Estrons: An Interview

Tali of Estrons is having none of my shit.

“It’s kind of a non-question” she says when I ask on her take on the refugee crisis, “it’s just fucked, isn’t it?”

She’s not fucking with my question about what makes someone ‘punk’ in 2017, either. “I’m so fed up of that word being thrown around. I just think it’s so easy to say ‘there’s a girl and she’s singing and not playing guitar, therefore it’s punk.’ But it’s actually just really heavy pop music.”

Honestly, it isn’t the music itself that makes “lazy journalists” box Estrons up as punk, it’s an attitude. It isn’t there in the riffs or the rhythm, or because of the female lead. It’s in the bubbling anger of the delivery. An Estrons song is a poisonous internal diatribe let loose like a shaken can of beer.

‘Refreshing’ is such a dull word, but for want of a better one, that’s exactly what Tali’s total lack of bullshit – both on and off stage – is. Case in point: cigarettes and alcohol are the things she’d choose to describe herself in a show-and-tell with an alien. “This is what I do to damage my liver [and] this is what I do to damage my lungs. We’re so miserable on the face of this planet that we just slowly commit suicide over the space of thirty years…if they lived here I guarantee they’d smoke as well.”

It’s this barefaced frankness that makes songs like 2015’s (Flying Vinyl B side) Make a Man and anti-fuck boy anthem I’m Not Your Girl as powerful as they are. Tali’s vitality is channeled through the whole band, fizzing from guitar to bass to drum kit and back again: mutinous, melodic and cathartic.

Out on the road, Estrons “want people to be…blown away by the songs.” This particular crowd certainly is, as crowd-surfing, mosh pit turbulence and general ecstasy peak during both new songs and ones that they already know all the words to.

“My son learnt to walk in a service station”

The crowd bay for EP opener Belfast, and Tali gives it to them, but only after debuting a slew of new tracks that take pop by the throat and thrust it into motorcycle boots.

As with any musician, there’s a softer side that doesn’t see the light of stage. As we discuss the “hours and hours of motorway travel” that make up a band’s existence, talk turns to Tali’s son who, I’m told, “learnt to walk in a service station.”

The M42 services, to be exact: “he kept trying to walk into the Over-18 gaming section: he wanted to gamble so much he actually walked himself there.”

Little Björn also went out on tour with Slaves, who he loved and who loved him: “they wear lots of jewellery in their ears so he was always going for their faces and tattoos,” she says, recalling the tour that took the band to some of the UK’s smaller, forgotten venues.

“The reason you do it in these towns is because big music doesn’t go there anymore,” Tali says of September’s Back in the Van Tour that took the two bands to Penzance and St Alban’s via Bridgend and Hebden Bridge, “we want to do another one.”

Before talk of a new road trip though, there’s the current headline tour to complete, the release of “a few singles over the next couple of months” and then an album, to be recorded “towards the end of the year.”

Through it all, Estrons will remain “not in any way manufactured.” Whether you think that Estrons’ music represents bitterness, frustration, feminism, no bullshit, ecstasy or all of the above, the fact of the matter is this: “I’m just representing myself.”

A version of this article first appeared here on Flying Vinyl 

The Bay Rays: An Interview

Much like Slaves and The Rolling Stones before them, The Bay Rays are short on satisfaction.

But – the trio muse on the cool back steps of Camden’s Dingwalls – perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing.

“To strive for satisfaction keeps you going; it gets you in a freezing cold van to the next venue,” says Max, the drummer of the Flying Vinyl alumni.
“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” adds bassist Anthus.

Harry, the frontman of the Kent-born punk-indie outfit, is laconic compared to his bandmates, which is odd, considering it is he who writes the lyrics which make The Bay Rays that perfect representation of a disillusioned youth.

The things he does contribute are as carefully-chosen and poignant as lyrics such as “I hate this feeling”, which drill through the heart of yet-to-be-released breakneck single Integration.
As a united whole, the band are similarly to-the-point. Their supporting slot at Dingwalls before tour-buddies Hidden Charms is a heart-stopping race of heavy, infectious rhythms provided honeyed by Harry’s falsetto-yet-punk vocals.

“I hate this feeling”

The young audience they are playing for are part of their generation; the same generation we discuss before the show, that have “stopped learning things” in favour of that more convenient entertainment centre: social media.

“As a concept it’s very weird,” considers Anthus, whose louche style is reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards, “It’s very vain: I’m going to post this and you’re going to like it.”
“We tried to hold off on social media for a long time, but it was inevitable,” says Max, “everyone is guilty of the fix.”

“Kids now are going to grow up and look forward to seeing pictures of their childhood and they’re going to get a picture of them with a Snapchat halo on their head” Anthus predicts exasperatedly, “where are the days when you wore an awful bobbly hat that made your head itch? Now you’ve got a fucking halo on your head.”

Outside the cold confines of a smartphone screen, there are those who not-quite-so-literally have a halo perched on their long hair. “Hidden Charms are charms…it’s really easy to get along with them.”

What have you learnt from them as performers?

“Their freedom.” Anthus says immediately. “They’re very relaxed and enjoy it…they put on quite a show.”

True, Hidden Charms’ headlining performance is an uninhibited dream filled with bluesy riffs that swell and fade in a way that puts one irresistibly in mind of open-top cars gliding through American desert. Keys man Ranald even emerges mid-crowd to solo on his mouth organ.

The Bay Rays’ assertion that the difference in their performances is an “interesting contrast” is an accurate observation, though Max is also right when he suggests that “if you bought a ticket for the night you’re going to get a good show.” Their supporting set is the perfect Ramones-esque antidote to Hidden Charms’ more languorous, elongated songs that seem to run seamlessly into one another. They too are a great live band.

Of course, we already knew that. The up-and-comers played the headline slot on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury last year, catapulting Satisfaction, Integration and Flying Vinyl A and B sides New Home and Four Walls into the warm Somerset evening.

Playing hits that have pricked Liam Gallagher’s ears. It’s a far cry from the drudgery of the 9-5 they used to work. Or the cover band they started up as, for that matter. “When you see people jumping around but it’s not actually your songs…your soul disappears!” Playing Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bruno Mars has taught the trio plenty about crowd reaction, though: “the way they’re written reacts with people and we thought ‘fuck it: we’ll do our own stuff!’”

And that is, of course, what they did.

The result is a short but powerful rollcall of hits that embrace both frenetic basslines and thrilling, politically-relevant vocals which reflect a youth-led backlash against the ugly rise of Fascism.A fury at the state of things gives “a common direction of everyone pulling together,” Anthus says when I ask how art will react to the Brexit/Trump-shaped void we’re currently staring into. “It’s a creative moment, and I think if you don’t utilise what’s going on socially and get inspired by it, then surely you’re playing an instrument just to make sound.”

A deeply satisfying assessment, wouldn’t you say?

A version of this article first appeared here on Flying Vinyl