Espers

(Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Espers is one of the figurehead bands of the North-Eastern folk scene. The band started when Greg Weeks met the Baird Sisters while both acts were playing in the same club. Meg and Lauren Baird were reinterpreting traditional folk ballads in a very personal manner, not too dissimilar from Weeks’ works. Meg was also collaborating with Brooke Sietinsons and, when Weeks joined them, they started recording as Espers.

The band started working on Baird’s compositions, sparking a highly creative chemistry between the members. They were joined by Laren Baird as well as Fursaxa’s Tara Burke on their self-titled debut in 2004. The album was well received and was frequently compared with the works of Fairport Convention and Linda Perhacs. The influence of british folk is felt strongly, perhaps the most out of all other ‘New Weird America’ acts. Music website Pitchfork noted that the record ‘manages to embrace its influences while simultaneously eclipsing them’ (Leech, 2010, p.266)

Followed an album of covers, The Weed Tree (2005), featuring renditions of traditional folk (‘Black is the color’), contemporary folk (Michael Hurley, The Famous Jug Band) as well as rock and pop (Blue Oyster Cult, Durutti Column).

The band had now extended to include Otto Hauser on drums, Chris Smith on bass and Helena Espvall on cello.

With their third album, Epsers II (2006), is a more mature work and is widely considered the band’s best. Recorded at Hexham Head, it features ‘Dead Queen’, one of the most acknowledged freak-folk songs. Espers II brought the band relative media attention and the members embarked on various side-projects. Its follow-up, Espers III (2009), culminated from various jam sessions, and as a result feels more fractured.