Beyond the bedroom
Estère One-woman band
“Do you think of Kate Bush as R&B?” asks Estère, after naming the eccentric English songbird as one of her favourites.
She also namechecks local luminaries Connan Mockasin and Unknown Mortal Orchestra and US soul singer Lauryn Hill, the latter of whom her vocal style more closely resembles.
There is something very Kate Bush-like about Estère, nevertheless: not least in the winning naivety that comes through in conversation, the imaginative world she builds around her act, and a sense of self-determinism that’s still rare amongst female performers.
Estère, the Wellington-born daughter of a Pakeha mother and a French-Cameroonian father, is a one-woman band. In performance, as on record, she controls a sampling machine called an MPC (Music Production Controller) and a small battery of additional instrumentation, like percussion and guitar. While the MPC has a long history as the favoured beat hardware for hip-hop producers, Estère feeds mostly original samples into the machine to create an often quirky undertow to her sensual, elastic vocals.
The recent graduate in anthropology and philosophy builds ideas from her studies into her songs, and during extensive touring through places like South Korea, New Caledonia, parts of Africa and Europe, says that she always has her “anthropological brain on”.
In many ways, Estère is the very model of a modern musician, having toured her ass off, performed at various New Zealand festivals and as support act for major touring internationals, and made her debut album available free on Soundcloud back in 2014. And yet, she still somehow flies just under the radar, which has failed to perturb her. In fact, a slow growing up in public is part of her plan.
“The reason I don’t want to work with other producers for my music is that for me it’s important to showcase my own development to people that listen,” says Estère, who has a second album in the works for next year. “I create all the music in my bedroom and record all the musicians and compose everything, but it’s different now because I’ve learned more and it’s the only way to improve on something. It’s not about being really slick and perfect and stuff.”
ESTÈRE PERFORMS AT THE WONDERGARDEN FESTIVAL, SILO PARK, DECEMBER 31, WWW.WONDERGARDEN.CO.NZ