On very rare occasions, from the most destructive of places, beauty can emerge. Ever since singer Tali Källström and guitarist Rhodri Daniel met as “two strangers with disparate tastes and influences,” the two have been carving out a body of work that resembles an essence of chaos and beauty; a feeling of estrangement, an expression of morbid elegance, inspired by opposing sides. The funny thing about opposites, is they need each other in order to exist - one wouldn’t be what it is without the other.
From this place of tension, Estrons found their debut album. Ultimately, the bind that ties them is their love of creating fresh, exhilarating music, and with You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough, they’ve done just that. Beginning as an experiment, Estrons quickly became significantly more important than intended. They are simply a force that cannot be forced.
With its off-kilter rhythms, angular guitar work and clashing atmospherics, the album is both arresting and thrillingly disorienting – a fitting sound for a band of “highly driven, frustrated, volatile people.”
Vocals and instrumentals collide together throughout, creating a wild, beautiful noise – likely mirroring the self-confessed love/hate relationship between Rhodri and Tali, tied together by bassist, and long running producer, Steffan Pringle, whom they eventually convinced to join them. Despite the odds, they have captured a sound of their own. Estrons’ music “can be off-putting at first glance,” says Rhodri. “It’s only when you make your way through it that you get it. I have no time for music that doesn’t leave some sort of a mark.” And nor, evidently, does he make it.
But the best things are never easy, and nothing about Estrons – who are set to support the legendary Garbage on tour this September – is easy. Least of all Tali’s beautifully challenging lyrics, which are inspired by the raw honesty of artists like Peaches and Missy Elliott. Tali doesn’t do small talk – and you can hear that in the way she writes, which is vulnerable and assertive in equal measure, flitting between railing against people’s weaknesses, including her own, and making peace with them. “I swear I hurt you with the best intentions,” she sings on the melodic, introspective Strangers. “I’ve been trying to change myself again / Won’t you please just take me as I am?” The album, she says, grapples with societal pressures and expectations, and “the paradigm of how the perfect human should be.”
Tali has had a lot to contend with over the past few years - raising a son as a single mother while working in an unstable industry and fighting custody battles - but writing provides her with a much-needed sense of catharsis. “I went through many court cases to simply be able to be a single mother and a touring musician,” she says. “I was constantly watched. I had social services called on me, I had police turn up to tours.” ‘Drop’, meanwhile, was written from a police cell on tour after such misunderstanding. “I was so angry, but I wasn’t allowed a pen, so I just kept chanting these lyrics,” she says. “I ended up having to go through three months of hell.”
Cameras, on which Tali sings over jagged guitars, is a message to be read in the future, written for her son, “I’ll always put a fight up for you, I’ll buy the day and night for you,” is about “that one love that can’t be broken, no matter how many times people try to break it down. You can’t fuck with that kind of love.”
For all the album’s moments of intensity, though, there are bursts of levity too. “It’s not all bleak bleak bleak,” laughs Tali. “That’s not what I’m trying to achieve with the album, I don’t want people to feel just terrible. I want to empower people, and I want to get some laughter.” Make A Man, for example is a sexualised blow out which celebrates predatory attraction and equalises outspoken lust between genders.
Body, indictment of the “self-obsessive compulsive disorder” caused by social media, is equally tongue-in-cheek; Lilac is about the assumptions we place on gender, while the volatile ‘Killing Your Love’, which builds to a raucous, distorted frenzy before giving way to a moment of calm, is somewhere between mocking and sincere. “I originally wrote it about a specific person who I felt was a love addict,” says Tali, “but then after I wrote it, I realised we’re all terrified of being alone.” The line, “I heard you met the one… the one you met the other week,” is directed at herself as much as it is anyone else. “I like switching perspectives,” she says. “I’ll go from talking to another person to talking to myself.”
The album’s title – which is taken from the misfit anthem Aliens – has multiple targets, too. Though it sounds characteristically confrontational, Tali insists that it’s “not meant to be an argument, or an answer back. It’s just meant to be a comment on how we’re all different, and we all deal with ourselves in different ways. We all have dark moments; we all have good moments. There's a way that you're expected to behave as a mother, as a partner, as a colleague, as a friend. I just want to allow people to stop putting themselves down all the time. It's probably one of the hardest things to do. I still battle with it every day.”
Growing up of mixed international ancestry in a proud traditional country as Wales, Aliens also examines their roots but questions what it means to be of any nation in the 21st century. ‘Estrons’ in itself is a bastardised ‘Wenglish’ word for ‘Strangers’ or ‘Aliens’ in the Welsh language, which they all proudly speak.
Estrons’ album is an examination of opposites. Looking outwards and inwards at the same time, it is the sound of people coming together and pulling apart – an exploration of the human condition by two humans who could hardly be more different, who are held together by the love of their music. The album bubbles with defiance, vulnerability, humour, love and unapologetic rage. “People get made to feel ashamed for feeling angry,” says Tali. “You try so hard to kill it with love and be positive, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Sometimes you wanna be angry.” In making their debut album, Estrons have exorcised that anger – for now, at least. “Abrupt endings are common,” says Rhodri of Estrons’ songs, but he could just as easily be warning us about the band itself.
Still, through blood, sweat and tears, they’ve produced a piece of work that will survive whatever implosions are still to come.