"I know, I know I can be a bit much" - intervista a Elsa Lester


Il mese scorso, nella periodica rassegna di nuove uscite indiepop, vi avevo già confessato di essermi innamorato di Elsa Lester e del suo EP Dinner Party, una raccolta dal carattere esuberante e spigliato di deliziose canzoni "da cameretta". Elsa, il cui vero nome è Lisa van Kampen, si presenta "as DIY as one can be", ma dato che in giro non si trovavano molte altre informazioni su di lei, mi è venuta voglia di scriverle direttamente, e lei si è dimostrata gentilissima e paziente nonostante il mio inglese amatoriale. Poi, come spesso succede in queste piccole interviste via email, da quel leggero sfasamento tra domande e risposte a distanza saltano fuori delle sorprese interessanti, tipo quando io sbaglio completamente riferimenti musicali e così lei mi parla dei suoi dischi preferiti (citando anche i Petite League!). Elsa Lester è una delle rivelazioni indiepop dell'anno, Dinnner Party sarà una delle colonne sonore dell'estate di questo blog, ma io non vedo già l'ora di sentire cosa la giovane cantautrice olandese saprà regalarci in futuro.
Dinner Party è disponibile anche in cassetta via Z Tapes.

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Hi Elsa, when did you start making music and how?
I started making music when I was 7. I started with piano, had lessons for 8,5 years, picked up the guitar when I was 13, picked up bass guitar and cello when I was 19. So I’ve been making a lot of music for 16 years now.
I always wanted to be a musician and write my own songs so I started doing that when I was around 20 years old. The first proper song that I wrote was Happy Hollywood and two months later I released my second proper song Lemonade. That’s when I really started working on my music.
I was in one other band before Elsa Lester. We were called Until We Fall and played metalcore/hardcore. It was fun but we were not at all a serious band. Three of them actually play in my band now.

Did you play all the instruments on the album and EP?
Kind of. I played and sang everything except for the drums, I used software for that. I have my own band that play with me during shows.

The first thing I read about you was “The Netherlands’ version of Courtney Barnett”: do you think it is fair to your writing and your idea of music? Or did you feel it was lazy and an easy comparison because you are both girls with a guitar?
I take it as a big compliment. I haven’t been listening to Courtney Barnett for a long time but I recently bought her entire discography and saw her live a couple of weeks ago and boy, she’s good. I love her music. But I do understand where you’re coming from. I think people tend to compare musicians to each other when they have the same gender. Now that you’ve mentioned it, people always compare my music to other female artists like Liz Phair and Frankie Cosmos. Never noticed it, until now.

It seems to me that the sound on the new EP is a bit more indiepop than Stress Relief. Would you say this is correct? If so, what has changed in the meantime, other than the name of the project.
Yeah, I changed my artist name a couple of months ago from Great Profile to Elsa Lester because I didn’t want to have a ‘band name’ as my artist name. People were always confused when I told them that Great Profile was just me. The music also changed a little bit because I wanted to write more rock songs and not the poppy songs like True Blue, Indigo, and I Didn’t Wanna Meet You. I mean, I still like those songs and we still play them live but I love rock music more.

Beside Courtney Barnett, I would list different comparisons for Dinner Party, for example Lois, Tiger Trap, Flatmates, Vaselines and maybe also All Girl Summer Fun Band. Do you like some of them? What are your favorite indie pop records?
I don’t know any of them, haha! Some of my favorite indie pop/rock records are: Down In Heaven by Twin Peaks, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett, Boronia by Hockey Dad, Slugger by Petite League, Sad Boys by Surf Curse, and Next Thing by Frankie Cosmos.

In Somewhere you sing "You make my heart feel like a joke": I think it's a great line to describe the way people sometimes make you feel when you passionately talk about indiepop and they just don't have a clue: but what the song is actually about?
That’s funny! I totally get what you’re talking about. I like a lot of smaller bands and I can’t share that passion with anyone and it totally sucks! A lot of people don’t get my music taste haha. That’s why I always go to shows alone.
Somewhere is actually about me trying to escape a toxic relationship that I was in with a guy for three years. I wanted to leave because he was an asshole, did a lot of bad things, and made me feel like total shit 24/7 but I couldn’t for some reason. People who have been in that kind of relationship know what I’m talking about. The other one makes you feel like they are the only important thing in your life that’s left and you are so dependent on them. A lot of mixed feelings are described in this song.
Somewhere is part 2 of two songs that I wrote about this relationship. This song is written from my (a female) perspective) while Say No, part 1, is written from my ex’s (a male) perspective.

Is there a main or recurring theme on the new record? What is the inspiration behind the lyrics?
I’d say, and this is super cliché, but love is definitely a main theme on the record, whether it’s good, bad, or unrequited love. I guess the only interesting things that happen in my life are about love, and I have a shitty love life hahah!

Why did you choose to release the EP on cassette? A recent article on The Quietus celebrated the uncool CD format: cheaper, with a lower environmental impact and extremely DIY. Do you have an opinion about "the return of vinyl"?
I like cassettes. I think they look cool because they’re so small and it’s super retro. I released Stress Relief on CD but I think CD’s are old fashioned now. Vinyl is the most popular but it sucks that it’s so expensive. I have a couple of records on vinyl but I only buy vinyl when I really really like the record and I know that I’ll listen to it often. I hope to release my music on colored vinyl some day, already looking forward to it!