Esoterik released their latest album, Alchemy, in March. Dubbed as pagan-synth, this US duo of Allison Eckfeldt and Brady Bledsoe, have created an album which has mystical folk tendrils, spliced together with electronic synths and rhythms. It is beautiful and danceable with a spiritual centre, calling back to a time when our ancestors were more in-tune to the world they walked in and the earth was far more listened to. So we decided that it was time to ask the band themselves about the new album and Esoterik.
Welcome Esoterik to the druidic grove in which Onyx thinks deep and perplexing thoughts.
The project, Esoterik, came into being in 2013, so how did it all happen?
Allison: I’ve felt a strong pull to create music, perform live and tour since high school but never had things line up to where it could happen… I ended up asking Brady if he would like to join together in a project after I had tried out as bassist for a different band he was in.
Brady: My musical tastes have always been all over the place and love creating soundscapes in different genres. Allison and I were sharing some of our favorite artists so I decided to take some of the elements I love most about those and just push it through my normal songwriting process to see what happens. I showed her a couple of demos and before we knew it, we had enough material to call it an album.
What were you both doing musically before Esoterik?
Allison: I was mostly playing on my bass guitar on my lunch breaks from work… and singing/recording covers of artists I was inspired by.
Brady: Directly before, I was playing in a project with some friends that I guess you would call Power Pop and also doing a lot of solo gigs with my acoustic, a synth and a looper pedal. I’ve dabbled and participated in projects across a wide array of genres over the years and I think that’s something I’ll always do to scratch the creative itch.
People might not know that the band is comprised of a husband/wife team. So, do you find it easier or harder being married to your bandmate?
Allison: I’ve only really known this formula so I can’t comment on if it is easier or harder… It isn’t hard though; It’s a lot of fun. It’s work too just like anything else you would like to improve upon. Lots of practice, listening, learning and growing. I’ve taken part in a lot of team-oriented projects so I approach this band the same from the same professional standpoint
Brady: I don’t know who told you that, but it’s a secret that was not to be revealed. In all seriousness though, I find it much easier and it’s pretty magical to be able to share the experiences of life on the road. You often hear about musicians having trouble being able to maintain relationships due to a lifestyle that requires a lot of traveling so problem solved there. In my opinion touring is one of the most gratifying and difficult things you can do as a musician and it can wear on you after a while. However, there’s a bond that forms out there in very little time and strangers become family. That experience with my partner is only amplified each time we get out there. I also always know where to find her when it’s time for rehearsals.
How do you both contribute to the creative process of writing songs?
Allison: I usually will write lyrics and pass them to Brady… I have my most fun sprinkling in ‘off the script’ takes during vocal recording however. The song starts to form its’ shape and I get really excited to add in flare where it feels right.
Brady: Our songwriting process varies depending on how inspiration strikes but it usually starts on an acoustic guitar with me working out chords or a melody that pops into my head. Once I have a general arrangement that seems solid, I’ll then go into the studio and start transposing and building out the skeleton. For lyrics or vocal melodies, we usually bounce ideas off each other or Allison may have lyrics already and we clean them up to fit the phrasing with the music.
Your latest album is “Alchemy” and alchemy was the precursor to modern science but still very much in the pseudo science realm, mixed with ideals of magic, and this reflects the album for me. Magical with its roots deep in the earth. What does the album mean for you?
Allison: It’s a journey to reconnect with myself. Take back all the pieces of who I am that I had let get away from me… The songs are introspective, empowering and full of affirmations. This album to me is basically a diary of my past three years doing shadow work. Un-learning and re-learning to live again.
Brady: The concept of Alchemy has transformed and evolved over time but regardless of the focus, the fascination to me from a physical perspective would be how the elements from the earth interplay with our bodies, which are also composed of some of those elements. The practice also plays well into the realm of spirituality and the power of intention. The process of making music to me feels very alchemical with taking ingredients that have a very defined character or texture alone but when combined created something unexpected and seemingly new. The individual songs on the new album have been crafted with purpose and intention to represent the element or compound titled.
Each of the singles on the album were also released as remix EPs, with guests doing each mix. Could you please explain why you decided to go this way and who you invited to do your mixes?
Allison: We invited a lot of our friends and acquaintances to join in on the single releases. We thought it would be a really fun way to send the songs off into the world. I’m really happy with every track and it was so beyond amazing to be able to listen to everyone’s own take for which direction they wanted to take the soundscape into.
Brady: The way people listen to music is constantly evolving and regardless whether or not as an artist you have a preference on how your music should be consumed, I feel like you have to give your music the opportunity the most airtime you can and spreading those releases out with additional content is sometimes the only way to reach who really wants to hear what you’re creating. In terms of the artist selection, we’ve been lucky to cross paths with a lot of talented musicians over the years and it’s a very tight knit community where you start to lean on people you trust and respect.
Some are very big names, so was that both exciting and nerve wracking?
Allison: Everyone who agreed to take part in our project we have met on tours and through mutual friends. Fortunately, nothing was nerve wracking because everyone who took part, I feel very calm around. I’ve never felt judgment from these individuals and have only had good conversations with them. When you can fully be yourself around creative partners, really beautiful magic can flourish.
Brady: It’s always a bit nerve wracking for me no matter the artist, but also super gratifying to hear your music re-imagined and often elevated to another level. There are a few remixes on the EPs where I seriously contemplate whether their interpretation is actually a better fit than the studio track, which is a great predicament to come across. We are really grateful and honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with such amazing artists and even better to call some of them good friends.
The latest single is “Tria Prima”, which in alchemy is represented by a three sided triangle and is the bringing together of three elements. Can you tell us about this concept and about the music video?
Allison and Brady: Tria Prima takes listeners through the underbelly of the mind and highlights the importance of self-awareness and the balance necessary between mind, body and consciousness. Our minds can be a very ugly space to explore and will run wild if left to their own devices. The mind is flawed by design but with focus and intention, freedom from our self-imposed shackles is possible and always waiting.
If you had to pick a track off the album that would be your favourite to play live, which would it be?
Allison: Salt; I really look forward to performing this one live… The vocals are so fun; and there’s such a variety of moods I get to tap into. The whole song really paints such a nice atmosphere for me to vibe with.
Brady: I would have to say Tria Prima, it’s very high energy and I love the dual vocals.
The cover art for the album is really quite exquisite! Who created it?
Allison and Brady: We had a photo session with some very talented artists Neisha T. Ford and Eugnell, who specialize in what I’d call modern Renaissance style shoots. We didn’t really have any direction on cover art at the time, but after seeing the proofs we knew that one in particular just had a feel that was striking and timeless. We collaborated with another amazing artist, Vlad McNeally (Kallisti Design), who has designed for pretty much everyone in the business and he knocked it out of the park with bringing the vision to life.
For 2 years, Covid has created havoc with the music industry, especially with touring. How did it affect the recording of the album and also your ability to play live?
Allison: It benefited the recording process; as we were stuck home the entire time. We had all that extra time to record and just be creative in general. Performing live was nonexistent during the pandemic…so we had no live shows for quite some time except performing for friends. I’m really looking forward to hitting the road once more. Being able to do live shows is such a huge part of the lifestyle that it feels really uncomfortable when I can’t make those in person connections with listeners.
Brady: It was absolutely wonderful from a creative perspective; we were able to finish up the last half of the album without any distractions. We’ve actually only played a couple of shows in almost three years now so we’re really jonesing to 1) be able to perform for an audience and feel that energy exchange and 2) play a new set with the tracks from Alchemy.
Your style was described by a fan as dark pagan, I feel due to your earthy tones rooted in a darker past, would you agree with that interpretation?
Allison: We were coined ‘Pagan-Synth’ by a fan on YouTube after ‘Spirits light the way’ was released and I instantly fell in love with the term. Blending spiritual, spell rooted songs with synth. In the future, as we grow with our sound; I would like to blend more Folk pagan into synth heavy beats. I would like to find a way to blend in some progressive guitars as well.
Brady: We definitely resonate with a pagan path and for me, it’s really about our connection with the earth. When we take time in nature, we feel more connected to everything and that goes a long way for anything that ails you. Some of that inevitably bleeds into the music we create from a lyrical standpoint. However, there’s nothing ancient sonically in what we’re doing at the moment so it may just be a marriage of the two.
What music/bands, first got you into the alternative scene?
Allison: That’s pretty hard for me to pinpoint… I grew up on ‘alternative’ 70’s music and then around 2002 (I was 12.) One of my older brothers, Kyle, burned me a mix CD with Static-X, Fear Factory, Drain STH, Black Sabbath, Gravity Kills and others. The two songs I would put on repeat off of the CD were ’Sold my Soul’ by Zakk Wylde and Drain STH ‘I Wish’. The Zac Wylde song brought me a lot of peace and comfort when I was no longer able to see my older brothers until I was around 16. Just that opening guitar of the track hit me right in the solar plexus. Some of the lyrics I really felt deeply but the melody itself was so healing to me. The Drain STH song felt like the anthem to my existence during my early teens… The lyrics really spoke things I couldn’t vocalize. I found myself going back to that track when I was in a really low spot.
Brady: My first taste of the scene was in the early 90’s and was mesmerized by the melodies and catchy hooks of New Wave and Synth Pop artists like Depeche Mode and New Order. Although when I started actually composing music I was on a steady diet of grunge and industrial, I knew I’d always come back around.
Are there any acts or albums that you are into now?
Allison: I absolutely love Eivor, I’ve seen her twice live and I am in absolute awe of her creativity, vocal range and overall musical portfolio. I own all her CDs and feel such a deep connection with what she writes. I’m also in awe of iamamiwhoami; I can listen to their albums front and back without getting tired of a track… I usually listen to them while I’m drawing or painting. Each track hits me right in the heart.
Brady: There’s so much great music right now thanks to the downtime everyone had with the pandemic. A couple that come to mind though are Haex and Pixel Grip. They both have such a unique spin on the ground that others have walked before. One’s heavier and one is more on the dancey side but I highly suggest checking those two bands out!
If you had the gift of creation with alchemy, what would you want to create with this power?
Allison: Alchemists created such a wide variety of things chemists still use to this day… When really thinking about the question I suppose I wouldn’t be concerned with creating anything in particular. I would instead be more interested in learning and experimenting through trial and error… and from that point pinpointing exactly what path I would want to explore. I would like to spend more time learning from knowledgeable sources about Prima Materia as I think a lot of ideas could be answered there. Carl Jung had some interesting takes on alchemy actually if anyone else is interested in learning more.
Brady: In the literal sense, I’ve always been intrigued by mortality and ways that we try to avoid the inevitable so the Elixir of Life would be my creation. Like much of history though, I think there’s more metaphors in ancient practices than literal so we could very well have that gift and already created that with this album.
Dark pools of still water were considered sacred places where gifts were given to receive both luck and information. What do the dark waters tell you about the future of Esoterik?
Allison: when reading your question, I actually had a memory pop into my head… My kindred spirit Christian and I were doing a ritual by a natural waterfall at night. The waterfall is in Oklahoma at ‘The Sacred Valley of the Gnomes’ (Runestone park.). The waters at the base of the waterfall were pitch black and the forest surrounding had very little light… I offered an expensive Labradorite ring I loved and Christian offered a prize procession of his own into the dark waters to the old Gods. We sat in the darkness together under the starlight. After a bit of time had passed in silence, we both at the same time locked eyes in the sky above something otherworldly I’ve sworn with Christian to never elaborate on. The gift the dark waters gave me that night told me that the Gods will keep me and protect me, guide me and direct me. They told me magic is real and that all I need to be is open in order to receive it. I’ve held this close as my guiding light.
Brady: Much like the dark waters that present an opportunity for reflection, I believe the knowledge and intuition we seek is already within us if we’re able to focus and listen. It’s still hard for me to get too carried away with planning far out in the future. As we have come to realize through an event like the pandemic, those plans can change at the drop of a hat. My focus these days is on the one thing I can control and that’s to continually create music and art that excites me. I feel like if I can keep that going, everything else will fall into place with much less effort.
Thank you for both your time and the music!