YA: What on Earth is an Esper Scout?
ES: An ‘Esper’ is someone with ‘extra sensory perception’, first written down in Alfred Bester’s ‘Oddy and Id’ short story and since used in Blade Runner, Akira and Final Fantasy I believe. There’s an 80s TV show called ‘Espers’ too – want to find a copy of that! With the ‘Scouts’ being a group of people, the full name refers to a gang who are connected through something you can’t quite put your finger on – this includes audiences and people who follow the band. Especially at gigs there’s a feeling between people which goes beyond sight and sound – an ‘Esper Scout’ is our term for somebody who’s part of that, or is looking for it.
YA: How did you four originally get together?
ES: Me, Kirsty and Rebecca met in Manchester when we were teenagers and formed a punk band from school into college. Kirsty and I played sport together and bonded over our mix tapes on a year 9 trip to Germany! With Rebecca we moved up to Leeds around seven years ago and kept making music – finding Lou on the Internet. The four of us have been together six years but Esper Scout I think for four.
YA: How do you think being based in Leeds shapes the band?
ES: We left Manchester after getting the feeling that it wasn’t a comfortable creative and productive place for us. The promoters in Leeds are supportive and it’s easy to put on your own gigs, especially at Wharf Chambers, The Fox and Newt and The Packhorse. Jonny Strangeways, Nathan Brudenell, Adam British Wildlife and Nick Dead Young are all doing good things for the local music scene. There’s also other promoters such as Third Eye and Destroy All Monsters bringing artists from outside the city as well as giving due line up spots for local acts. For youngsters and elder, aspiring artists there’s the Leeds Music Hub, who provide lessons, workshops and seminars. I’ve seen it grow and develop since blobbing a few strokes of paint on their walls before opening-up and myself and Rebecca recently helped with their zine club as Bomb the Twist.
YA: Can you tell us a little bit more about the Bomb The Twist, the collective that you’re a part of? What can we expect next from it?
ES: It started out just as a small label to release some of our stuff on and arrange gigs. After realising that we were surrounded by some really passionate and talented people we decided to start a zine with Antonia who runs Sticky Shoes all-ages events. We encourage anyone to contribute, somebody has moments, words, pictures etc. which are important to them, meaning anyone has value and we like being a part of sharing that expression out.
YA: One of the hopes of our gigs is to show some younger people who might be getting their first taste of DIY music what’s out there and what is available to them, so what lessons have you learnt that you’d like to pass on?
ES: You can do more for yourself than it might seem at first. Putting a band together, organising gigs and meeting people can feel like a big job but if you care enough you’ll see it start to happen. It might not be overnight but you’ll find people to help you make music, express yourself, reach an audience and have fun. Ed Heaton and ELFM are really passionate about helping young people to play their first gigs and find their feet with opportunities and advice.
YA: How do you find all-ages gigs compared to your average 18+ evening gig?
ES: Youth Anthems will be our third and we love playing to kids so much. This summer we’ve played with Jeffrey Lewis and at Sticky Shoes festival in Wakefield, making young friends and fans. One six year old girl wears our t-shirt to bed, her Dad sent me a photo of it this week. Feels so good that parents bring their children out to music events, in search of positive role models which they can look up to.
YA: Top three bands that have influenced Esper Scout and your favourite three cakes?
ES: That’s quite tricky because it’s not often all four of us will agree on anything! The yoga class we go to plays Bonobo, so we can probably settle on that at least. If there’s ever tension in the tour van I’ll be sure to put that on, calm by associated memories of stretching out. Someone said recently that we’re a mix of Pearl Jam and All Saints, so there’s something to go on!
We’re yet to try any of That Old Chesnut’s cakes but will be on to sorting that straight away! Rebecca (bass) makes a great gluten-free chocolate cake – as Lou (drums) can’t eat wheat. Banana bread is good too…and vanilla slice!
YA: Any parting words?!
ES: Mainly a big thanks for having us play for you! I first heard of Youth Anthems through your Post War Glamour Girls line-up; all-ages events really are worthwhile. To see kids dancing with no self-consciousness, just giving their bodies up to music is a wonderful thing. The joy of seeing that can distract me from playing because I want to watch them and their expressions rather my guitar fretboard!