Earlier today I got on the phone with Nathan Crook of the Toronto band For Esme. Originally from Brandon, and one of my musical idols growing up, it was really fun to catch up!
Nathan Crook, Dave Thiel, and Martha Meredith have been making music together for 2 years and in that time they have had some pretty incredible experiences.
I grew up knowing Nathan and Dave and idolizing them as my local musical heroes. Going to see Nathan play guitar with Take With Audio, fake ID in hand, was an enlightening experience for a young musician, (these guys have long hair, play guitar, and people like them! And it’s all they do? I want to do that!).
I knew Dave because he used to do sound for Until Red when we were throwing community centre shows. Being a first-rate Brandon University music student, he could also be seen on any given weekend playing with a variety of local musicians.
Nathan and Dave were part of a wonderful community of musicians in Brandon who got together and jammed nearly every night. These jams were an amazing experience - when I was lucky enough to be invited to one, I made some friendships in the hallowed halls of ‘The Loft’ that have continued for many years.
In fact, when Nathan first moved to Toronto, he and Martha needed a bass player on short notice. So Nathan just called his old friend Dave and asked, “do you want to learn these tunes?”. Dave said yes, they did a short tour, Dave moved to Toronto and the rest is history in the making.
I asked Nathan how For Esme’s quick rise to the spotlight in Canada’s indie scene came about, and explained that they “did a lot of behind the scenes research, talking to PR companies about how to make the biggest impact. Martha has such a great head for business and marketing, that we were able to do a lot of it ourselves.”
Since releasing three singles, For Esme has started counting YouTube views in the 1000s/hour. “It’s crazy. Back in Brandon we would be stoked about 500 views. Now our video for ‘You’ was featured on MuchMusic and IndieShuffle? It’s just bizarre!”
Another highlight for the band was playing Wayhome festival in Toronto. 30 000 people were in the audience and the band not only got to play on the second biggest stage, but they got to take in the surreal experience of sitting backstage alongside greats such as Neil Young and Alt-J.
Moving from Brandon to Toronto was a challenge, remembers Nathan, especially the first year; “There are just so many people, so many musicians, so many bands, it can be overwhelming. I remember the first gig we played there, we had five people in the band and we made $30. It was tough, but it just just made me want to work harder.”
Over the the past 2 years has Nathan realized that he made the right decision. “There’s just so much going on. Just look at all the huge music festivals like NXNE and CMW. Every single night there’s something to do. And it’s where all the industry is; I have friends in Yukon Blonde who all lived in Vancouver, and Vancouver is nice but they flew to Toronto all the time. You have to!”
Having conquered the East, For Esme has now set their sights on the rest of Canada. Booked at Festival de Voyageur on Friday, they decided to fill out their Manitoban stay with a few other gigs around their home province. They’re planning on returning to Western Canada for a full tour in a couple months.
Beyond the business, Nathan still loves coming back to Manitoba, “it’s been so warm in Toronto that it hasn’t felt like winter. But now I’m in Minnedosa, looking out over the valley and watching the snow come down. It’s beautiful!"
Tonight, they play at 10pm at The City Centre. Don’t miss it.