|L-R: Jon Berry, Olly Wills, Seb Reynolds|
After receiving lots of lovely comments about my interview with Stornoway, I thought it was time to treat you to an interview with another of my favourite bands (and fellow Oxford band), 'The Epstein'. I got in touch with lead singer, Olly Wills, and he very kindly agreed to answer some questions, so enjoy!
First of all, how was The Epstein founded, and where did the name come from?
The Epstein started out a few years back as a 2 piece playing open mics and in the back rooms of smokey pubs and has steadily evolved from there. I don't think there was a day one as it were... it just happened. In terms of the name - one of the founder members suffered from a virus called the Epstein Virus and this had laid him up in bed for quite a while... it was during this time that he started writing songs so we thought it was a good thing to take a positive from a negative.
How would you describe The Epstein in five words?
Honest. Powerful. Tuneful. Exciting and Lyrical.
You had a great year in 2010 playing on Bob Harris' show on BBC Radio 2 and being the editor's choice in Rolling Stone magazine. Did you find it hard to get noticed when you first set out as a band, or has it always been quite an easy road?
I wouldn't say that it has ever been an easy road and would doubt that many musicians have that luck... It is a case of continued hard graft over a very long period of time. Keep playing and getting better, keep writing and writing better songs and keep releasing songs.. then after all that you hope that people are going to notice you and give you a chance. It is wonderful to play on BBC Radio2 and get the Rolling Stone review but those things are the continuing part of the process and you have to keep pushing onwards all the time.
You're playing at The Regal in September with two other Oxford bands; Stornoway and The Dreaming Spires. How would you describe Oxford's music scene?
The Oxford music scene is busy and competitive. There are loads of great bands in our town and that is good for everyone. The ones that emerge out of it have to work hard to do it and that is great for the scene.
Are there any musicians that you've found particularly inspiring?
We recently toured with a band called The Johnny Parry Trio and they blew our minds mixing up the live show with amazing and very thought provoking visuals... I think that we all have very different inspirations within the band as we have all come from different musical backgrounds. I have been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave recently. Jon has been going through an African blues stage in the last few months and Seb is massively inspired by the work of Joseph Zarwinal and Weather Report.
You've spent quite a lot of time touring in Holland and Germany - do you have any particular links with these countries?
We have live agents both in Germany and Holland so that is the reason that we have been travelling back and forth so much. We did 2 really great tours this summer and played some lovely festivals so hopefully that link will grow over the following years.
Was music something you were always drawn to, or when you were younger were there different career paths you had in mind?
Jon and Seb have been playing in bands from a very young age so I think it has always been a path they have been on... I started pretty late in terms of bands but started singing at age 7 so it has always been part of my life... In other lives Jon would be an archaeologist, Seb would be a model and I would be a chef...
How have the dynamics of the group changed since the departure of your drummer and bassist?
There has been a massive change within the group since the sad departure of those guys at the beginning of the year and for the most part it has been a real positive change. It has allowed us to play with a whole bunch of great musicians and has forced us to change our live shows so we can do shows as a 3, 4, and 5 piece... creatively this has been a really good step for the band.
Do you prefer to play more intimate gigs, or at larger festivals?
Personally I love them all! Well.. most of them.
The best shows are the ones where you really get the crowd onside and into the band and we have been lucky to have done this on both large and small stages this year. When you get that energy going from the crowd then it is an amazing feeling. We did a couple of festivals in Holland and Germany recently where it went perfectly... those are the shows you want to take with you everywhere!
Are there any particular bands you've got your eye on at the moment?
Treetop Flyers are really marching on which is exciting. Cashier No.9 who we played with recently are on the rise too and Johnny Parry - who we mentioned earlier - is releasing a new record in October so that is a good start... I am also awaiting the new Feist album... where is it?
And finally, can we look forward to a new album soon?
You can, new tracks are being recorded and the masterpiece will be done! About time too...
I Held You Once
Ring On Her Finger
The Epstein are playing at The Concert4Conservation at The Regal in Oxford on Saturday 3rd September alongside Stornoway and The Dreaming Spires. Tickets are on sale for £15 (in advance) or £16 (on the door) and you can buy them here.