I first ask about the popularity of their song, “Kandi.” “Kandi” is now in rotation on mainstream, mass-market rock radio. But don’t misread One eskimO’s recent success; they are still very much an indie band with home-made, do-it-yourself aesthetics. Still, the fact remains that having a so-called “hit song” on mass-market radio can start to change things.
“‘Kandi’ is probably a standout song for us, but it’s different from many of our other songs. I kind of see ‘Kandi’ as a doorway to our other songs. Many fans downloaded ‘Kandi,’ but they’ve come back for other songs,” he says as he finishes his dinner, wearing what might become his trademark fingerless, grey winter gloves. He’s an intense talker and keeps things going at a quick pace. He’s excited about playing with Gomez this night, and remarks that, like Gomez, and so many others in the indie scene, One eskimO have been touring very extensively. “I think maybe in nearly a year… we’ve been back in England for only six or seven total weeks. But,” he adds emphatically, “we’re comfortable with each other.”
Falkner quickly chimes in, saying, “We probably see each other as much as most husbands or wives.”
One eskimO have recently toured with Bob Schneider and Tori Amos. They’re playing Coachella and other festivals later this year. Their touring record might seem to put them in the category of alternative singer-songwriters, but the party atmosphere of Coachella could help categorize them more as electronic cross-over musicians. I ask if any of the other artists they’ve toured with resemble the category of music they think they fit into or whether they’d like to be affiliated with how those artists have marketed their music. “We kind of avoid genre and label. I don’t know what we are,” says Leontiou. “There are many different influences. But really, it’s just us.”
“We try to be honest and pure in our songs…. I think that’s why we connect with others.”
Adam Falkner, Percussionist of One eskimO
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Falkner concurs strongly. “Music seems tribal these days, with groups finding audiences online and through touring,” he says. “That’s more important to who we are and how we do what we want to do.”
One eskimO’s soft electronic sound is layered with deep and emotional lyrics. They’re storytellers and clearly want to offer their audience a connection to their spirits and moods. “We try to be honest and pure in our songs. The songwriting and the musical arrangements are very personal. I think that’s why we connect with others.” During their set, they seemed to win over fans as their music and lyrics layered, and their musicianship and personality began to shine through.
Despite having horns, sampling, and electronics which might hint at a louder sound, the grace of One EskimO is in how they take all of these sounds to finesse them and use them lightly. Their arrangements include trumpeter and bass player, Jamie Sefton, and guitarist Pete Rinaldi. The four members of One eskimO got together in London in 2008 and developed the band fully in early 2009. Despite being very much a new group, their dynamic is careful, thoughtful and intense.
Through their extensive touring, One eskimO have gained an affinity for traveling in America. They’re enjoying their current stay in San Francisco. “It’s fun to be in a place we’ve been before, but to bring new things to it. I remember being here in San Francisco on an earlier tour and going down to the Bridge downtown and just walking around there for like quite a long time,” Leontiou recalls. We enjoy being in the city. I don’t like staying at motels on freeways. Tonight we’re at The Phoenix, here in town.”
I ask Leontiou and Falkner about the difference between the community back in London and the crowds they’ve met and played to in the US. “In the UK, many fans just say to us after a show, ‘Good work mate,’ and they’re done,” says Falkner. “In the US, after a show, fans are much more curious. They’ll ask us about our gear and what we’ve done to mix the sounds. In a way, they’re much more musical, it seems…”
For a band that flirts with the mainstream and pop music, there’s an intimacy in the sound and the lyrics of One eskimO that’s essentially pure, regardless of where their current trajectory takes them. They’ve been Single Of The Week at Starbucks and have toured with major label artists, but on this particular evening, opening for Gomez, One eskimO show that the key is the focus and the sincerity they express. At 9 p.m., as One eskimO performed in front of a couple hundred folks, nothing else existed but an old bordello turned music venue, on a warm San Francisco night.