Esmerine: “A Dog River”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Esmerine_A_Dog_River.mp3|titles=Esmerine: “A Dog River”]
Cello/percussion twosome Becky Foon and Bruce Cawdron, of Montreal’s Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, began recording minimalist chamber music under the moniker Esmerine about a decade ago. Two instrumental albums and numerous (sometimes collaborative) performances later, the duo has doubled to include percussionist Andrew Barr and harpist Sarah Page and completed its third full-length album. Both developments can be attributed to the late Lhasa de Sela, a Montreal vocalist and common thread between all four band members.
Lhasa passed away due to breast cancer at the age of 37 on January 1, 2010, and in her remembrance, Esmerine created La Lechuza, a beautiful, moving album. With several guest artists (including Colin Steton, Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire, and Patrick Watson) and the addition of steel drums, violin, harp, and saxophone, La Lechuza is a testimony to Esmerine’s musical progression.
ALARM caught up with Foon, Esmerine’s cellist, to discuss the band’s expansion, its new record, and its inspiration.
What was the initial motivation to create your own musical project as Esmerine?
We (Becky and Bruce) met recording the first Set Fire To Flames record, Sings Reign Rebuilder, in 2001 and became really interested in exploring the world of cello and melodic percussion. Bruce and I started to improvise together quite a bit, which then naturally evolved into writing songs. About a year later, we decided to record our first record at the Hotel 2 Tango in Montreal.
During the six-year time span between Aurora in 2005 and La Lechuza, was Esmerine on a hiatus, or were you just waiting for an appropriate time to start another album?
Bruce and I had been playing the occasional Esmerine show in Montreal since our last round of touring in 2005-06, inviting various guests to join us for some of them, but we hadn’t been thinking much about future recording. Lhasa asked us to open up for her in Montreal in 2009, which we did as a duo, and that’s where we met Sarah and Andrew, who were in her band at that point. We really hit it off, and soon after we invited Sarah and Andrew to join in an Esmerine show (where Lhasa also sang on a song), and everything evolved very naturally from there.