Photo: Charlotte Patmore
“Look at me. Don’t look at me. Love me. Don’t fucking love me too much!”
“You can hear it in Slow Club records – I was ready to do this kind of thing and I couldn’t do it in the band,so it was time to go – for my own well-being. I was going a bit crazy trying to shoehorn my ideas into something that was very different.”
Once of Slow Club, Rebecca Taylor is now following her own path as Self Esteem. Sat in a cosy South London pub, she’s explaining how the name that had been in her head for ten years has now become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I felt exhausted by the end of Slow Club and mentally it was very difficult to consistently be compromised – and I didn’t really realise that at the time – but now I’m doing this, I feel so much happier and comfortable in myself.”
“I’m still pretty skint and my life’s still pretty normal but I now have this wild outlet that I can do anything with. I was in a band for ten years where I had to stand on stage, zip my coat up and look at my feet and say sorry if I fucked up. I wanted to experiment more, especially aesthetically. But you can’t push someone to do that and Charles and I are very different people.”
Her debut album Compliments Please (“That name works so well for the album because I am such a mixed message. Look at me. Don’t look at me. Love me. Don’t fucking love me too much!”) is different, inspired by her love of pop and hip-hop and full of vibrant, technicolor moments. It’s the sound of someone finding her own voice.
Not that this will all be completely new to Slow Club fans. “It’s still digestible to a Slow Club fan’s ear. And I’m pretty consistently sad, angry with someone, horny and depressed – so all the songs sound like one of those things. You’ve just never had a full album of that as it’s always been peppered with Charles’ nice metaphors,” she laughs.
“…I love that it’s not perfect and pristine.I realised if I’m gonna do this then it needs to be in a different way.”
It took her a while to find her sound as she visited pop studios trying to pin it down. But these trips only led to her realising what she didn’t want to do. “I wanted to see how those proper pop factories worked but it wasn’t right for me. I thought I wanted to be this huge star but I realised pretty quickly I didn’t want to be a huge star in that way.”
“There’s a certain type of accepted sexuality you can put on big pop songs and there’s a certain type of feminism. Nothing’s messy enough for me. It was all a bit too processed.”
But that’s not to say she doesn’t love ‘pop’. She listens to a lot of Rihanna, likes Let’s Eat Grandma (“but they’re like half my age so it’s very stressful”) and remembers thinking when Lorde first came out “I’d been talking about doing this for years”. She’s also “a fucking huge Little Mix fan and I love that it’s not perfect and pristine. I realised if I’m gonna do this then it needs to be in a different way.”
And Self Esteem feels like a new kind of pop — not processed but something proudly, powerfully female. She told herself “if you’re going to do it make it really, really beautiful and powerful and evoke really soaring emotion in people” – and the album is full of gospel choirs, strings, striking vocals and syncopated beats. “I think ‘Wrestling’ was the first time I was like ‘This is what it sounds like’, and then to my mind I’d written the album and it was done.
I’d been in a relationship and I was like “This is great, I can be in a relationship and still write an album”. I’d always thought I had to be in turmoil to write good stuff. So I thought I’d disprove that theory but then we did break up and I wrote ‘Rollout’, ‘In Time’, ‘I’m Shy’ – all of my favourites. I was, like, ‘Shiitt!’.”
Our chat turns to sexism in the industry. “I do feel respected finally. In Slow Club it wasn’t anyone’s fault but people didn’t think I wrote songs. That hurt me for years actually. But now both my managers are beautiful strong women. So I don’t think people will fuck with me quite so much anymore!”
“I’m not doing this to say ‘FUCK MEN!’ but I was playing the game in a man’s world in indie land and I’m not waving a flag… I just naturally have the flag on me. God, I sound like Bros. My analogies are terrible!”
The new Matt Goss? Possibly not. But you get the feeling Rebecca Taylor won’t be asking about when she will be famous for much longer.
Compliments Please is released 1st March via Fiction Records.
Self Esteem performs at Thekla on 21st March
T: @SELFESTEEM___ F: @RLTSELFESTEEM
See the video for ‘The Best’ here: