03 May What it was like winning triple j Unearthed’s Laneway competition for one of Melbourne’s largest bands, ESESE
While covering St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival we had an opportunity to chat to ESESE, the band who recently won the triple j Unearthed competition to play the Melbourne leg of the tour. Talking to the 11-piece band gave an insight into the experience of winning such a prestigious competition, and what having access to such an amazing platform means to an act still making a name for themselves in the crowded Melbourne scene.
The competition grants the winner a chance to play the opening set of the festival. While traditionally this is one of quieter moments in the day, the band felt positive about the reception they received, saying that “People coming in are already in a good vibe. Then we’re the first chance they have to dance, so it worked out well”. But getting 11 band members – all coming from different places – onstage at once proved to be a task. “A couple of us only got to the stage 50 seconds before we started” they joke. When asked if such a large group is an ongoing struggle, they reply “Yeah, sometimes the only times we play together will be at a gig. We normally just have to work it out through modular rehearsals – like three, six, eight people at a time”. Amazingly they then reveal that this is the first time the current line up have all played together at all, compounding the pressure and stress in the leadup to an extremely important set.
The musical sections and talents within the group are as varied as their backgrounds. A brass section shares the stage with a more traditional rock outfit, as well as a number of vocalists and rappers. About half of the members have been playing together for two years, while others have been more recent additions. “It’s really grown since we got rid of all of our backing tracks and brought in live bass drums and guitar on every song”, they explain. “But we still focus on a big electronic element, with all of our samplers live too – it’s a lot”. Is making their sets an entirely live (and large) experience driven by a want to be able to recreate the rich layers of samples they’d be been working with? “Yeah, that’s pretty much it… and more free Laneway tickets!” they joked. “With all of our frees, our crew was around 24 people. There was no point even trying to fit everyone into the dressing room.”
So, what was the process involved with entering and winning the Unearthed competition like? “Weirdly super easy. We just uploaded our music, basically”. It wasn’t until triple j started to try and contact the members of ESESE that the process became complicated. For various reasons (including dogging debt collectors) no-one was answering their phones, and members overseas were receiving emails “in all caps telling us ‘WE NEED TO SPEAK TO YOU TODAY’ ” – a complete lack of contact a seemingly strange problem for a band with so many members.
They admit that, like most winners of Unearthed comps, “it’s been a bit of a road” to this point. “Lewis Mckirdy has played us a few times at lunch, and we’ve been getting staff reviews on our Unearthed page for a while”. Being on triple j’s radar prior to the comp clearly helped, and they finish off by musing “It is random, but I guess it isn’t too…”. Would they advise other young acts to follow in their footsteps and enter Unearthed? “Why not! they have to choose someone”.