Japan Today

Former model Esie is equal parts pixie and operatic howler

By Dan Grunebaum

The career of a fashion model-turned-singer usually lasts about one album—just long enough for management to squeeze the last drop of alternative revenue out of her. But Esie’s music wasn’t concocted in a corporate boardroom. With songs like “Castrate You All” and “Deny Life,” she isn’t your garden-variety tarento.

“There are various ways of taking it, and I don’t want to tell you how,” Esie says coyly about the former song over coffee in Shibuya with her production partner Yoshimi Hishida. “One of her main themes is ambivalence,” chips in Hishida. “Sometimes she’s a cute Japanese girl, all light and airy, and at other times a powerful woman. But really they are both the same person.”

For this interview, she is the shy, immaculately coiffed Japanese "gyaru" sitting across the table perhaps much like the girl discovered by a fashion model scout at 16 at a department store in Kichijoji. Esie, the cute Japanese girl, spent her late teens as a muse for fashion mag Non-No and as the face for L’Oreal. But listen to her debut album "Poetic," and she’s the formidable woman. Her deep, operatic voice roils—and sometimes howls—above Hishida’s dark soundscapes, which traipse from dreamy electronica to razor-sharp dance floor beats. The effect vaguely recalls an electropunk Nina Hagen or Kate Bush.

“I’m influenced by orchestral music, but also by artists like Radiohead, and I really admire Kate Bush,” she grants. “I never knew who Nina Hagen was until someone told me I sound like her. But when I listened to her, it made sense.”

Esie’s musical universe was formed in her high school chorus and cello lessons. But she didn’t really get serious until Hishida, who’d previously created soundtracks for the likes of filmmaker Takeshi Kitano, came across her on the social network Mixi.

“I hadn’t been producing for a while, but then I thought that I wanted to start doing music again, and wanted to work with a female singer,” he recalls. “I’d met some singers through personal connections, but none of them clicked. As I was looking around Mixi I came across Esie’s profile and we shared a lot musically.”

The pair found common cause in the studio, creating the brooding, hypnotic tracks that eventually became "Poetic." Esie’s music has found its most receptive audience in France, a country with which Hishida has a long working relationship. Her upcoming Tokyo performance will be shot for a scene in The Blood, a film featuring an all-Japanese cast by French director Guillaume Tauveron.

Japan, on the other hand, has yet to figure out what to make of Esie, a stage name that comes from the words “poesie” and “heresie.”

“In Japan, the reaction was really violent—they seemed to think I was some kind of beast,” she says about her concerts, which see her stalk the stage like some kind of malevolent catwoman.

“On the other hand, France was a lot of fun,” she adds about her first overseas tour there last year. “If I can’t go over in Japan, then it’s not a problem! I’m not AKB after all.”

“When I thought about what kind of music I wanted to do, I didn’t want to be limited to the domestic market like J-pop,” Hishida says, “but something that could go international. And I felt that with Esie that was possible.”

It’s unlikely that Esie will threaten the likes of Namie Amuro on the charts. Yet as a fashion model, her music takes up issues faced by many beautiful young women marketed for public consumption. “With both fashion and music, you think a lot about how you want to be perceived by others,” she says. “You have to think hard before you appear in public.”

“Castrate You All” notwithstanding, Esie insists that being a fashion model hasn’t turned her into a man-hater. “I do deal with a lot of grabby men in my fashion work, but it’s not only directed to men,” she says. “I have a lot of dissatisfaction with society, and that is just one aspect.”

Now 22, her years in the fashion industry have left her with the illusion-free air that you often find in models. “I’d love to do music,” she answers when asked whether music or fashion is the priority, “but modeling brings in the cash, so if I had to choose one, I’d have to go with that.”

"Poetic" is available on Listening-Mode. Esie plays Club Ever in Omotesando on April 26.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Oh well...Esie come, Esie go.

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Is she still relevant?

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Meh, most of the time but sometimes she actually scares me and I don't know if that's a good thing...

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“If I can’t go over in Japan, then it’s not a problem! I’m not AKB after all.”

That statement won me over. Whether she has the talent and luck to succeed, time will tell. But her attitude is awesome!

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With her look, I don't care if she howls like Yoko Ono.

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Love to see musicians doing whatever the heck they want instead of crafting an image to sell the most records. Refreshing.

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Smorkian- that is what a musician is. Anyone who doesnt do this is not a musician.

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