We are Esteban.
You’ll find main man Stephen Wright up front singing his heart out and dancing to every note. Talking of notes, on guitar Liam Ryan plays tonnes of them in his unique finger-style funk. On the other side, and keeping the audience on their feet, it’s big bass man Ricky Houghton. Whilst out back, Samuel Cox will be keeping the atomic time signature ticking.
Where are you based?
What genre would you describe yourself as?
Indie-Pop. As a band we have never tried to fit in to a particular genre, we coined the term ‘Desert Funk’ to describe our sound and it stuck, it’s the sound that we have always made when the four of us get into a room, funky bass and drums, four part harmonies with a bit of Latin guitar thrown in.
Who is your main inspiration?
David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, and Queen, let’s just go with these for now otherwise the list will be endless. Bowie was a pioneer of music and fashion, his biggest influence on us was that he always did his own thing, consistently performing at the top, whilst keeping his personal affairs out of the limelight and pushing the boundaries all the way to the very end. Stevie signed to Motown’s Tamla label aged 11 and hit the top aged 13! For any aspiring artist, this is an inspirational beginning but to go on to produce some of the world’s most important electronic, boogie jazz-funk and to be still performing is utterly jaw dropping - a living legend. Queen came along and re-wrote the rule books during the late 70’s and early 80’s. A band that didn’t really fit a genre exactly, but new precisely how to use their individual talents to spur each other on to write perfect stadium anthems time and time again.
What is your song writing process; which bits come first?
Musically speaking, when Liam comes up with new music, he generally brings 3 or four parts to the table which flow and interconnect in a sonically nice way. In a separate way, the lyrical concepts are talked about, researched and written up prior to matching with the music. It’s quite usual for us to bring the two together harmoniously in a near completed state, even with just guitar and vocal lines. We’ve used this process since the very beginning. What then happens is the idea is send to Stephen for cutting and polishing, he’ll arrange the music and re-write the lyrics to suit the mood or story being told. Meanwhile the drums and bass might be demoed to add colour and texture. So, I’d say conceptual ideas account for 80% of the process but the last 20% sometimes isn’t fixed until it’s finally recorded, and that is really important - it means vocal lines, melodies and vocal harmonies and hooks can be freely added, sometimes that can change a good track into a great track right at the very last moment.
What made you want to start in music?
We had a great scene when we were young. Older kids were in punk bands and rock bands - it was a cool thing to do. Cutting a long story short, when we started playing together in 1995, we just came up with this funky skanky sound but just as important was our determination to play on stage. We’re all very stubborn, so when Steve joined ten years later it was like a gift from above… he’d always sung and he even played at Glastonbury Festival which we were all impressed with.
What is on the horizon for you?
We have just released our second Esteban album Jackpot Motel, a 16-track desert funk odyssey and we're chomping at the bit to take this new record live! However, like everyone we've put the shows on the back burner for now. Our fans have been genuinely thrilled to get their hands on the album. They’ve waited very patiently so, when it was announced that it was happening, our Facebook was alive with genuine love and support, we are truly grateful for their response. We have the best fans; we wanted to make this record for them as much as for our record label and ourselves. COVID has, for us, been a really productive period; we've doubled down on writing new material so we're heading back into the studio this year to record. Next year, we’ll be recording and hopefully playing live again.
Who would you most like to collaborate with? (alive or dead)
De La Soul or Beck because it’d be awesome to understand their creative processes, and try to figure out what it is about those guys that makes them so consistently inspirational and tickle our pickles. Also, I reckon it would be a blast!
What is your ultimate goal?
If Jools Holland is still on TV when we start up on the live circuit again; we’d love to perform on Later. We’ve been lucky enough to play some huge festivals sharing the stage with the likes of Dizzy Rascal, the Zutons and Gomez however, we grew up with Top Of The Pops, The Tube and The Word. Those shows were so influential and important for our generation. The fact Jools is still bringing in artists from all over the world is a great achievement.
If you could cover any song, what would it be?
Thin Lizzy - Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed
Tea making: milk first or last?
Mug - It probably means you’re working so, just mash it up and get on with it!
Pot - stew the tea for the desired strength, add a little milk to the cup and top up with tea until your favoured colour is reached.
Tell us your funniest joke!
Q > What’s E.T. short for?
A > Because he has little legs!