After a decade hiatus without any word, most people probably assumed The Essex Green was defunct, but it turns out they were just looking after their sanity. Coming back together, the band was hungry and rejuvenated, and made Hardly Electronic with powerful energy. We caught up with the band member Sasha Bell ahead of their North American tour to discuss their long break and what inspires them now.
Northern Transmissions: What kept you away since Cannibal Sea (2006) and what initiated you all to come together again?
Sasha Bell: The three of us are best friends, you know Jeff and Chris were best friends in college, then Jeff and I were in a relationship for seven years while playing in two bands together. It’s a tight-knit relationship, and because we’re all Libras we avoid conflict like the plague. After we stopped touring and moved to separate cities it felt like people expected more music, but talking about not making music together felt almost as awkward as deciding to stop. The conversation was really difficult, we’d all reached stages where we weren’t happy playing music. There was never a decision to stop playing, but we just had this unspoken agreement on a break. Eventually we felt, “This is crazy, this is the year we record together,” and one year Jeff sent me a message saying “We’re ready.”
NT: Considering your time away, was the technological focus of this record inspired by your difficulties keeping in touch?
SB: We really weren’t used to keeping in touch using technology, which was really the problem. When you live with people and see them many times a week, most of your conversations just take place in person. Jeff and I are both bad at getting back to people when we don’t see them a lot, so it felt totally artificial and weird to us. When we stopped touring, it felt weird trying to make plans with people like Julia our bass player, even though I saw them all the time. It took us a long time to adjust.
NT: Since some of you have been making your own music in the downtime, how does this other work affect what you’re doing in The Essex Green?
SB: If you’re not presenting a song to other people, especially those you really, really respect, it can actually be really liberating. In a way, I felt a freedom to do whatever was totally natural. We have different styles too, which is kind of the charm of The Essex Green. Focusing on my own thing for a while was good, and I also played in a band where I wasn’t playing my own material for the first time too. I learned a lot taking a backseat and learning to be a support player.
NT: On the other hand, how do you feel like your non-musical exploits in this time influenced your new music, whether it be attitude or lyric-wise?
SB: Moving to Montana was a pretty drastic move, especially since I always lived in super populated places. Living next to the Rocky Mountains, it’s right outside my doorstep. It’s really mind-clearing to go out there even for an hour. I don’t write about all that specifically, but it gives you a space in your head which is really important.
NT: How has gearing up for the road been coming back into The Essex Green and have you run into any unexpected challenges starting things up again?
SB: The older you get, the more things get complicated with family, work, there’s more at stake. It feels more important than other for us to do the things we believe we’re meant to be doing. If you know you have a gift to give people, you might as well do that. Being able to do that again is truly a gift.
NT: With the album out, do you feel like the band is priority again for the time being and what’s next?
SB: Absolutely, it sounds bizarre because it’s been so long, but it really feels like everyone’s desire. Everybody is focused on the band and touring, and we’re all so delighted. It’s like having your addiction taken away for ten years, so when you get it back you’re not going to let it go again.
Words by Owen Maxwell
The Essex Green Tour Dates:
08/01 Montreal, QC @ Casa del Popolo
08/02 Northampton, MA @ Iron Horse Music Hall
08/03 Boston, MA @ Great Scott
08/04 Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory
08/06 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
08/07 Washington, DC @ Black Cat Backstage
08/08 Athens, GA @ Athens Popfest
08/09 Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle Back Room
08/10 Thomas, WV @ Purple Fiddle Cafe
08/11 Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
08/17 Burlington, VT @ ArtsRiot