E’spaniel are a jangly synth pop trio from the north east of England, comprising of Christianne (above left) on vocals & guitar, Karen (middle) on bass, and Leon (right) on vocals, guitar, drum machine & keys. They first came to my attention thanks to the infectious brilliance of their track Talking Shop, which opened up the April Mixtape. They’ve just released their debut album, Entra Solo, which came out on July 2nd, and now face a Q&A, so read on to find out more about the band, the record, plus nappies and a superpower solution to help with parking issues!
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~ Where are you right now, and what can you see?
Christianne: I’m at work, and I can see a tree outside my window, a bunch of people at desks in a large open plan office, and decorations out for the World Cup.
Karen: On a bus going to work. I can see a bookies to the right and a new Aldi being built to the left.
Leon: Sitting at home, in front of the laptop, Iran v Spain, 0-0 – half time whistle blows as I’m writing this sentence.
~ What’s the musical background to the three of you, and how did you get together?
We’ve known each other for years and played together in local bands before, but started E’spaniel to create something fresh and new with more of an electronic feel. We’ve also played in lots of other local bands independently as well. We ended up as a three piece through playing with quite a few drummers over the years, and we decided to use a drum machine with pre-recorded synth just to keep us playing in a band together.
~ How long has it taken to write, record, and put the album together?
It was recorded in Blank Studios in Heaton, Newcastle by Sam Grant, and was mixed and produced by Steve Whitfield in Leeds, who has done lots of work with The Cure, one of our favourite bands. It’s taken a few years to create – we’ve lost track of dates, perhaps intentionally. The process has been lengthened with one of us having to write and programme the drums and synth.
~ What proved to be the biggest challenge when making the album?
Getting to grips with the technology (drum machine, software and the laptop) to ensure that we could recreate what we did on the album in a live setting, and learning as we went. For example, we didn’t realise that we needed to use an audio interface to play the music live with. It’s been trial and error really. We nearly purchased an eight track portable studio thing which would have been a disaster in the making.
~ What’s the one album from your youth you couldn’t live without?
Christianne: Sugar – Copper Blue
Karen: The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
Leon: The Velvet Underground – LIve 1969 Volume 1
~ If you had the choice, which famous person would you love to get to drive the E’spaniel tour bus, and why?
Christianne: Well, my pick would be the Hound from the Game of Thrones (Rory McCann). I’ve read that he can play several instruments, including the drums, so would be handy if the drum machine broke down. He’s a funny guy too, so would keep us entertained, and have you seen the size of him – he could carry all of our equipment and no one would give us the old ‘well I only made £10 on the door, so here’s £2.50 towards your petrol’ ever again. My other choices would be either Peter Kay, or Steve Pemberton or Reece Shearsmith from the League of Gentlemen – I don’t think they would be as effective in the carrying gear or extracting petrol money stakes, but they would give us some good laughs and chit chat which would help the time pass.
Karen: Chris Packham because he’s got impeccable wildlife knowledge, good music taste, and a fine collection of threads. He could make those long journeys really wild.
Leon: Definitely Karl Pilkington because he would make long journeys fly over and you would get free ‘life’ advice. He’s a genius, and could also contribute to stage sets and song arrangements I reckon. Wouldn’t carry equipment though, he’d make a rubbish excuse to get out of it.
~ Are there any other new bands or musicians in the North East that you recommend we check out?
Yes… Outside your House and (shameless plug for Karen’s other band) The Artisans.
~ If the three of you were asked to curate a festival stage, what six bands/artists would you invite to perform?
British Sea Power
Belle and Sebastian
My Bloody Valentine
~ Which of you would win the award for the least ‘rock musician’ thing you’ve done this week?
Christianne: I think I would, (and Leon?) for changing nappies.
Leon: Yeah, changing nappies alongside cleaning up cat vomit.
~ If you could each have a superpower for a day, what would it be?
Christianne: Mine would be to stop time, so I could get all the things I needed to get done, write some songs, watch a film, and still have a bit of time left over to catch up on sleep.
Karen: A mind reader, well it would be interesting wouldn’t it?
Leon: I would choose the good old ability to fly. I absolutely hate sitting in traffic on the way (and coming back) from work so if I could fly I’d get there in 5 minutes. No parking issues either.
~ What do you have planned for the second half of 2018?
Promoting the album, continuing work on the next set of songs, and hopefully some touring.