Entertainment

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Q&A: Esben and the witch's Rachel Davies

On scaring punters, dark side of hype and x-rated fairytales

Published 21/01/2011 | 05:00

Eeek -- it's Esben and the Witch! Pop's scariest newcomers.

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People use adjectives such as 'disturbing', 'dark' and 'claustrophobic' to describe us. The aim was to make music that evokes certain emotions in the listener. We want to create musical dynamics that make people feel different things. Some of the times we do want to evoke a bleak sensibility. However, we also put more fragile parts into our music, so that it's a bit easier to listen to hopefully.

Nu-goth -- a vibrant re-imagining of a storied musical tradition or a hokey meme that exists only in the minds of over-excited music journalists?

Those things are so far from our minds when we are writing the songs. When we are thinking of the music or the artwork, we aren't trying to fit into anything. It would be restrictive. With any new artist, it is inevitable people want to lump them with the latest music genre. That said, being 'gothic' is something we are quite happy to be associated with. We are big fans of gothic architecture and literature. We have a love of the macabre.

You can protest all you want -- but the media sees you as part of a wider scene, alongside such spooky debutantes as Zola Jesus and Salem.

We don't feel any particular affinity with Zola Jesus or Salem. We can appreciate what they are doing. Being at the centre of this, it feels different to us. Those comparisons don't fit easily. We are comfortable with the aesthetic we have built. It's for other people to take what they want from that. If those are the comparisons people want to make, we can live with them.

We nearly choked on our Coco Pops when we saw the video to Marching Song. 'Gory' doesn't begin to describe it.

It was an idea I had quite a while back. We conceived of it as something that would sit comfortably with the song. We were lucky to be able to bring it to fruition. We wanted something striking. We've achieved that, I think.

Yes, well, 'striking' is one word for it. So what about the hype? You've been long-listed for the BBC Sound Of Poll. But today's hot new thing is often tomorrow's forgotten fad. Any ambivalence about being the toast of the taste-makers?

We're pretty excited. At the same time, we are trying to avoid the hype a tad . We are keeping our heads down to a certain extent. It's obviously flattering, but we are trying not to get carried away.

Esben and the Witch is an old Scandinavian folk tale in which a witch cuts her daughters' throats after a minor indiscretion. Crikey.

We liked the imagery and the ideas in the story. It felt appropriate. The funny thing is, people often expect us to be extremely well read and to know a lot about fairy stories. We do find them interesting. But we find a lot of things interesting as a basis of songs. Because that's our name, it gets a lot of attention. At a purely shallow level, we like the way the words work.

The album Violet Cries is released next Friday

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