal and refine it. The beauty resides in its subtlety, the profoundly intimate experience of its interpretation. Some look at it, some create it, some act it…whether by word or body, brush or beat, we look to art for answers to our own credulous imagination. The enduring impression of this band, from the paint strokes, drum rolls, guitar-squalls and paper prints, is an evolving excercise of imagining aloud.

Nostalgia will evoke definite recollection, though as of yet, they are undefined. Nonetheless, the band whose name means ‘hope‘ in Tolkien’s Elvish made their own reality. There is a place named Estel in the music realm of Ireland’s culture, populated with records, faces and performances.  The terrain is rough and ploughed with furrows but true to nature, Estel play ever hopefully on, never stopping for applause between songs.

Interview with Soundtracks For Them. [James R.]

Sometimes a piece of art can represent more than just itself. Through how it intertwines with what’s around it, it can take on new meanings. You might be able to say the same of Estel. One of the photo sliders on their Myspace sails through a montage of gig fliers stretching through the best part of Dublin’s underground live output for the first decade of this millennium. Estel so, through their longevity are like a wormhole through our city’s underground. They’ve been enveloping audiences in sonic depths, quick shifting moods and textures for a decade now.
Sometimes gentle and sometimes pummelling, but always furrowing ahead with their own sound and a firm, firm commitment to musical independence. And that’s a long time to be stalking the floors of Dublin’s underground gig scene in its ever shifting array of tastes. They recently celebrated their tenth birthday with the launch of a unique collaboration with two underground icons: bassist Mike Watt of seminal Californian hardcore crew the Minutemen and saxophonist Steve MacKay of The Stooges. Here, their drummer Bushie joins us with impressions of changing line ups, shit talking music blogs and working with your heroes.
The interview with Estel drummer Bushe continues after the leap…

There been significant shifts in shifts in the Estel sound over the past couple of years, can you take us through some of them or did I just imagine them?
Eh, I think that we just progressed over the passed few years and we’ve become more confident with our playing. I also think that we’ve become far less self concious as a group of people in a band and we’ve stopped being afraid to experiment with aspects of our sound like the long repetitive pieces that might last twenty or thirty minutes in a live setting. Again, it’s really just progress. You can’t do the same thing forever or constantly churn out what you think people expect of you because then no-ones happy, especially us! I think that if you’ve seen us live over the past ten years that the changes happened subtly enough to not be super noticeable but if you drop in and out of seeing or listening to us then the changes may appear significant.
Estel have been around a pretty long time, so how have you seen the Dublin underground grow and change? Road Records is closing down, spaces for gigs seem to be ever shrinking, music blogs shatter small scenes into tinier parts and Micromedia chew up poster space. Are ye optimistic, pessimistic or “what evs?”
I think that the underground scene here has become more and more narrow in terms of what’s acceptable and I think that it has become so fragmented that, like you said, it’s full of tiny scenes now. Don’t get me wrong, there were shit heads then of course, but now it’s a different type of shithead. It’s become more nice to your face, talk shit about you behind your back on my almost dyslexic blog, using a pseudonym, y’know? I would almost go as far as saying that one of the biggest problems with the ’scene’ in the last decade or so is the proliferation of the internet as a tool for people to become critics.
Because in a small local scene the pieces always carry a personal edge, so for example, if some people stop associating with you and then talk shit about you to all and sundry you will soon notice a lot of bizarre misinformation all over the internet regarding you. The problem is that people actually believe this toss.
It’s like the punk thing of ‘anyone can do it’ – this is true, but it might be shit. I guess what I’m doing is drawing a parallel between crap internet people and the exploited. Of course there are amazing, informative blogs in Ireland too, I’m just pointing out the problems. I think though that we must be optimistic, right now we have some great labels and artists/musicians in Dublin doing they’re thing so be hopeful!
Many of you had other projects on the go for a while too, and it leaves me with the impression that the Dublin punk scene of the late 1990’s and early millennium was a pretty fertile place given the amount of bands to come from it?
To tell the truth, by 1998 the scene had sort of come to a standstill. Most of the bands (Blackbelt Jones, Jackbeast, Porn, Holemasters, Waltons, Cheapskate, Null Set, Stomach, Jubilee, Wormholes…) had either stopped or gone into hibernation. Most of the zines and venues had followed suit. I think what happened then was that a lot of people started trying stuff out together in rehearsal rooms, sometimes with many projects on the go at once and by coincidence these bands all emerged at the same time. With a lot of them trying to deny their roots in the punk scene! it was a fun time to make music but no more fun than now.
What contemporary bands raise your interest?
Continuous battle of order, Sexbat [of course!], Adebisi Shank, Realistic Train, Terrordactyl, Cian Nugent, Dave Lacy, Coldwar, Janey Mac, Queen Kong, Seomhrai Geireadh, E.S.B, Drainland, Kidd Blunt, Yurt, Selahh, Herv. Tons more local stuff. There’s a lot of good stuff out there if you can wade through the not so good.
How did Estel itself start off? I heard something before that you started off as an NCAD art project? How did it grow beyond that to becoming a full time band?
I saw Sarah, Ashley and Grainne play a gig in Eamonn Doran’s without a drummer and I asked for the job. I once said that they seemed like a bizarre art project. In an effort to make us seem hip someone then claimed that the band were an art project. This is an untruth. As for the NCAD connection I can’t help you sir, as no member current or former ever attended. But if I ever wanted to use three years of taxpayers money doing drugs or taking photos of my finger up someone’s ass I’d be there sooo quick.
You must have had some ups and downs over the past few years, so if you were to trawl through those and had to come out with your best memory and worst then what would you have for us?
Best memories would be every time you hold a new release in your hands for the first time, writing songs, meeting Watt and Mackay and recording with them, getting to travel, playing with great bands like Acid Mothers Temple, Lightning Bolt, the Secondmen and The Ex. As for worst- when people leave the band it can be quite stressful.
I think that when Jamie and Grainne left it was very weird because a lot of bad feeling was thrown our way and in an effort to rewrite events a lot of misinformation was spread or at the very least encouraged by them regarding us. I think anyone who knows us or has worked with us knows that we’re not heartless pricks and that we’ll put up with a lot of silliness before the shit hits the fan so I wish that the entire debacle could have worked out differently and I want to make it clear that we have no ill will towards them, and perhaps that could be that?
Art seems pretty important in the music of Estel, the covers are always gloriously haunted and chime in with the music. Just how important is art to Estel and does the term “art rockers” pain you?
Well Sarah is a full time artist and she’s painted all of our album sleeves. How’s that for art rock? I suppose that we are art rockers in the original sense of the word, if stuff like early Pink Floyd and psych bands were considered ‘art mods’ or ‘art rock’ and what we do is, to a degree, a continuation of that lineage, then yes, we are an ‘art’ band. I think that the artwork is a very important part of our aesthetic and I, as a record collector, like when bands or labels use a consistent visual image- Raymond Pettibon and SST/Black Flag, Hypgnosis and Pink Floyd, Nick Blinko and Rudimentary Peni, Crass stuff etc…
How did the collaboration with Mike Watt and Steve McKay come about? They’ve both got quite the track record and you must have been thrilled to record with them?
We opened for Watt’s band, the Secondmen in 2005 and he really dug us. We kept in touch and he asked us to send him some estel shirt’s to wear at gigs with the Stooges at the Leed’s festival and then at both nights at the ATP nightmare before Christmas gigs. Eventually he ended up contributing a poem for a track on our fourth album, ‘the bones of something’. When the Stooges played here at the Electric Picnic a couple of years ago we got guest listed for the gig and met up with Watt. We hung around with him at his hotel the next day and he asked if we could arrange some studio time for the following day. When we arrived to pick him up, Steve Mackay had asked if he could come and we were only too happy to say yes! This is the first session that Watt and Mackay ever recorded together. The second session was recorded last year when the Stooges played in Kilmainham. That session will be unearthed and mixed for a release later this year sometime.
A decade in, and there are no signs of tiring, you’ve two other albums in the pipe-line this year? Another collaboration and a your own fifth album? That right? What else can we expect from you in 2009?
Yeah, we’re currently in the mixing stages of our own fifth album and we’ve almost written our sixth. We have the second session with Watt and Mackay to mix and we’re hoping to do a short tour with US band Sikhara and record an album with them. I’m also looking for someone to help me put out a retrospective of the band’s out of print singles, cassettes and session work that never got released. Also we have gigs lined up with Tim holehouse, Monsters killed by lazers, bilge pump and oVo amongst others and a possible tours of Germany and the UK. I’m sure about a quarter of this stuff will actually happen in the next year!

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Interview With The Event Guide

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.”….