I met up with the very talented singer, multi-instrumentalist and beat-maker Estère at the Rhythm & Alps music festival on New Years Eve. We sat down by the creek and chatted about her background, influences, recent work with DC-born MC & Producer Oddisee, and opening for Erykah Badu.
First of all tell me a bit about yourself, where you grew up, what you do.
My name is Estère, I'm from Wellington, New Zealand, and what I do is produce on an MPC called Lola. We produce in my bedroom mostly, what we do is we record different instruments that I just have around the place or different sounds, then I put it through my computer, add an effect or whatever and put it in to Lola and then produce songs from that. And then I make beats and I sing, I write songs on top of them, and use my synthesiser.
What made you come up with the name Lola for your sound kit?
I love the name Lola. If I had a daughter then I'd probably call her Lola, but I wasn't planning on having a daughter any time soon. So I've got my MPC. And it's just nice to personalise things, like you personalise your car. It's kind of because, I just spend a lot of time using Lola.
I've heard your song 'Culture Clash', which touches on your parents different backgrounds. Do you think that their cultural influences have shaped your musical style? Or is it more where you grew up?
Probably to some extent they would, definitely. I'm really in to world music and love lots of different music from all over the place, and indigenous music, and I studied Anthropology at UNI so I think that affected it a lot as well. I really like African drum beats and stuff, and then growing up in New Zealand really affected me as well. But it's a bit hard to pinpoint exactly. It's affected me and who I am as a person but it's hard I guess to tell how it has affected my music. It definitely would have.
Do you have any specific artists that inspire you?
What's your opinion of the New Zealand music scene? How do you find it as an artist, getting your music out there?
I find it really good, but I just started at what I do, well I started last year. It's quite small - everyone knows each other, so there's limit in that but then there is also a lot of support. It's great because you make all these connections, and you've got a lot of other people and musicians in your circles to inspire you. And that's really awesome. I love lots of bands that are coming from here at the moment like I said before; Connan Mockasin, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Electric Wire Hustle, Fat Freddy's Drop. Heaps of good music.
So you're also a member of a large funk collective called Brockaflowersaurus Rex and the Blueberry Biscuits, did I say that right?
Yeah! You're one of the only people that's ever got it right the first time!
Yeah I've been playing with them for 2 and a half, 3 years now. Some of them I went to school with, one of them is my friend, Louis Baker is in it as well (he's playing today as well, you should check him out). But it's a great band and it's really fun to be in because I mean, I play solo and then I get to play with a big band. So it's nice to have that too, it's a bit different.
You recently collaborated with Oddisee for your song 'Flashlight', and two other songs that haven't been released yet. How was that, working with him?
It was awesome. He's such a cool guy, he's so lovely and smart, so it was really great hanging out with him and also he's an amazing producer, like he's next level. It was really cool being in a studio environment with him. I've never worked in a studio like that before, it just had everything. We had an engineer with us, we had the studio room and all the instruments there as well, like drum kits and stuff. So that was an awesome experience. I was quite nervous because when it comes to my music I'm really quite specific and a little bit of a control freak. I like to do it all myself, regardless. There are lots of musicians that can play the instruments better than I can but I like to do it myself. But it was really good getting in to an environment where I was collaborating with someone and letting go a little bit and embracing it.
And that was in the Red Bull Studios in Auckland?
Yeah it was part of the Prodigy Project. So they organise a prodigy and a mentor and I was just really lucky because he was in Sydney anyway and they jumped on him, Dan, the guy that organises it just jumped on it. I think he's probably the biggest prodigy project they've had.
How did you get involved in it? Were they just searching for someone? Or did they contact you?
I think they might have found him first, I don't know which way it went, it was totally out of the blue, I didn't even know who Oddisee was!
Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote classify themselves as 'future soul'. Would you say you are a future soul artist or similar genre?
I have got a genre that I classify myself as. I think that my music is probably way more kind of rigid, like Hiatus Kaiyote is pretty avant-garde and amazing. Mine's like... I just call it electric blue witch-hop. And that's up for interpretation but when I think of my music, if I'm asked what genre my music fits in to that's what I say. If I break it down then it kind of suits it - electric blue witch-hop.
Are there any artists you've seen or would like to see at this festival?
What are your plans for 2014?
I've got a few awesome things coming up. I'm going to be releasing an album of the stuff I produced last year, all my songs. And I'm opening for Erykah Badu in April, in Auckland. So those are the main things, releasing and an awesome opening slot.
Erykah Badu!? Awesome, I hope you get to meet her.
Yeah I'm stoked, I love her. I want her to deliver my children. Did you know she's a midwife?
Wow that would be some kind of crazy spiritual home birth in a bath with incense, like your child would be holy. Erykah Badu delivered it!
So do you have any New Year's resolutions?
Yes I do. Oh my god it's good for me to think about this actually because there's definitely some things I could work on. Yeah thats a good one. New Year's resolutions… To get more organised and pragmatic at my production. So working with Oddisee, he's really systematic and organised and lots of musicians aren't. So I want to get both those sides really organised. And then just for me personally, probably to go on more tramps and hikes, and to embrace other people's sense of humour. Sometimes I don't find other people funny, you know, and it's awkward. So I've got to try and become more eclectic in humour, because humour is so relative.
One last (slightly corny) question. What would be three essentials that you'd always bring to a festival?
Hmm let me think... what I always bring to festivals without fail… I always bring a jersey, gum boots, um these are all clothing items. Oh, and I always bring a flashlight.
Speaking of flashlights, here's the first of the songs she recorded with Oddisee. And if this is anything to judge by, that album due for release this year is one I can't wait to get my hands on.