Music interview: Esper Scout on their new single on Leeds label Come Play With Me

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LAUNCHED to shine a spotlight on music from the Leeds city region, singles club Come Play With Me is readying its third release.

This time it’s all-female four-piece Esper Scout and male five-piece ZoZo who will be following in the footsteps of Cinerama, Katie Harkin, Fizzy Blood and Officers on the label’s latest split 7in single, which is released on May 27.

Rock band Esper Scout have been together for five years. Singer and guitarist Sarah Statham says: “2011 was when Esper Scout started but me, Kirsty [Morton, guitarist and keyboard player] and Rebecca [Smolinski, bassist] have played together before that since high school. Me and Kirsty made friends in Year Seven, when we were about 11, and we knew Abbi [Phillips, drummer] from school because she used to play in school teams against us.”

Their debut, self-released four-track demo was called Kids and Pets and since then they’ve been “steadily releasing” singles and EPs. After their single In Foreign came out last October they toured with Wakefield chart stars The Cribs.

“It’s amazing how that came about,” recalls Statham. “Kill Rock Stars, the label that we released a single under over in the US, tweeted about a gig we were playing in Wakefield. Gary Jarman from The Cribs was Twitter scrolling and spotted a band from Kill Rock Stars – they’re on the same label – playing in their home town and thought ‘This is weird’ and looked into our MySpace page.

“Then we played another gig in Wakefield a few months later and all of a sudden Ryan and Gary turn up and it kind of went from there. The next time they were over they met up with Rebecca and Abbi, who was then working at Jumbo Records, when they did a signing there, and it just kind of blossomed. They’re lovely guys and they just took us under their wings.”

I’m very interested in people just doing it, being actively involved and collaborating with others and that’s been going for decades.

Though Statham says the band are “best of friends” she admits they have musical differences. “One of the reasons Esper Scout move more slowly than we’d ideally like is because we find it so hard to all agree on things,” she explains, “but it’s great because it means that when we do it means something special.”

Of their inspirations, she says: “It’s more attitude we relate to more than sound – someone like Kate Tempest who speaks of politics and social cohesion, things like that we really relate to, people coming together in positive action and trying to communicate with people.”

They found common ground too with The Cribs. “Their music is very communicative and feminist and they speak about frustrations and anxieties. They’re very open-minded and we definitely see a lot of ourselves in them.”

Gaps in the Border Fence, the track that Esper Scout are releasing on Come Play With Me, lyrically focuses on contemporary Russian history. “It was inspired by the documentary How The Beatles Rocked the Kremlin,” says Statham, “which focused on the Cold War and how despite authoritarian control music lovers took it upon themselves to keep music alive under the radar by sharing floppy vinyl or the sleeves or making pick ups for telephone boxes, which is a line in the song, and being very resourceful. It was just kind of an awakening. I’m very interested in people just doing it, being actively involved and collaborating with others and that’s been going for decades and that’s a historical example of that, of something I think is currently very relevant on a grassroots, community level, people rallying together.”

Esper Scout know ZoZo via Chunk, a DIY collective in Meanwood, that they’re both involved in. “They practice at Chunk, they joined at the same time as us. Chunk moved from a small building to a bigger one so they had to take on more bands and more members to pay the rent.

“But their inclusion on the 7in is totally independent of them being friends with us. I think Tony [Ereira, who found CPWM] was conscious of includi8ng two bands that are pals but they’re on the single on their own merits. They’re an incredible live band – very infectious, very energetic, very positive people and they deserve the recognition absolutely.”

Esper Scout and ZoZo will stage a free launch for the single, supported by Leeds Inspired, at Brudenell Social Club games room on May 26. The single is released the following day. For details visit http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/come-play-with-me

Paul Draper. Picture: Tom Sheehan

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