Welsh Alt-rock band Estrons caused quite a sensation for a number of reasons last year.
But it’s the dizzying heights their music’s reaching and the build-up surrounding the release of their debut album ‘You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough’ that will get their fans talking. Susie Daniels chats to lead singer Tali Kallstrom about Glasgow Kisses, #MeToo and Misconceptions…
You’re walking round in a circle while singing for the duration of the Lilac video. It made me feel dizzy just watching you. What was it like doing it?
(laughs) I was really, really, really dizzy! The video for Lilac is uncut and done in one take late at night down a back street in Cardiff. An Ed Sheeran concert had just finished so we had to make it fast before the streets got really busy with everyone coming out!
Did it inspire you knowing that while you’re filming a massive artist down the street is selling out huge concerts?
I went to go and see Ed Sheeran at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff and he’d sold out four nights in a row. Two weeks before I went to see Beyonce and JayZ and they didn’t sell out. I’m a big Beyonce fan. Obviously you’re aiming to to appeal to the masses. It must feel amazing! I’m never going to get my expectations up or down about how big we could get. Being that big you must feel so disconnected. The stage I play on I get to talk to people after the show. The work up to being big is the most rewarding. Getting a helicopter to ride you into a gig and then leave can’t be as rewarding!
You’re supporting nineties band Garbage whose 1995 debut album had an incredible track list and was massive when it was released. Were you a fan and where did your punk influence come from?
It’s strange. I didn’t really grow up listening to a lot of punk. Garbage has always been a presence though. It didn’t really directly inspire me it was sort of an accident. It just got (the music) faster and faster and faster. I listen to a lot of r n b and grew up listening to jazz in the house. [Guitarist]Khodri likes alt-rock. Powerful women inspire me and so do powerful men. Missy Elliot’s one I can think of. When you listen to our album it’s quite eclectic and there are different styles of music.
When did you get into music?
I’ve been singing since I was a baby! I know it sounds silly. I’m named after Talia from the Welsh tale of a baby who was floating down a river. My mum took six weeks to decide what to call me so I was just called ‘baby’ when I was born (laughs). My first gig was when I was four. My little audience was my mum’s friends telling me I was good after I performed. I played percussion in an African beat band when I was five years old and played the violin from the age of five to 10 years old. I was always more interested in dance and the way I presented myself.
Most music is written to be listened to but is it fair to say in a punk-style some of your music screams ‘listen to me’?
I think the faster songs I never try and write lyrics to because they sound good. With the slower songs when I was singing them on stage I get tear-eyed or angry with the feisty songs. It’s because I’m feeling it.
Lilac came about following an encounter with a girl you saw crying in the street and you wrongly assumed she was crying about something silly like a boyfriend tiff or not getting her own way but it transpired her dad was terminally ill with cancer. Do misconceptions and wrong assumptions upset you?
Yeah, things like, it’s the classic thing about the girl in the band, when I walk in someone will ask, ‘where’s the singer?’ I had red hair and then dyed it blonde and someone said to me ‘Talia, people aren’t going to connect with you any more’. It’s annoying when you find out you’ve got misconceptions and assumptions yourself. When someone’s been drinking and is upset you can assume, ‘she probably drank her emotions’. I get things like ‘she’s self obsessed’ about me all the time.
You’ve only been in the music industry for a few years . Is that enough to feel the tide of change following the #MeToo campaign and a shift in the perception of female artists who were in the past too scared to be opinionated for fear of losing their job or upsetting someone?
I have experienced and been outspoken about a male musician who I was touring with last year (former Mansun frontman Paul Draper). I pulled out of that tour and mentioned it on Estrons’ Facebook page. Women feel quite pressured into doing things. It’s difficult but the entertainment industry is not the only one where people are using their sexual prowess to get ahead. There are some positive things about the #Metoo campaign although on the flip side of it some men are now afraid to ask women out. None of what’s been going on or has been revealed about people being sexually harassed surprises me.
You had Glasgow Kisses published last year. What’s it about?
It’s about commitment, phobia, being scared to get hurt and shutting yourself off. I often feel like a massive commitment-phobe. It’s when you get rejected and you have an experience with someone else and you are completely emotionally unavailable. I’ve made this mistake again and again.
Many music artists struggle with relationships due to work pressure and touring. What about you?
I’ve seen every relationship in every band member I know break down because of this. We still try. I sat with a guy last night and told him I don’t have the emotional space for anything else. It takes weeks and weeks to mix music and for the whole song process. If someone asks me out I say, ‘maybe in two weeks’. In your teens and twenties you can go through so many wrong relationships. My mum used to say to me, ‘you need to not jump on the wrong bus Tali’. I have a two year-old son who I had quite young and though I’ve juggled a lot I don’t find it too hard. I’ve got support from my son’s dad so I’m lucky.
What else would you have done if the band or music hadn’t worked out for you?
I left university to do the band. I was studying English Language, Philosophy and Italian at Cardiff University and it was a one hour journey each day from Swansea while also working and playing in the band. It always gets stressful. I got stressed making a teaser video for Lilac. The key to your own success is how much you put into it. If I hadn’t done the band I was considering a job in speech therapy or something to do with linguistics. If the band hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have been sad though as I wasn’t enjoying that course so I was going to study something like creative writing. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and was going to work on a Masters in journalism and write a novel and be a stand-up comedian.
You have a very optimistic outlook on life even if relationships haven’t quite gone your way. Who’s been your influence?
I was raised liberally by a single mum and with my half sister we moved around a lot. My mum was like my friend and we used to go to gigs all the time. She was very left wing and I’m very open-minded as a result.
Is there a song you write that still hits a raw nerve with you?
There is a song. It’s called Strangers and is the third song on the debut album. It’s probably the most honest as it’s confessing that behind that farce there’s a real human being there. It’s asking ‘am I in the right place to care for someone and treat them well?’ There’s a lot of confessions. It’s saying ‘if you’re unable to feel emotionally stable you break people’s hearts.’ I hurt myself a lot by hurting others. I got goosebumps when I listened to it recently.
Who designed the cool artwork for your debut album cover?
Nick Steinhardt (LA album designer). He’s done lots of cool stuff for artists like Britney Spears and Selena Gomez. One side is a child splashing water on their face and the other is a volcano erupting but it’s not obvious right away and plays with your eyes. It’s a lot about push and pull, fire and water and opposites.
You’re a singer-songwriter, does it bother you that singers like Britney aren’t the real deal?
I grew up listening to her music and she still performs them. The pressure to be thin, and watch what you eat, it must be really hard when you’re being styled and told what to eat and do. I don’t envy them.
Estrons play King Tut’s in Glasgow on November 2nd.