E^ST (aka Melissa Bester), is the NSW Central Coast 17-year old who continues to captivate us with a signature sound proudly burdened by sweeping stories of defeat and encouragement – it’s authentic and anthemic, proving to us that age has no limits in creating something timeless. We caught up with E^ST to find out more about the processes behind her music, the relationship she has with it as it has developed, and what’s next for her in the new year.
HAPPY: First of all, just wanted to say you smashed it at The Plot in Parra earlier this month and are about to play Beyond The Valley! You have such a lively stage presence, plus your hair flick and glittery blue shoes were so on point. Are there particular things you think about when you’re live on stage? Are there particular things you find off-putting?
E^ST: (Laughs) Thank you very much! I guess I think about how what I’m doing is getting across to the audience. If I sense energy levels in the room dropping, I’ll try to up my energy and performance.
HAPPY: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
E^ST: Before every show, one person in the band says a quote just before we go on stage. The quotes range from Oscar Wilde to Michael Jordan to Art vs Science.
HAPPY: You have this edgy sense of style – love! The way artists present themselves often has a big influence in how their music is perceived. Visual and audio tend to go hand in hand and social media is such a great platform for that. What are the kind of vibes you’d consciously hope would translate through your facade?
E^ST: My music is mostly quite dark and broody, so I’d like the visual aspects of E^ST to accentuate that.
HAPPY: Your second EP The Alley is a lot more bolder and electronic driven that your debut Old Age. What was the process like in developing your next level sound?
E^ST: Although I like all the songs on my first EP, I definitely connected with Old Age the most, lyrically, but also musically and sonically. It’s much more electronic than the rest of the EP, so that was where I wanted to go from for the next EP.
HAPPY: Music resonates differently to everyone – much like the idea of the death of the author. Are their particular themes or messages you’d hope people uncover by listening to The Alley EP?
E^ST: I try to be very honest in my music, so I suppose in a way that is me trying to get others to be honest about themselves and the world as well. We set up such unrealistic expectations of people and life, and it’s those expectations that make reality even more bleak and brutal.
HAPPY: Your lyrics are poignant and powerful in unearthing raw and delicate emotions in the most gentle and empowering way. Do you write from real life experiences or empathise with circumstance, or a bit of both?
E^ST: A bit of both! I write a lot about my own experiences, and thoughts and opinions. But I also write lyrics from other people’s point of view.
HAPPY: From your first EP, Until Then was one of the most heartbreaking songs of 2014 – the lyrics can come across as a hopeful yet devastating realisation for anyone going through the similar circumstance in waiting for their time to find love. Love is a recurring theme in your music. So how do you feel about it? Do you have a good relationship with it or do you hate its guts?
E^ST: Man I never know how I feel about love! It can be wonderful, and it can be devastating. I guess for me, the important thing to remember is that love is constantly changing.
HAPPY: E^ST meets The Verve – what a combo! Tell us a bit about how the Like A Version cover of Bitter Sweet Symphony came about? What is it about the track that drew you to it?
E^ST: I liked the idea of taking a classic song and giving it a modern twist. And I thought it would be nice to cover a song that was part of triple J history! So me and my band narrowed it down to a few songs we liked from past Hottest 100s, and played around with the different ideas. Bittersweet Symphony just worked really well, so we went with that one!
HAPPY: Give us a bit of an insight into your music writing process? Do you usually come up with the tune, beat, idea or lyrics first? Is it quite individualistic or collaborative effort?
E^ST: Every song works out a bit different! Some start as a lyric or poem, others start as a chord progression or a beat, some start as a feeling I get or the mood of my environment. I love writing and working with other people, because I can learn so much from them and my eyes can be opened to different ways of writing. But some songs need to be written just by myself. They’re too personal and important to me to share with anyone else in that way (laughs).
HAPPY: If you could give us an analogy of what it feels like to listen to your music, how would you describe it?
E^ST: I would describe it as eating one of those awful Swedish candies. At first it’s really sweet and wonderful, but as you get to the core of it, you realise that it’s just salt.
HAPPY: Asking the tough questions here, but what is it that motivates you in life to do what it is that you do? Whether it’s music or something else.
E^ST: I guess I make music because it makes me feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose and that I’ve found my place in the world.
HAPPY: What’s next for E^ST heading into the big 2016?
E^ST: Well the year starts off with an all ages east coast tour in January with Kilter, UV Boi and Dylan Joel. And I’ll definitely be sharing more music. Apart from that, it’s hard to say.
HAPPY: What’s your dream collaboration? Realistic or unrealistic, dream big!
E^ST: I’m gonna have to say Jeff Buckley as unrealistic as it gets (laughs).
HAPPY: Finally, what is it that makes you happy?