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Self Esteem Looking on the bright side

One half of Slow Club and role model for women in the industry talks about new EP, Cuddles Please, and life in lockdown.

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Self Esteem. Photo by Charlotte Patmore.

Rebecca Lucy Taylor has been a role model for women in the music industry for years, first making her mark as one half of the highly-regarded Slow Club, then more recently launching her solo career as the empowering and confident Self Esteem.

Leaving indie behind for a more experimental sound, her first solo album Compliments Please received a huge amount of praise last year and has had fans very excited to see where this new direction will take her. Despite 2020 throwing all sorts of curveballs our way, she's managed to release an EP Cuddles Please on 1 May, which contains new slower versions of some of the most popular tracks from her album.

I caught up with Rebecca over the phone to chat about her new EP and how she's getting on in lockdown.

How is pandemic life treating you?

I keep saying this but I'm kind of fine with the restrictions! I'm pretty socially anxious anyway, so it's fine. I'd moved to my mum and dad's house in Sheffield before lockdown which was good because they've got a garden and I've commandeered the garage as my space where I can make music.

I was about to start recording my album so that's been quite tough - being ready to do that and then not being able to. But compared to a lot of people it's been fine for me, and now was a sort of downtime anyway in terms of my year.

Has it put a stop to any of your summer plans?

I had a few festivals, but this year wasn't my big festival summer. It was probably going to be next year. I was just going to go into the studio to record. We were thinking of just leisurely popping in and out a few days a week, but now if we're doing it it's going to have to be four solid weeks in isolation with a producer. But it's fine. It's possible I can do that. You've just got to make lemonade.

And despite the situation, you've released your new EP.

Yeah, it was good we got that in the can before all this. I did some stripped-down shows over Christmas and they worked really well so I thought we should record them in that sort of format. It's been nice to keep me ticking along a little bit.

So it was all recorded and finished before lockdown?

Yeah, we did it earlier this year. It was always going to come out around now - probably would have done a few videos and some gigs around it, but never mind.

I love the title, of this and your main album. What made you choose them?

Ha, well Compliments Please was a phrase I used a lot and it was a sort of funny reflection of what I was saying; demanding what I want and getting it. And Cuddles Please was just a joke really. I thought maybe I should just call the next album that - and here we are. It's a softer, sweeter version of the album though so yeah, it works.

You said you were planning to do a few shows when the EP was released?

Yeah, but they would only have been smaller shows. But god, I feel for the bands that have had their records out this year. It must be absolutely horrendous because a big part is playing the shows around your album release.

How different has it been recording your EP and album compared to those you made as Slow Club?

It's really different, just because I'm the boss!

Not having to compromise is really fun. When something feels really magic and exciting it used to be fun to share that with someone, but we gradually got less excited about the same things, so we weren't having that experience much towards the end anyway. We'll probably make something again when we're both in the right place for it.

I bet it's easier being a solo artist at this time, not having to orchestrate getting together somehow?

Yeah, definitely. We had to think twice about how we could get to the studio in Margate but safety wise it's only me and the producers. If it was a whole band that you had to jam with... nah, that's not happening for now.

Do you have any other lockdown plans?

I've been doing paintings, I've been writing, I've been doing a poetry book. It's not that wildly different. I can't play live which is sadly the only thing that I make any money out of, but lifestyle wise it's fine. I'm quite happy just pottering about doing my own thing.

Has this made you think any differently about what you can do virtually in the music industry?

Yeah, I mean we've all been racking our brains thinking what the equivalent of a live experience is. We've thought of driving or socially distanced gigs, but the point of the gig is that shared experience, the communal moment in time that you're all witnessing, so to try and get that experience digitally is difficult.

I've done a few live streams and I organised an online female-only festival on Instagram, which we did a couple of times. I've done some things that have kept the connection to the fanbase going but yeah, I haven't come up with it yet. I think it's because the thing you're trying to recreate is the closeness in a room full of people. I'm still trying, but until then I'm just waiting for the world to sort it all out.

Have you found yourself any mad new lockdown hobbies?

Not really, everything is what I normally do with my time anyway. I've been exercising every day and I have livestreamed that and had a few people joining in with me which is quite nice. I've cooked a lot because I live in a flat share, so I don't cook much, but because I'm at my parents I've been going to town in their kitchen. I've been doing lots of things that normal people do, like have a routine and calmly just live life. I'm usually running around so it's been nice.

Perhaps some positive out of all the madness?

I genuinely have found anxieties going away, so I'm like, 'OK, how do we take this forwards?' There are a few knots I had in my stomach that aren't there and I've been trying to work out what it is. I think it's just that city life, keeping-up-with-everyone feeling being totally gone and no-one being able to do anything is quite healthy, weirdly. I will be trying to think about re-focussing these feelings when the world is turning again.

by Tasha Franek (she/her)
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