When we talk about a genre called Future Soul, one musical element to check in with is Philadelphia duo Essonite. Consisting of Martin Esser and Will Loftus, Essonite put their own spin on the electro-soul sound -- a sound spearheaded by Colorado producer Pretty Lights that's given way to many underground producers the past years.
The Essonite style ups the ante with doses of hands-on synthesis, dusty hip hop grooves, old school sample chops, and thorough live instrumentation. The duo just released their latest EP Identity Crisis where they explore the future soul identity of euphoric lyrical textures, dirty processing, epic guitar solos topped with dystopian bass designs.
To get to know the Essonite element further, we explore their musical brand in their Stereofox artist mix, which includes unreleased material from years past to some of their latest works. In addition, we got an exclusive interview with the Philly boys below, so press that play button and give it a read:
- Essonite - Souls Apart (unreleased)
- Essonite - Marlena's Song (unreleased)
- Essonite - Where We Dream (unreleased)
- Essonite - Voice Inside (unreleased)
- Essonite - Feelings We Share
- Essonite - Move Like This
- Essonite - Where Is Love
- Essonite - Make It Last
- Essonite - Enough For Me feat. Skyblew
- Essonite - Time Is Slow
Hey Guys, great to have you. First of all, how are things going?
Doing well! Thanks for having us.
For those who don’t know you, what’s Essonite all about?
Martin: Well, back in 2016 when we started this project, Essonite was primarily based on hip hop production practices like sampling old soul or funk vinyl and then distorting, modifying, or reinterpreting the sounds to create something new, followed by recording our own instruments on top of that. Today, Essonite is almost entirely recorded live instrumentation, then sequenced and injected with electronic spice.
Will: We call most of our music “future” or “electronic” soul, or a blend of analog tendencies within an electronic domain.
Your latest EP Identity Crisis gets very raw and experimental. Is there anything you guys tried differently for this EP? If so, what?
It definitely is. While we are used to recording the drums, guitars, keys, synths, percussion, and bass over increasingly less frequently used sampled vinyl snippets, for Identity Crisis we focused on recording absolutely everything. We used to bring in a lot of other musicians for recording things like strings or brass, and in some cases vocals, but since last year we've been writing and recording all of our own lyrics, which has been really fun. I think the most different approach we took with this EP comes in the sense that we usually produce in the studio with the intention of playing the songs live, but obviously with the current state of the world we were forced to approach the writing process differently and work on making it as impactful as possible without knowing how things would look in 6 months to a year.
The tracks are sometimes confrontational, but also encouraging. What made you guys come up with the “identity crisis” theme and how did you integrate it throughout?
Great question. Back in March of 2020 when COVID began to worsen, I thought to myself, “Wow, I have so much time to write and produce new music”. But that wasn’t exactly how it played out. Throughout the year, a strange pull away from my usual inspiration to create took over and I had to question why. Along with what a tragic year 2020 ended up being, I am still searching for the answer to this, however, last year we ended up creating many different kinds of music, some of which even came as a surprise to us. Not necessarily painting the most viable tracks for Essonite, but nonetheless setting new boundaries and experimenting however we could. By exploring different musical outlets we were trying to understand what direction Essonite was headed in. As we questioned these things, the idea of an ‘Identity Crisis’ EP began to take shape; as we searched for our own identity in the context of this project and where it was to go. Now that it’s finished, we’re really proud of the results.
You guys threw down a mix for us. Tell me more about it.
We tried to keep the mix representative of what we’ve put forth in our live shows and studio releases over the past 5 years. Along with classics, some brand new songs, we included a few sample based tracks that never saw the light of day. It's definitely a peek at the roots of Essonite.
You guys are based in Philly. What’s the scene like out there?
Currently? Nonexistent haha. Our last official show was set to be in March of last year but it was cancelled along with a few other shows we had booked for 2020. There's plenty of livestreams and opportunities in the digital world right now, which we’ve done a couple of, but we're really just itching to get back to playing live again, whenever and whatever that might look like.
What does your creative process look like for you guys both as individuals and collaborators?
Martin: The process usually spawns from one point of inspiration. Will writes a guitar riff, which sparks me to think about how it fits into a song idea melodically or rhymically, and it's a spiral from there. Add the bass, tweak the guitar. Does it get a “drop”, do we add vocals, what structure should it follow, etc.
Will: We don't hold back with each other when we're in the studio either, if something sounds shitty, we say it and scrap it. Same goes for if something sounds too similar to another song. People might think we’re rude to each other if they overheard us working in the studio but I think that speaks to our comfort in producing together and able to be honest with one another while respecting each other’s opinions. The process is really just building blocks, stacking one idea onto another until we're satisfied.
When you guys aren’t making music, what are you up to?
We both geek out over audio equipment and bikes actually. We love to ride our fixed gears around the city. Will’s day job is as a producer for the NPR music show World Cafe at WXPN and I work as a Data Architect for a life sciences company. We also both love hanging with our dogs & hiking or being outside.
If you could make music with anyone living or dead. Who are your top three and why?
Our collective three would be Aretha Franklin, Dr. Dre, and Brian Wilson. Aretha for obvious reasons, but really just to hear her voice in the raw on top of any type of music new or old would be amazing. Same goes for producers like Dre and Brian Wilson, like when they were making albums like The Chronic or Pet Sounds, just to be in the room, even if we have nothing to contribute, would be an amazing experience.
You guys got this EP. Now what are the next months looking like for Essonite?
Your guess is as good as ours… We have a few collaborations in the works, so alongside those, release a few singles, and then hopefully start the next album!
Support the artist directly by purchasing Essonite's Identity Crisis on bandcamp here.