“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.