Self Esteem – Interview 2018

Rebecca Taylor is best known as one half of maverick indie duo Slow Club, who released five albums, with 2016’s One Day All of This Won’t Matter Anymore being the last. Playing the drums, guitar, and duetting with Charles Watson, the band built up a considerable following, but for Rebecca it clearly wasn’t enough. Over the years she has been developing her own creative outlet, as Self Esteem, moving decidedly into urban, r’n’b, pop, and hip-hop territory, a million miles away from the scruffy indie-pop of Slow Club. With Slow Club on indefinite hiatus, and Watson concurrently developing his own solo career, a number of tracks have been released including her debut ‘Rollout’, made with Django Django’s Dave Maclean. Rebecca talks to Jeff Hemmings about her self-esteem, her creative needs, her love of dancing, and what we can expect on the love stage.

Hi! Where and what are you doing today?
I’m in my flat in London, putting out my washing. One-handed.

That’s very rock’n’roll
Sure is!

Just to get this out of the way, but is Slow Club no more?
We’re not sure really. Never say never. We’d do a gig if it was paid well enough. It’s a natural pause I’d say.

Why the name, Self Esteem?
I thought of it, and names are pretty shit, anyway. There’s no good band names, apart from Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. They are always a terrible thing that we have to have. Me and a friend were having a conversation and we thought Self Esteem or Sex Appeal are the only band names that are good. It was going to be one or the other. Self Esteem has become prophetic in its own way. I’m trying to find my own self-esteem. It hold its own future.

But people know you as Rebecca Taylor of Slow Club…
It went back and forth for a while, but Self Esteem became the overarching name for the creativity I was having outside Sow Club. I’ve had his back and forth argument with a few people, but Self Esteem is me. It helps me to compartmentalise what this is.

I first came across Self Esteem when you provided guest vocals on the recent Django Django album, Marble Skies.
I sang on a few tracks, but ‘Surface To Air’ is the one I do the main vocal on. It wasn’t the first thing I did as Self Esteem. I had released a single with Dave Maclean from Django Django producing. He did a couple of tracks at the start, and then got pretty busy, and I started working with other people. I think we’ll do things again. I really like working with him.

How did you hook up with him?
I really loved their artwork on Born Under Saturn, and I just tweeted them saying I loved it. And we got chatting on the internet. I sent some demos. For many years I was secretly sending Self-Esteem demos to people, just testing the waters really.

Did you ever perform live with them?
Yeah, I did all summer with them, going on stage for that one song, which was quite funny. It’s alright, easy job!

How did this evolution, musically, happen?
I think I’m a bit too much of an actress. So, in Slow Club, although at the start I was really into the music we were making, over the years there was a box I had to write in to fit in. I was too adaptable maybe, and I played a role. I did it to the best of my ability, and believed in it as much as I could. But the way Self Esteem sounds is what I like, sonically, like r’n’b, hip-hop and pop. I really like beats-driven things, and I’m obsessed with harmony. You could go to Slow Club albums, and chart where I was trying to shoehorn this in. And you could see where I gave up trying to shoehorn it in, and it was around about then that I realised I was going to do this. It was a weird way of making music because I can feel adaptable, which is sometimes not good for you as a creative artist, because you can get lost in other people’s vision. This is no other person’s vision, this is 100% me and what I like.

Tell me about some of the artists who have influenced this music…
I loved the last Rihanna record, and sonically, most of Kanye West’s music is what I’m really influenced by. But Perfume Genius is what I listen to most, especially the last album. It’s my number one thing of my whole life. There isn’t one moment that isn’t rich and deep.

How do you make Self Esteem music?
I make beats, tap things, and then write to that. Or I write a-capella’s and take them into the studio, and make music around that with a producer. It’s annoying really. I should have paid attention in GCSE music.

Tell me about ‘Rollout’
That was a loop that the producer had, a kind of drone, and I wrote the whole song to that, with the beats. It was done very quickly. I work very quickly, because I am impatient and lazy. Move it on! Quick, quick, quick! Go, go, go! It all happens quite fast, which suits me.

How will you do this live?
Quite a lot of it is on tracks. And we have a drummer, a keyboard player who also plays the bass, and there’s me and two backing singers, doing full harmonies, and dance routines. It’s really fun. It’s been another thing, to get over that indie way of thinking, where everything has got to be played. Over the years I’ve realised it’s not as important to people as you think it is. We made this new album with loops and samples, and you can’t re-create that. So, ‘get over it, and put it on a track!’, and make the show interesting around that. Sonically, I like things thick and loud, and rich, and not throwaway. I want each show to be an experience in that moment in time. I think people are bored enough as it is, so make it worth people’s while.

When did you realise you were a singer?
I had a good high school music teacher who realised I could sing. Back then I did shows, got into it, and it became what I do. I’m uncomfortable in any situation unless I’m singing in it!

What about the drums, you not doing that anymore on stage?
If I had some time I would quite fancy playing some drums in a band. But, I still write from a drum kit, essentially. You can hear on the record how important the kit is.

Any other collaboration in the pipeline?
I’ve started to have to say ‘no’ to things, which is a nice place to be in. I used to say yes to absolutely everything, but everything now is about expressing myself properly, and not compromising.

And the dancing?
I’m obsessed about dancing. I was repressed for too long. I have a choreographer, Stuart Rogers, and he and I are building what Self Esteem is. It’s very thrilling! I’ve always wanted a team of revolving and like-minded people. It’s really nice. I feel surrounded by positivity.

When is the album coming out?
It’s coming out 1st March. It’s all in the can. I never want to listen to it again.

So, this all sounds like a new adventure?!
The more gigs we do, the more it sinks in, and we feel like it’s becoming natural. People are responding to it. The O’Meara gig in London recently sold out. I’ve noticed some people wanting to come and see me because I was in Slow Club, and wanting to slag it off. But there’s also new people, and that’s way more exciting than I thought it would be. It’s the thought of having a second go at it all. I’ve got a lot more experience, and my feet are on the ground with it. It means I can build until it feels real. Very exciting.

Will this be the first Self Esteem show in Brighton?
Yes, my Brighton debut! With Slow Club, we played Brighton maybe 20 or more times. I’m excited to see what turnout there is. It’s one of my favourite places to play.

Jeff Hemmings