For Esmé returns to Ottawa with fresh sounds


When we were approached to present Toronto’s For Esmé and Featurette on the same bill, it was a no-brainer. I’ve been following the work of lead songwriter and vocalist Martha Meredith for a few years now, and watching from afar as she hones her craft.

2018’s Righteous Woman is the third full-length album from the group, following its much-loved predecessors Sugar (2015) and For Esmé (2013). Righteous Woman is described as “a feminist awakening and excavation of the voices within, repositioning the multitudes of womanhood, to push back against the patriarchy, to offer the possibility of living on one’s own terms.”

The album explores these subjects with tact and audacity, but the group doesn’t sacrifice the restorative power of synth and electronic music at the core of this album’s production. Mar’s lyricism are both bold and vulnerable at the same time. The record is both contemplative and emancipating, encouraging listeners to take the subject matter seriously…but have a dance party simultaneously. And I loved that about Righteous Woman. In a world where truth is increasingly obfuscated, and in an industry that is still ruled by patriarchal structures, For Esmé brings a breath of fresh air.

I had the opportunity to chat with Mar before For Esmé’s show with Featurette and Mia Kelly on Saturday night. The show takes place at the new DIY venue Cinqhole (5b Fairmont Ave. in Hintonburg). Cover is $10 at the door, and the show is all ages/licensed 19+.

Interview with Martha Meredith of For Esmé

It’s exciting that you’re going on a short tour with Featurette. The bands are so complimentary—how did you end up connecting with the band?

In a previous iteration of For Esmé we did some shows with Featurette in 2016, and we decided it was time do some fresh ones with both of our new material!

You’ve mentioned that literature is an influence for your music in the past. Is that still true today? In what way does it influence your songwriting?

Literature has always been a big influence for me. The band name comes from the title of a short story by J. D. Salinger. Last year I put out a song called “Modern Love” that was inspired by my favourite essay by Joan Didion. I guess I just love to read, and I find referencing literature can offer a beautiful way to frame a more personal sentiment.

One of the things that stands out to me about your music is that your lyrics are so raw and honest, and can tackle pretty difficult subjects. As a songwriter, how do you feel that you’ve evolved as a storyteller?

Thank you — that means a lot ! The focus of my work has definitely always been about tackling difficult truths, either for myself or for the world around me. On Righteous Woman I spent a lot of time trying to interrogate my internalized misogyny and explore that, which was challenging. I’ve always wanted to make accessible music that makes you want to move while tackling more intense subject matter. For me, for songwriting to be intellectually satisfying it can’t just be songs about love and/or partying, you know ? I find I hear a lot of that on the radio and get bored.

In these turbulent times—particularly for those who are marginalized in society—what role do you think music has in the collective consciousness? Do you intentionally write your songs to break down barriers and help people understand the world a bit better?

I definitely think music can be a great way to tackle tougher things in a way that brings people in. In a time of call-out culture I see a lot of value in introspective work or social critiques to call people in, instead of out. Also when I focus on my own struggles in a vulnerable way I hope to make other people feel safe to open up about their own struggles too. That said, I always wish I could be making more of a difference in a tangible and broader way, so lately I’ve been trying to explore what I can do to help improve the world, outside of music.

When the last song ends, what is it that you hope the audience takes away from your live performances?

I always hope that people have been moved emotionally by the words. That’s definitely the goal! But I also love when everyone is dancing. That brings me a ton of joy.