December/January 2024

by Reece Kovacs

Fresh Talent: Esbee

by Reece Kovacs

Fresh Talent: Esbee

Deriving their name from the guitarist/lead singer’s nickname at school, S-B (for Alex Scott-Billing), charismatic and eccentric heptet Esbee has brought a new jazz-variant sound onto the Te Whanganui-a-Tara scene.

The other Esbee members, predominantly jazz music students, are Mysty Cooke (trumpet), Alex Vujanic (tenor sax), Ryder Smith (drums), Wicket Kendrick (bass), Sam Hunter (keyboard), Arran Cargill-Brown (synth/vocals). Combining jazz and rock, with a peppering of several other inspirations mixed in as well, Esbee are a self-dubbed razz group.

“We decided on razz because of how big an impact jazz has made on the music we make today, but also because it is very much in the realm of rock and other genres. It’s kind’a like if D’angelo and Arctic Monkeys started making music with Wayne Shorter and Fat Freddy’s Drop…”

The band’s debut EP release ‘Distracted’ was largely self-produced and recorded between band members’ houses, with assistance on vocals and piano recording from Massey University‘s studios and friend River Ellen. It’s the culmination and motivation of the group’s student work from 2017-2022, basically a snapshot of the past five years, showing off a range of different influences and emotions. The original inspiration came from Scott-Billing’s desire to play songs he’d written with other people.

“We chose those five songs primarily because we have been playing them for a while now, and felt they deserved to be on our first ever release, to really give people an idea of what we are about, and what to expect from us going forward.”

Filled with emotional builds, insightful lyrics, unweighted vocals and calming chords, it’s a stimulating and enjoyable experience for any listener. At just over 5 mins the EP’s keystone track is Mother.

“The second chorus of Mother into the sax solo always feels like a very emotionally charged moment, both musically and lyrically. The message is really about being your own mate and working through your emotions, and the music kind of has this uplifting sense of release to it, then Alex comes in with the massive sax solo and it hits hard!”

The seven friends have created a very funky and relaxing vibe, elevated by their stage presence and fun, laid back demeanour.

“A common piece of feedback from the audience at our shows is just that we all look like we are having the best time playing together, which is true! So, we just hope people hear the music and it brings them some of the joy that we find in it!”

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