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Poetry Versus Precision: Estrons Talk 'You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough'

Friday, 05 October 2018 Written by Laura Johnson

Photo: Imogen Forte

When Estrons vocalist Tali Källström played a test pressing of the band’s debut album to a friend, their response was easy to remember. “It sounds like you’ve dipped in and had sex with every genre,” they said. Well, they’re not wrong.

Estrons don’t fit into a box. If you absolutely have to, Källström says you can call them ‘alternative’. She previously went for ‘heavy pop’, but her bandmates weren’t having it. What’s certain, though, is that ‘You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough’ doesn’t sit still. The record’s opening tracks, Lilac and Killing Your Love, are full blown alt-rock numbers, while Strangers pulls things back to a loping melodic pace. Jade thumps and howls as they lean into their classic rock influences.

This eclectic sound is due in part to the creative friction between Källström and guitarist Rhodri Daniel. It’s a partnership defined by her poetic streak and his quest for precision. “He’s not a creative at all, despite being the main songwriter with me,” Källström says. “He’s a scientist, he did a masters in chemical engineering at university. He doesn’t quite understand the concept of metaphors.

“He has no poetry to him, whereas I’m all about the poetry. I’m all about the emotion and he doesn’t get that. There’s a lot of clashing because I’m not a perfectionist. I think sometimes what’s good is good because it’s real and for him it’s like, ‘No, we’re doing it again.’ We push and pull each other. I think we complement each other as much as we insult each other.”

Daniel was searching for a vocalist when he met Källström on Womanby Street, Cardiff’s live music hub. The rest, as no-one has ever said before, is history. Since then the two have formed Estrons’ core alongside a rotating rhythm section. Drums on the album were performed by Jake Greenway of Fizzy Blood, with live duties falling to Adam Thomas. Steffan Pringle, who produced the new LP and also recorded the band in their earlier years, is currently playing bass and shares Daniel’s fastidious nature.

“Instrumentally they’re all quite meticulous in the way that they play,” Källström explains. “They’re always going hard at it. They want it to be perfect. Rhodri always wants things live to reflect how they sound on record and vice versa. He’s not of the opinion that going to see a band live you shouldn’t expect to hear what you hear on record. He’s like ‘No, you definitely should!’ It can get a little intense.

“Vocally I perform best when it’s quite late and I’m feeling emotional and tired. I always just give my all into it. If I’m not feeling it then I have to move on to a different song. So often it’ll be that I’ll think about a moment, or if something really bad had just happened, like I’d got a text that really pissed me off, I’ll be like, ‘Right, let’s do a vocal take, let’s go!’ There are methods to our madness.”

Källström doesn’t play an instrument so it usually falls to Daniel to come to her with a melody or demo. The responsibility for vocal lines and lyrics falls to her. “He admits he cannot write a single lyric,” she chuckles. “Some of the stuff he comes up with it’s like, ‘Yeah, I can’t even begin!’. Sometimes, though, stumbling blocks arise when Daniel’s patience with an existing idea comes up against the vocalist’s desire for an organic shot of inspiration. “If you know a song’s good, sometimes, just in a moment, the melody writes itself in your head,” Källström says. “It’s strange, it’s like you just know what to paint next. Other times it’s a lot more difficult.”

Something they did agree agree on was the tracklist for ‘You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough’, which left previous singles like Strobe Lights and Glasgow Kisses on the cutting room floor, subsequently angering some fans. “What do you want us to do? Just grab our last eight releases and put two new songs on there?” aks the singer. “We’ve already got that, that’s not a body of work. We did want it to be a snapshot in time, because we have been together for years now. We did want it to reflect where we’d been, but also bring in more current music.”

Several nods to their earlier years can be found on the running order, though, including Make A Man, Drop and Aliens, the earliest of which dates back to 2014. The latter features the lyric that inspired the album’s name, but it also serves as a reminder to Källström of the moment when Estrons ceased to be a hobby.

The band used the track’s original recording for the LP after attempts to update it fell flat. As has become apparent, Källström is all about what feels right. They did sneak in some edits and tweaks here and there, though. “We feel like they have been improved,” Källström explains. “A lot of the vocals in Make A Man are actually new. They’ve got more attitude and feel more current and cohesive. Obviously I’ve been singing longer and I’m older, and stuff matures with time. It’s got a bit more bite now. I feel like the old recording of Make A Man was smoother.”

The moral of the story? You can’t please everyone and Estrons don’t want to. “A lot of people think that in the industry to make it [means] brown-nosing and rubbing shoulders Madonna-style or whatever, that’s how you make your way up. But I just refuse to do that and I really don’t care about any repercussions,” Källström says.

“If you’re going to start doing that you may as well stop calling yourself an artist and start calling yourself an entertainer. I’m not here just to entertain people. For me it’s still art and it’s still personal to me and I’m not going to go around exploiting it just because someone else wants to exploit me.”

When word first spread about Estrons there was a flurry of industry interest, but nothing came of it. And, after hearing horror stories about labels from other bands, they decided against signing with one. “I don’t currently take any income from the band whatsoever because it’s all about reinvestment,” Källström says. “I do this purely for passion.”  

“For us we’re looking at it more as a long-term business,” she adds. “We’ve just done a licensing deal with the Orchard, so we still own our masters. We can still take our fees from the shows and reinvest them into the band. Hopefully as things go forward we can actually become self-employed, rather than get an advance for two years and then, if you don’t make it at a certain time, you get dropped and you can’t carry on your music because it’s been signed away for 25 years.”

Källström is like a backwards mullet, if you’ll pardon the phrase.  She presents a passionate, unruly front through her music, but is level-headed and business minded behind the scenes. She is a touring musician, single parent, and soon to be university literature student. “I think it’s about keeping a good balance at this stage,” she explains. “You don’t want to get your head in the clouds because so many people do and then you end up killing yourself, basically. It can be really, really hard work sometimes.”

So many bands who are poised to release their debut album have dreams of skyscraping success. Estrons are more measured. In a music industry oversaturated with new acts, Källström understands the importance of being modest. But with an album like ‘You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough’, which is passionate, diverse, candid and danceable, they might surprise even themselves.

“Not very many bands break big on their first album,” she says. “In the last two years I’ve begun to gain realistic expectations about what the band can achieve in our circumstances and in the genre that we are. It’s not easy for guitar music right now. It’s not that current. But that’s not to say that we can’t change that. There’s hope that we’ll reach out to more people with this album and it’ll connect with people. But you just never know what’s going to happen, you just never know what’s around the corner.”

‘You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough’ is out now.

Estrons Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun October 14 2018 - LLANELLI Llanelli Library
Thu November 01 2018 - LEEDS Belgrave Music Hall
Fri November 02 2018 - GLASGOW King Tut's
Sat November 03 2018 - NEWCASTLE Think Tank?
Wed November 07 2018 - MANCHESTER Soup Kitchen
Thu November 08 2018 - BRISTOL Louisiana
Fri November 09 2018 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega Social
Wed November 14 2018 - EXETER Cavern
Thu November 15 2018 - BIRMINGHAM Castle & Falcon
Fri November 16 2018 - BRIGHTON Green Door Store
Sat November 17 2018 - CAERNARFON Galeri
Fri November 23 2018 - CARMARTHEN Parrot
Thu December 06 2018 - CARDIFF Globe
Thu February 07 2019 - LONDON Scala

Click here to compare & buy Estrons Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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