Shortly before they stepped onstage to close off the launch party for their new album Nova, Eschar guitarist Sam Beattie and drummer Rory Gilhespy sat down with TMMP in a kitchen crammed with gear to discuss disintegrating drum kits, pressure, and their first appearance at ArcTanGent…
You’re about to play the launch party for your new album, Nova [reviewed on TMMP here]. How’re you feeling right now?
Sam: I’m actually quite nervous!
Rory: I’m also a little nervous.
Sam: I don’t normally get nervous.
Rory: We rarely headline, so there you’ve got the knot in your stomach, and [normally] you get to play and then you get to chill. This time, we’ve got to wait the whole evening!
Sam: It’s the expectation.
Rory: We’ve got to wait until the end! But I’m excited at the same time.
Sam: It’s living up to expectations as well, because we haven’t released anything for so long and now it’s finally here. It’s just come out of nowhere suddenly; we’ve been like “…yeah, we’ll release it next month…” for about the past two years, so now it’s actually here…
Rory: There’s also more people here than I expected. Which is great, but it’s also like “…okay, the pressure’s on!”
How does it feel to have that level of support? This show is to support your first full-length album, and all these people are here…
Rory: Incredible. It’s absolutely amazing that anyone gives a shit at all, and yeah, it is just amazing.
Sam: Yeah. We’ve always had friends who’ve supported us because they’re all in bands, and we support them as well.
Rory: We’re very fortunate to have the friends that we have. They’re all such incredible musicians, and everyone loves everybody else’s band. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of. Tonight is pretty much a celebration of that.
Sam: That community.
Rory: Yeah, those bands [The Deadlights, Atiptoe, and Throatpunch City] got picked because they’re the ones we wanted to play. Atiptoe are buddies, Throatpunch City are just incredible, and the Deadlights are great.
So how did Eschar come to be? What’s your origin story?
Rory: Sam here does the guitars. The gent who does the other guitars, Rob, I’ve known since I was about 13 years old. So for the last 10 years or so.
[Rob and I] went to school together, and we’d write music together. Then we came to ACM, so naturally we carried on writing music together. Drafted in George, who plays bass, and we had a different guitarist for a while but he wasn’t really on the same wavelength as the rest of us. Luckily, gave this guy [gestures at Sam] a call, and we’d met a few times before but we just slotted together musically.
Sam: We’d hung out, and we all went to ACM, but apart from Rory and Rob we didn’t really know each other. Then when their last guitarist ducked out, Rory gave me a call and we had a jam and that was kind of it. We started writing Elements pretty much straight away!
Rory: During that first jam we started writing the song Elements. That’s where a lot of those sections came from. It went from me and Rob writing riffs, because I play guitar too, to three of us writing riffs. And it was great. All of a sudden we had a whole extra person bringing things in. It was amazing.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows?
Rory: There’s a bit during Monolith where it just breaks down to Rob. And this one show in particular was a fucking nightmare. There was basically no drum kit, although we’d been told there was going to be one. So I had a bass drum, and one tom, and all of it was falling apart, so I had to make do with that and a snare for the whole set.
Because of all that, I wasn’t in the best place. My head was all over the place, and I’d left my stick bag in the band area, which was upstairs! I’d left my stick bag up there, fully broke a stick in half while playing a song, and I had to kind of flip [the stick] and play with the handle, the blunt end, until we got to a bit where it dropped down to Rob and I fucking got up and ran.
I ran upstairs to try and find my stick bag, then had to run back down and get on the drums, and be ready to go before it came back in!
Sam: Me and George strike a chord during that bit and let it ring, and we had to really milk the feedback while Rory ducked out offstage and ran upstairs for at least a minute. I think there might even be a video somewhere…
Rory: There is definitely a video on YouTube somewhere. It actually wasn’t as horrendous as it could have been. It was okay in the end.
I also never have a show where the snare doesn’t fall over or a cymbal doesn’t fall over. I hit everything quite hard.
Sam: He hits everything super hard, and something always slides offstage. It’s part of the fun.
Rory: It’s always pretty eventful. It’s a part of it all now.
What’s your favourite thing about playing live?
Sam: Being able to release. When we practice at home, it’s all at reduced volume. Rory practices on an electric kit, and the rest of us play at reduced volume.
Rory: At one of our houses we’ve got a space with an electric kit set up and everything.
Sam: A little jam room, yeah. So being onstage, being miked up, being able to crank it, and you can fully whack it…
Rory: I get to play some real drums! I live in a flat, so I don’t get to play acoustic drums very often. The house where we practice is a detached house, so that’s okay, but…
Sam: Even so, there’s six people living in the house, so I think smashing a drum kit in one of the rooms is a bit much.
I used to live under a drummer at one point! It’s the nature of the instrument, really…
Rory: So getting to play real drums, that’s a highlight for me personally.
If money were no object, what would your stage show look like?
Rory: We’d definitely want footage playing of something. We’ve talked about a lot of different ideas…
Sam: We’ve discussed projecting things onto the stage or something like that. We like the idea of the visual aspect as well, because it’s instrumental music. It doesn’t have quite the same focal point as a band led by a vocalist, and so…obviously in a way, we write the music and so we try and give it direction, but at the same time it’d be nice to have that visual stimulation as well.
Rory: And we’d have a light show, synchronised [with the music]. I think that’s the next step. Then we could do the projections.
Sam: It’s doable, isn’t it. We just haven’t gotten around to it, and financially it’s just something else to consider. But we would like to incorporate some visual aspects into our show.
Would you consider doing what Pink Floyd did, and actually having a dedicated member for visuals?
Rory: Godspeed You! Black Emperor do it, don’t they? I saw them live, and they had a full-on projectionist who works with film as they play. So they have to go run and get a film, put it on, and it’s incredible. We probably wouldn’t go that far, but it’s quite amazing to watch.
Sam: Maybe having a lighting technician or something…
Rory: Maybe someone like a handy andy, someone who can do everything. Do our lights, do our sound – that would be great.
How would you describe the band’s evolution between Elements and Nova? What’s changed, creatively?
Sam: We put a lot more thought into our arrangements, I think. Generally, we’ve grown closer as a band. Like we said, we started writing Elements as soon as I joined, and within a year we bashed that little mini-album out. And we were so excited about it. But looking back, we don’t dig those songs quite as much as we used to, and so we’ve…refined, yeah…
Rory: It’s definitely a progression. It’s all about progression.
Sam: We’ve refined the way we write and arrange our songs, even down to the way we use our instruments.
Rory: Everything’s thicker now. It’s got a lot more presence, it’s a lot bigger…
Sam: Everything’s got its place. Each riff and every [chord] progression, everything’s got its place. So George for example, there’s some really cool bass moments on this album.
Rory: He’s really come into his own as a bass player on this record. It’s incredible. It’s one of my favourite things about [Nova], the bass playing.
Sam: His parts on that album, we’re all super into. It’s been really cool getting more familiar with arranging the music as a four-piece and utilising our instruments to their full potential.
Rory: We’re better friends now too. We’ve known each other longer, and we hang out. We don’t just do the band; we’re all good friends as well, and we all have similar keen interests. We’re interested in film, and reading; with influences, you’re inspired by everything, and you can try to bring those grandiose concepts and try to channel them into sound!
On Nova, is there a concept behind the whole thing?
Rory: Me and Sam went to see 2001: A Space Odyssey in London, at the BFI, and straight away we were just absolutely blown away.
Sam: It suits big screens.
Rory: I find it really intense in places. I know it’s a cliche word, but epic is the word for it, in every sense. So straight away, the concepts that are alluded to in that film got us thinking, and it takes in stuff that we’re interested in like space…
Sam: 2001 was something we came back to quite a lot. I think Monolith was one of the first names we decided on, not as a direct reference…
Rory: No, but Discovery One is obviously [a direct reference], as anyone who knows the film knows that the ship [in the film] is called Discovery One. So that’s a direct reference, but Monolith is still a nod to  in some ways. It matches what we would like to think of our music as.
Beyond this album launch show, what does the rest of the year hold for you guys?
Sam: We’ve already got some cool shows lined up. Some really exciting stuff.
Rory: We’re playing some wicked shows. We’re playing with Heights, who everyone around here loves. Al is a fucking genius.
Sam: Al actually recorded the drums and mixed the album for us, so we’re quite close-knit with those guys as personalities.
Rory: We haven’t announced it yet, but we’re playing with Maybeshewill here [at the Boileroom]. We’ll also be playing ArcTanGent Festival; definitely one to tick off the list. It’s a dream come true, certainly for me – I’ve been both years since it started. Such an incredible festival.
Sam: It’s a good opportunity. For us to play something like that is really, really exciting.
And we’re playing with a few of our friends’ bands as well. We Never Learned To Live, a band we’ve played with quite a few times, we’ve got a few shows coming up with them. OBE – Orders of the British Empire – in London. We’re similar in that they have the whole post-metal thing going on, and a really cool visual show as well. So we’re really excited to be playing with them.
If you had to pick one moment as a highlight of your journey so far, which would it be?
Rory: For me personally, it would be Hadley Keenan, a promoter in Winchester, asking us to be exclusive support to 65 Days of Static. I love 65 Days of Static anyway, so that was one of those moments where everyone was humbled, everyone was blown away, and it was a bit like “…okay, take a minute, compose yourself…oh my God!”
Sam: We were the only support band for 65 Days of Static. It really took time for that to sink in. Totally surreal.
[Rob O’Murphy (Guitar) enters]
Rory: That moment was far and away the best. It was sold out, everyone was there before we played – it was surreal. [65 Daysof Static] were such cool guys too.
Rob: For me, the best bit hasn’t happened yet; us playing ArcTanGent. But the announcement of that, and just the excitement of it, because we’ve wanted to get one that for so long. And finding out that we’re actually going to be able to [play it], that was pretty awesome.
Final question coming up: What’s on your bucket list?
Sam: Play an open air stage. We’re going to be in a tent at ArcTanGent, so I’d like to play an open air stage in front of a big, nice crowd. Sun shining, summertime, just have one of those big stages. Maybe not Reading – that could be too far-fetched – but something really vibey like that. Just go out in the sunshine and just let rip.
Rory: Mine are definitely unattainable, but everyone can dream! I would want us to open for Tool, Karnivool, and Deftones. Three of my favourite bands of all time. That would be the one thing.
Rob: Mine is a slightly less ambitious thing: get a vinyl done. I’d like a record I can keep and be really proud of. I don’t have a record player, but I think [records] are cool, and I like the way they look.
Rory: I’ve got a record player, so I’d love that too!
I’m the same as Rob; I don’t have a record player, but I do have a vinyl by a band called Signals – and it’s nice to just have that on a shelf and be able to look at it from time to time.
Rory: I actually collect records. I don’t buy CDs. I utilise Spotify heavily, but I buy records as well. Both digital and vinyl. I don’t really have a place for CDs because I’ve replaced them with Spotify and digital – but I love buying records. Everything that goes into that is like my main hobby.
Ok, cool – that’s about everything!
Rory: Cool! Thanks man.
Sam: Thanks for having us!
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