In case you haven't come across Esperi before then you are in for a treat this week, seriously how could you not love an artist that plasy bells with his feet whilst still strumming a guitar. I must admit that I am a fairly new convert to his music,my new partner in crime, Halina Rifai, is his manager, but it wasn't until a couple of months back when she sent over some tunes that I realised what the fuss was all about. I guess I should let you know at this point that myself and Halina will be releasing a Christmas single with Esperi on our new label Olive Grove Records. Actually our first release on the label, Randolph's Leap's 'Battleships & Kettle Chips' comes a week on Monday (15th). But being the nugget that I am, I decided to run a feature on our 'other artist'. I am not really one for following convention/logic.
Aye, so back to Mr Esperi, his music has an almost magical feel to it, at points it's almost other worldly, although his music doesn't necessarily sound too similar, but there is a certain element on Jonsi to what he does. Right, I think that's enough rambling from me for one week, here's Chris to tell you a bit more about himself and his music....
Would you care to introduce yourself?
Yeah for sure, my name is Chris Lee-Marr and I'm also known as Esperi which is my music project.
How would you describe the music you make?
Scottish folkish music, or glock and roll
How did you come together as a band?
I wanted to have a band without having to rely on others so I started a "solo" project with a full band in mind which gives me the freedom to bring in members for recording and shows if and when needed and also get by on my own when my band mates are busy. I've played with a lot of friends the last couple of years but the guys that have played the most in Esperi with me are Jon Adam 'vasquez' on drums, Kev Black 'laeto' on bass and Cat Lee-Marr 'starling' on harp and vox. I'm hoping to collaborate with new players as well, I've made lots of new friends through music and they are very talented musicians, its a great feeling playing music with others.
How did you start out making music?
Just by growing up and having an interest in music and naturally wanting to play, I taught myself guitar and started writing songs as soon as I had a few chords, then formed a few bands with friends. I didn't enjoy the music department in school, we were basically left in a room about 30 kids with keyboards and headphones learning wee tunes, just no inspiration at all from any teachers, but I'm really grateful that there was more going on outside of school and we had our first few gigs at about the age of 16 or 17 which meant we got lifts to out of town gigs with parents or older brothers, ah its bringing back memories.
What process goes into the way you write songs?
It depends really, a lot of time I spend with just guitar which is my first instrument and I go to the beach a lot and let the dogs run around and swim while I sit and play, or sometimes I set up lots of gear ( all sorts of stuff ) in the house and play around, I also keep my kalimba in my bag all the time in case I have a spare five minutes. I usually know how I want a song to sound before all the added accompaniment when its coming together, but sometimes I just see what happens. I've made demos of loads of music at home and then I head into the studio to record them, now and again I'll use some home recordings though.
My favourite is music is by Owen, Mice Parade, Joanna Newsom, Sigur Ros and Jonsi, Bon Iver, S.Carey, Amina, Mum and Sufjan Stevens, I could go on forever haha but I think those are the influences that you might recognise in my style of playing and composition.
What kind of influence do you feel that where you come from has had on the music you create?
Haha the beach and scenery where I live definitely has an influence, not only in my lyrics but I spend a lot of time outdoors with my headphones on and its my favourite way of listening to music apart from live performance, so I think I try to write music that is good for beach walks and bike rides or that just sounds like an adventure or journey.
What can people expect to see/hear from your live shows?
Well, recently my shows have been solo performances based around guitar and voice and a host of tuned percussion, drums, toys and other bits and bobs, but the album that I'm currently working on features a fuller sound with a string quartet and an overall extra sonic weight going on in the songs so next year I'll be trying to bring more musicians to shows and maybe a bit of collaborating with friends time permitting
Has there been a particular gig that has stood out for you so far (good or bad)?
Yeah, there was a show with James Yorkston that I really enjoyed myself at and one recently with Olaf Arnalds was great, shows that just feel like there is a great bond with the audience.
What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond? Do you have any new releases planned for any time soon?
The rest of the year a few shows to keep things ticking over while finishing my album 'In a moment emotion sentiment' which is due out in spring, also an xmas release on the newly founded awesome 'Olive Grove records' :-) and an x mas show with label buddies Randolph's Leap on the 22nd at the 13th note Glasgow, and next year just hopefully a lot of touring to launch the album.
Esperi - Dialled
If that sounds like it'd be your cup of tea of tea and you fancy checking Chris out in the flesh, either to listen to his music or perv over, or both if that's yer bag, then you're in luck as he has quite a few dates lined up before the end of the year. Starting off with a gig tomorrow night (11th) in Glasgow at Gallus, followed by an appearance at the Art Bar in Dundee on the 24th.
The he's back in Glasgow in the 24th at the Captains Rest supporting Blue Roses and Hannah Peel.
He rounds up the year with a wee tour of Scotland, finishing up on the 22nd December at the first ever Olive Grove Records Christmas party alongside Randolph's Leap and RM Hubbert.
Chris will also be playing as part of the Glasgow Podcart's 'Eclectic Peel' exhibition.
There will also be a wee Christmas single release in December, it comes out on Olive Grove Records and once again we have something pretty special lined up for you all. All I can say for now is that the CD will be limited to just 50 copies in a Christmas themed sleeve, hand made by the very lovely friend Iona from 'I Heart...'. His debut album is due for release in Spring next year.