Feature: The Ingredients of Less of Everything with Es

Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Photo by Max Warren

This month, London-based synth-punk four-piece Es unleashed their debut album Less of Everything via Upset The Rhythm. Spanning nine memorable tracks, the album is one of the most absorbing and gripping releases we've encountered this year. To celebrate the release of the record, Es took some time out to explore in-depth what inspired them when crafting each of the tracks — learn more about Less of Everything and Es below.

Subway by Luc Besson (1985)
Transportation systems and subways in particular have always visually interested me. I’ve always been drawn to cinema where these feature heavily, and the impossible love story and the (quite literally) underground subculture of Subway by Luc Besson have probably influenced me the most. The strangeness of this film compelled me to write the lyrics for the Es song “Off The Rails” in which I try to reimagine an impossible love obsession taking place in the London Underground.

There is something haunting about these transitional spaces; airports, train stations, ferries — always in-between destinations. In Subway we follow Fred who escapes his real-life problems and takes refuge in the tunnel system of the Paris Metro — it’s own small world inhabited by a range of outlawed characters.

- Maria

The Fall – 'Big New Prinz'
This performance is taken from Tony Wilson's show 'The Other Side of Midnight' in 1988. I love this song, this performance and this footage. It’s also an interesting example of Mark E. Smith’s sort of director/dictator/group leader stance and I wonder if it was a sort of ungenerous joke denying the influence and songwriting of other members, such as Brix’s absolutely amazing riffs and OTT aesthetics!! The keyboard player in this always reminds me of Flora and I am a sucker for repetitive, to the point, sonically uncomplicated but menacingly complex audio/visual experiences. 

Experiences in Groups: and Other Papers by W.R. BION
Our name ‘Es’ is the German word used for Freud’s concept of ‘Id’ (the primitive and instinctive component of personality). It’s the impulsive and unconscious part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to basic urges, needs, and desires and I suppose this has been the foundation of the band’s ‘psyche’ and inescapably our own individual ways of being. 

What is a group? I like to think about group theory in relation to bands (aka ‘the rock group’), the similarities and differences of ‘same time, same place, same day’-ness of practice like attending a therapy group. 

I think Bion wasn’t particularly keen on this book being so popular, but it seems to remain insightful in terms of understanding ongoing tensions between individuals and groups/society and psychic realities. He writes in a really weird way and makes up his own diagrams which are arguably mad, but which speak of the constantly changing points of view within a group. One of the few parts I can make sense of (though his whole thing seems to be about holding dualities in mind and to STOP making sense) is a chapter on the resistance to ‘learning through experience’ and his writing on ‘Attacks on Linking’ which he identifies as a hatred of emotion, of reality and of life itself.

Bion got weird and weirder as he got older (like most people I guess!) and got v into mysticism as a way of attempting to engage with psychic reality that cannot be known or experienced directly. He used the term Negative Capability to explain the capacity to remain  “in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”.  There are aspects of being in a group that are difficult to put into words.

- Katy

HyperNormalisation (2016) directed by Adam Curtis 
HyperNormalisation was released 10 days before our first EP, Object Relations in October 2016, so we were just beginning to put together songs for Less of Everything. It is a documentary by the British filmmaker Adam Curtis that explores the way in which Western societies, since the 70s, have drawn their subjects into retreating into a simplified, or even fake version of reality and that by this point it is so normalised, that an alternative seems completely impossible. I think this sense of paranoia and entrapment by external systems, as well as ourselves, is something we engage with through the mood, tone and tension in Less of Everything. For my keyboard lines I often found myself writing claustrophobic, repetitive melodies to try and represent a sort of inescapable mechanical logic. Curtis rushed to finish the film before the 2016 American elections the following month. It seems strange now to think there was a time before that and I suppose that feeling is what this film is helping us to consider.

- Flora

Horizontal organisation 
There’s a lot not to be said for horizontal organisation. In our experience within activist endeavours, like the creation of London’s DIY Space, we’ve seen the many flaws inherent in the attempt, as well as all the positives. A very common issue is that hierarchies still prevail, and often necessarily so, despite an unwillingness to admit that; everyone can muck in, but there are only certain people who do the real driving, and those who will take the responsibility needed to get things done to the point of completion. Yet Es is definitely a band of horizontal organisation, as least as far as composing is involved. It’s partly just due to the fear of stepping on each other's toes and making somebody else cry, but we really do work as four interlocking pieces. Drums, keys or bass start a new song; it’s not like we take regimented turns, but we’re all aware of the balance, and of how much space our instrument has taken up in recent songs. Then we arrange around the vocals; it’s not like they’re overlaid on top. Composing horizontally can definitely have its flaws, too. At times we probably end up compromising where we shouldn’t; finishing songs before they should be finished. But when it works it’s like Tetris. That’s another ingredient, then. Tetris. 

- Tamsin 

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