Esther Grey
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Esther Grey

Guelph, Ontario, Canada | SELF

Guelph, Ontario, Canada | SELF
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This band has not uploaded any videos

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"Esther Grey - Split"

I just had the pleasure of hosting Bry Webb and the Providers at my venue and on my floor yesterday evening. I asked them what’s popping in Guelph right now and Esther Grey came the reply. Here’s a new split from a great little bedroom tape label out of Guelph called Cassettestival. And damn, were they right. These gauzy pop waltzes are like a smoothie made of surf boards, mint leaves, vermouth, 20's lingerie, and relics from Ella Fitzgerald’s grave. Like a jazzier Woods, Esther Grey presides over these jams like they were a cigarette in her mouth, dwindling out into a smokey cabaret. This really is quite a find! - Argue Job


"Esther Grey's humble beginnings"

In a way, Esther Grey was born at a yard sale.

The Guelph band consists of singer Steph Yates and fellow multi-instrumentalist Tyson Brinacombe. The two are partners in both music and collecting, and share a love of scouring garage sales and thrift stores for anything from interesting instruments to pulp fiction novels and discarded VHS tapes. Yates says their treasure hunting helped shape what eventually became their ‘dusty garage folk’ combo Esther Grey.

“When we were starting this project we were spending a lot of time digging around in yard sales and feeling really inspired by the old things we found, in the old cheap paperbacks and strange old ghost stories and legends of kahuna magic and all kinds of junk, old microphones,” said Yates in a phone interview, gamely battling the after-effects of a nasty case of strep throat. “A lot of this influenced the way we’ve approached the project and the kind of slant that we put on the songwriting.”

The band’s name itself evokes a heroine of some forgotten ’40s potboiler, while lending the duo something of an air of mystery.

“I was a little bit shy to release songs under my own name and Esther Grey was a name born out of my notebook. We’ve kind of given it meaning by making stories about Esther Grey, so it’s come to mean an ongoing mythology in progress for us,” Yates said.

Suitably for a pair of thrift store junkies, Esther Grey’s spare, lo-fi tunes are at the moment only available on cassette, a musical format long consigned to the technological bargain bin that’s now enjoying something of a retro rebirth. Their self-titled four-song release, a split album with Brinacombe’s Tyson and His Game Boy project, is part of their friend Peter Bradley’s Cassettestival series of cassette-only releases.

“We got on board with him to do our release in January and we’re really grateful that we did,” Yates said. “He was pushing this whole cassette thing for various reasons — they’re really cheap to produce and I guess they kind of have a quirky appeal to a lot of people in independent music right now. It was a really great opportunity for us to be involved in a community release — there were several other artists who released on Cassettestival on the same date that we did, Jan. 12 — so we all kind of shared that collective release date, which I thought was a really wonderful way to release our songs.”

Esther Grey’s next show is at Guelph’s Kazoo! Fest, a five-day celebration of music and art that’s now in its fifth year. This year’s festival boasts Canadian hip-hop star Cadence Weapon and ex-Constantine Bry Webb among its scheduled acts (Esther Grey will open for Webb and his band The Providers at an all-ages breakfast show at Ed Video April 15), as well as film screenings and a zine and comic expo. Yates is heavily involved in the local arts scene — she also performs in Baseball Furies (who will also be promoting their recent cassette release at Kazoo!) and in Kitchener-based Hinindar.

“Guelph’s great, I love the sense of community here. The Kazoo show series has been a really important part of the community as well. Between that and Peter Bradley’s new series and the house shows (we’ve put on) … I think the events are a really important part of feeling connected to your community where everybody comes together and you can see what everybody else is up to.”

Yates and Brinacombe both play multiple instruments but are mostly playing guitar and drums respectively in Esther Grey, both of which were previously unfamiliar instruments for the pair.

“We’re attracted to found things. Both Tyson and I are fairly new to our respective instruments that we’re playing in this project and the people that we’ve invited to play with us — our friend Gin played accordion with us and our friend Dan has played saxophone — they’re also very new to their instruments and I think that is another important part of the project. I don’t know if it’s a kind of braveness to be able to play and - The Record / The Guelph Mercury


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Currently at a loss for words...