"Eschar are musical nomads, traipsing across a land of rolling hills, slithering rivers and flower specked fields. Nova, the band’s second release, following on from 2012’s Elements is the mapping out of a journey which takes in the sights, sounds and smells of a world entirely their own making. In literature, authors like Tolkien, Pratchett and Rowling conjured tales in an entirely fantastical setting, not suffice with the possibilities of reality. Here, Eschar are doing very much the same; creating powerful, provocative imagery with a charming an elegant instrumental record. You’d have no idea that, when the record opens up and swallows you whole in a swirl of progressive psychadelia, that the four piece are not from a different planet at all, but are actually from Woking."
So, first of all, for those who haven't heard of you, who are Eschar and what are they all about?
We’re an instrumental band based in Woking, Surrey. We came together whilst studying music at university, and since then we've strived to make honest music that’s unique, exciting to listen to and fun to play.
It's a bit of a cliched question, but where do you draw some of your influences from, both inside and outside of the rock spectrum?
We’d probably place our music somewhere in between progressive metal and post-rock. We’re fans of metal bands like Meshuggah, Tool, Gojira, who all think outside the box and have left their own unique mark on the prog metal scene. Then on the post-rock side, we’re big into spacier acts like *shels, 65daysofstatic, Russian Circles and so on; throw in a few curve balls like Incubus, Björk and Snarky Puppy and you’ve more or less covered our collective music taste.
Your songs, to me, have this hazy, dreamy atmosphere to it that almost borders on spiritual in some places. Was it an intentional desire to have a sound like that or did it come together a little more naturally?
It’s a mixture of things - we write the bulk of our music during practice, so we’re bouncing ideas off each other constantly. That way, the songs come together in a really organic way. Occasionally though, we take ideas away from practice, work on them individually, then bring them back for the next session. One of us might decide that something dreamier or more intense is required in the song, so we’ll focus on making something sound that way. I think this combination allows us to create natural sounding music, whilst being able to vibe out or pack a punch when needed.
One song that really stands out to me on the record is Echoes and Reflections. It's just this beautiful little piece that acts as an interlude between two of your longer songs, so could you talk me through the making of that song a little, how did it come about?
The melody in that piece is taken from the latter half of the song Discovery One, and was something that came together during one of our collective writing sessions - very organically, I mean. It’s a super simple chord sequence that goes in cycles of five bars, with a super simple melody repeated over the top, and I think the simplicity of it made it stand out - less is more. We toyed with recurring themes a lot on this album, so one day I just grabbed my ebow, cranked up the fuzz, and re-recorded the melody using drones…and it sounded kinda cool. That was how Echoes and Reflections came about.
I love the nod to Nirvana's Nevermind in your band promo shots, listening to your music Nirvana isn't exactly an overtly present influence, so what was the idea behind that?
Although the influence may not be totally obvious in our music, Nevermind and In Utero are both killer albums that we've all grown up with - I guess they've (indirectly) influenced us as musicians and as people. There's something very care-free about them, raw, yet refined, focused, punchy. Timeless. Plus the shirt looked super cool underwater, as a sort of nod to the Nevermind artwork!
You recently had a launch night to release the album, how did that go, was it the first time a lot of your new songs got aired?
We’d tested a couple of the songs at shows here and there, to give people a sneak preview but more for our benefit; it takes time to get used to playing songs live, as we’re all used to playing them at reduced volume during rehearsal, usually sat down. It’s getting a feel for them, getting comfortable enough with the material so that we can loosen up and enjoy ourselves a bit more…and because we’d played the songs a few times, when the launch show came round we all felt super pumped. We had such a great time, the atmosphere was incredible. Seeing so many people turn up to support independent bands so enthusiastically was amazing. The rest of the bands also played killer sets, it was cool sharing the stage with our friends like that. Good vibes all round.
I've read that 2001: A Space Odyssey was a big influence to Nova, could you tell me a little bit more about that?
We’re quite into themes like space, sci-fi, science in general actually. Rory [Gilhespy, Drums] had mentioned a couple of things about 2001, so he lent me his copy a little over a year ago (I hadn't seen it until then!). It’s a film you have to see to believe, it’s difficult to convey what it is to someone who hasn’t seen it. As it happened, it was showing at the BFI as part of their sci-fi season, so we nabbed some tickets and it was awesome. I was entranced for a few hours. I guess it was something that inspired us and was fresh in our minds during the writing and planning of the album, so it kept cropping up, along with books we’d read, things in the news, developments in the scientific world and so on.
Alright guys, we'll end on a bit of a fun one. All of you pick a musician who plays the same instrument as you, some one who admire and say why you chose them. Let's see what 'supergroup' get created.
Sam Beattie, Guitars - Fredrik Thordendal, Meshuggah
Rob O'Murphy, Guitars - Mike Einziger, Incubus
Rory Gilhespy, Drums - Danny Carey, Tool
George Linacre, Bass - Tom Jenkinson, Squarepusher
Words & Interview: Phil Weller Questions Answered by Sam Beattie