Esmerine: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Intricate and collosal tapestries of sound.
File next to: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Rachel’s
Playing: Friday, November 13th @ the Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton St.) — Get your tickets here!

Esmerine is a creation out of time or place. The music is sewn of many fabrics, tethered by traditions spanning varied histories. A sinusoidal trek through a continuum of sprawling, intense multi-limbed, multi-world post-post-rock compositions. Wavelength’s Adam Bradley spoke with Esmerine’s Bruce Cawdron about Turkish psych, music awards and shifts of style.

The band’s sound has changed significantly since the early thousands, incorporating Turkish folk aesthetics, among other traditional styles. Was this shift deliberate or more matter of happenstance?

Well as in all things, I think there’s a mix of intention and synchronicity. We all as musicians are “evolving” our sound and our technique, and the way we play also influences the others in the group. As well, we just happened to be playing some shows in Istanbul and met a bunch of great people (who happened to also be musicians!) andvoilà, the idea of playing with them as a way to return to that amazing city took form. Also, Esmerine’s roots are with acoustic instruments, and in many places around the world, acoustic instruments often retain a strong link to a folk tradition. It’s not that hard to blend traditions, we just had to persuade them that drone does not equal boring.

Have you heard much in the way of Turkish psych, such as Erkin Koray? I’m reminded of him as I listen to your last record [before Lost Voices],Dalmak. His album Elektronik Türküler is magic!

Yes! I totally agree! Our friend Hakan Dedeoglu has been amazing in guiding us into the super vibrant Turkish psych scene (with a long history). He’s the one playing electric guitar on Dalmak and Lost Voices, and his style has persuaded us to look at that instrument again with fresh eyes.

The band did an artist residency in Istanbul in 2012. What would you say were some exceptionally memorable experiences that you had there?  

Just being able to see the city “from the inside” over a period of weeks. Hanging out with many musicians in the rich scene that Istanbul has, and observing all the parallels with the Montreal scene: a rich cross-pollination of bands and folks helping each other out, on their records and at each others shows. The Istanbul scene has a real diversity to it as well, with all of the musical elements you would expect in any large world class city that hosts a wealth of cultures within it.

Esmerine’s sister band Godspeed You! Black Emperor won the 2013 Polaris Prize and rejected the award. In 2014 Dalmak received a Juno award for best instrumental album. Certainly different situations, but how did you feel as a group after winning the Juno?

Great! We were so honoured to receive that award and be recognized for what we create. Different bands have different cultures within them, and though I was no longer in Godspeed! at the time they won the Polaris, I was a part of the band that made Allelujah!and feel the same way about winning that award as well.

While tightly braided with beauty and strength, there’s a graveness to the music that you make. Is the inherent seriousness employed to a specific intent, or is it more a product of musical source influences?

Graveness, that sounds like a franglais word! Something with heavy connotations… or maybe dramatic ones in our case, and I guess that’s a product of our Montreal drone scene history, as well as the heaviness in punk, and in classical music as well. Long-form music kind of always lends itself to that in my opinion… actually, you’ll find it in many different types of music. Check out early 20th century gamelan music — how it changed after the Dutch massacred Balinese demonstrating for their rights, or in some of the music coming out of North Africa and the Sahel during that time as well.

Kind of an ancient stock question but I’m curious to know. What music coming out of Montreal excites you the most currently?

No question: Jerusalem in My Heart wins hands down my fave of the year so far. Patrick Watson’s new record is a close second.

— Interview by Adam Bradley