06 Nov From a spontaneous night in Geelong to a growing ensemble of musicians – An interview with Eastern Seaboard Electric Soul Ensemble
It feels contrived to label music, sometimes. After discovering the range of musical influences inspiring ESESE (Eastern Seaboard Electric Soul Ensemble) to create their unique sound, I felt inspired and refreshed. Chatting to the humble musicians Matt and Henok left me feeling their glow. It was such pleasure sitting down with the two and discussing their musical odysseys, creative processes and what inspires them.
ESESE have created their own sound. So it was no surprise to discover the vast array of music with which they have been surrounded throughout their lives. Having dissimilar upbringings with music, the pair use their diverse and wide palette of music taste to bring new flavours and create their own unique fusion of sounds and genres.
Matt went from Michael Jackson to early 2000s, metal to British psychedelia and swing – which he recognises is from where his love for brass stems. Henok’s music timeline started with his family introducing him to albums like Encore by Eminem and Public Enemy.
When Henok started skating in grade five he naturally got into punk: “Cheesy punk like Avril Lavigne, Green Day and Blink 182. But I liked Sex Pistols as well. But then I got into house – terrible house. Then just back to hip-hop. I found internet rap. Wiz khalifa’s mixtape made me start looking for music online instead of the radio and that just changed everything. I like jazz too but to be honest as of late I haven’t been listening to music at all, I’ve just been listening to podcasts. I have little pockets — the last great records I listened to were J.I.D’s Never Story and Saba‘s Bucket List.”
Music hunting can be overwhelming with so much content out there. Matt always goes back to Dorothy Ashby as a source of inspiration.
Matt: “She is a 1960s harpist who delved into jazz and afro-beat territories. There’s this one record called Afro-harping and I keep going back to it. The other sort of beat stuff I’ve been listening to is South African house; afro-house in general, there’s a lot of auxiliary percussion – it’s cool to DJ.”
ESESE have just released two new singles, “Slow Down” and “Home“. The pair have been sitting on the original structures for about a year and a half until they collaboratively approached them as songs.
Matt: “The original structures of the song started with me jamming on a Saturday night as an alternative to going out and getting wasted. It was our Saturday night protest to going out and it turned into being, you know, lively, which was pretty fun.”
“Slow Down” went from horns and instrumental structures to a funky up-beat jam about not taking requests as a DJ – something each member, among most DJs, have to deal with on at least a weekly basis. With their long time collaborator and “long time jammer” (as Henok fondly describes) Cazeaux O.S.L.O bringing his unreserved verse to the track effortlessly.
Matt: “Having him involved was a blessing, really. He comes with so much knowledge. A lot of us have to DJ to make money and there is that element of getting accosted by a bunch of drunk people on Friday or Saturday nights. Whether it’s a grand final or hens night, they can be quite rude and demanding. He (O.S.L.O) actually put this thing up on Facebook saying this [track] is about the ‘what’s this?’ philosophy as opposed to the ‘play this.’ He put it eloquently.”
Certainly a philosophy Matt and Henok share, as the pair became friends through DJing. When asked about the conception of ESESE, it was refreshing to see their anecdotes jog each other’s memories further. As they reminisced, Henok realised that the birth of ESESE was in the very building in which we were chatting (The Toff).
Henok: “So my housemate at the time, he DJed at a club called Home-house, which was a super-club in Geelong. I finished DJing in the city and we picked up my housemate and we just thought ‘let’s see if matt wants to come’ – this is about within a month of knowing him. I’d been DJing with him every week. I was like ‘it’s just an hour drive!'”
Even though it was 1am, the hour drive lead them to discover each other’s musical interests and talents. Matt, later into the night/morning, discovered that Henok made music and Henok introduced Matt to new sub-genres of hip-hop of which he had never heard. Playing Chance the Rapper‘s Acid Rap to Matt in the car was perhaps the catalyst to ESESE – the soulful, big band fusion of genres greatly inspiring them.
Henok: “And then that coming Monday we started meeting at his house every few days and making music. We made three demos over the next few months.”
This took place in 2013, but they look back on this night as though it happened a generation ago — which makes sense considering how much ESESE has grown since then. Each memory they shared continued to unlock further memories, anecdotes and nostalgic laughs that spoke the depth of their friendship.
Individually, Henok has been making music for around six years and Matt, eighteen years. While Henok has always been making hip-hop, when Matt first started he was making — as Henok jokingly describes — “long hair music.”
Matt: “I started with garage-punk, sort of, then got into pop-punk… which naturally went to screamo and hardcore, then to really heavy shit. I started changing up style when I was about eighteen and got into blues and soul. I joined a few bands when I moved to Melbourne. I used to play at this place called The Underground (in Adelaide). There wasn’t much dancing — it was more about spinning the guitar around your neck than anything else.”
I ask them to describe their genre as though they were explaining ESESE to someone who exclusively listens to “long hair music,” to quote Henok. They go through a vast array of descriptions such as “retro futuristo.” Matt paraphrases one of his loved records from the nineties and Henok lists a range of genres, concluding with “hip-hop jazz soul brass.” They finally lock in “big band hip-hop” as their genre. The eclectic sound has evolved from a friendship to a growing project which sometimes involves the whole twelve piece band.
Henok: “It started as us two and then more joined to fill the gaps in the music. We haven’t fully written altogether in one room yet. We jam and make many songs that we’ve never recorded, so that’s next – fully writing with everybody.”
ESESE will celebrate their release with the full twelve piece band next weekend, November 11 at the Evelyn. Despite the logistical difficulty in bringing the full band together, they’re excited for what’s in store. With a year of weekly jamming practice at the ‘Now Here This’ night at The Toff, we can expect plenty of live improvisation, some crowd interaction and maybe some acts like Baro getting on the mic.
Henok: “We’ve got a trumpet, trombone, two sax players, keys, bass, guitar, drums and vocalists.”
The future for ESESE is full of colour and passion. The raw love for music and genuine energies of both Matt and Henok left me in good spirits. I am so excited for their future. ESESE are currently working on an upcoming album as well as a number of other separate projects. Henok is working on his own production and making beats for a rapper named Piatao. Matt is also working with another artist named Nynno.
In my opinion, ESESE is a realm of sound. While the E on the end of their name stands for ‘Ensemble’ on paper, the E is also open to evolution.
Matt: “Future is anything really. Bring on the Empire. Explosion. Enything.”
Catch ESESE playing with thando, Agung Mango and Lori (DJ set) at the Evelyn on November 11th to celebrate the launch of their latest releases. Grab your tickets here.