In an upside-down world, the misfits wear the crowns, the meek have finally conquered what is rightfully theirs and the air is breathable once and for all. Esther and HOLY, two Stockholm musical thermometers, share their views of the world as it is and as it will hopefully be.
Esther is the mystical pop creature playing what looks like, from a rock’n’roll point of view, an oversized xylophone, making music resembling a starry night sky from beyond a giant’s eye. A while back, all the kool cids of Sweden’s capital all of a sudden wondered, “Who is Esther, and where did she come from?”, since she seemingly emerged from nowhere and gave us underground but nevertheless mainstream-friendly hits such as ‘Follow Me Home’ and the possible future Christmas classic ‘As the Right Bell Sounds’, the latter recorded with avant-garde pop sensation GRANT.
HOLY, on the other hand, is nowadays seen as somewhat of an indie veteran when putting his three full-length albums into the equation. Hannes Ferm, the individual unsubtly hiding behind this stage name, lets his alien-ish features and mannerisms take their toll completely on his latest effort, the LP Ryder, and his role as misfit king of the unruly, pained masses of Stockholm and beyond is undeniable.
Who better to talk to in this interview, than two definitive definers of this time in Stockholm’s ever-changing musical landscape – when the topic is the realisation of hope within hopelessness?
“I find it hard to describe in what way isolation affects my music. I have noticed how some creative thresholds have become easier to step over, while others have become more difficult to pass.” These words are the response to our question about how isolation – something all of us have been forced to confront recently – resonates with the music that vibraphonist, singer and songwriter Esther Lennstrand makes, in her own opinion. Indeed they have altered themselves, all the thresholds of this communal life we lead, and for the listener, the solemn notes Esther gently invokes from not only her beautiful vibraphone but also various exotic synthesizers speaks the same language as the tongue we all fluently master in this time; the lonely, the eager, the distanced dialect of a jargon we would never had thought we would ever use. Esther’s music celebrated isolation, knowingly or otherwise, way before there was even talk of staying the fuck at home.
When asked about what she will take with her from these strange months, Esther replies, “I’ve decided, during this time, to learn how to use new synthesizers. Hopefully I’ll be able to take advantage of this new knowledge in future creations”. Re-thinking her answer to the question, Esther gives The Forumist a more diffuse response: “To be less concrete, I think I would say that what I will bring with me the realisation of my appreciation for meeting different people – maybe I will be a bit more open after all this has ended.”
Talking of a recent live stream she participated in, Esther comments on the massively popular alternative to a face-to-face music experience that has surfaced in our days of cultural poverty: “It became something that brought people together when things felt at their darkest. It felt very special, but it was strange to play for people who were not present in the room. It was difficult to remember that there was actually an audience watching.”
“I believe almost all creators of music and art see isolation as a necessity,” Hannes Ferm says, on the subject of how the socially solicited solitude has affected HOLY and its creations, and thus swiftly disarms any doubt as to whether art and artists will survive this global crisis or not, with the delicate phrases presented in his answer. Many have feared and more have suffered, but we have learned the truth in that we artists are cockroaches, and we can survive nuclear blasts of any possible magnitude. “The lyrics on Ryder revolved very much around post-apocalyptic themes,” Hannes says, which is certainly understandable when admiring the dystopian cover of the album. During the last few months of cultural lockdown, Hannes has recorded and produced several other bands, and sees it as a beneficial learning process. Many things can come from a complete change of scenery, and in this extreme case, hopefully the positive alterations of our reality will outlive the negative.
In many ways, Esther and Hannes together form the perfect role model in this time, this hour of need. To realise what we are facing, the harsh but realistic integrity of Hannes is acquired, but also the eager vision of Esther. While seeing the positivity in it, Hannes has another angle on the popular (by demand) phenomenon of live streaming than Esther does. “The more of them I see now, the more palpable it is that this is not working as a substitute for live music for me,” Hannes – who partook in a Forumist live stream this December and will, just like Esther, be seen in The Forumist’s stream from Hotel At Six on 22 May – says, continuing his thoughts: “I see it as something different, and I think live streaming has more potential as something new, rather than thinking it will fill some kind of void.” What we can take away from this interview, after this has passed, is the unfillable void that such a world-turning episode as this one brings with it. What needs to be realised is simple: the world we leave behind now is not worth looking back to; the world we look forward to now is actually worth hoping for.
On 22 May, both Esther and HOLY will take part in the live stream celebration of The Forumist’s twentieth issue at Hotel At Six – where the two acts will be both performing and interviewed live.
Words by Filip Lindström
Photography by Joakim Rolandsson
Styling by Ester Boije
Hair and Makeup by Catherine Lehtonen
Talent: Esther & Holy
Dop & Editor: Anton Olin
Producer: Adrian Wallér Zandén
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