DARK THOUGHTS with Gateshead musician Esme

At the start of 2017 Penance Stare started as a solo project. Now it’s a duo comprised of Esmé on vocals, guitar and electronics and Graeme on drum kit and electronics. Esme remembers the first gig…

It was in the dark Boiler Room at the Old Police House in Gateshead. I was using a broken microphone so I had to yell, unamplified over the music.


The Old Police House is bringing incredible shows to Gateshead. Drone/noise/ambient gigs at either the Soundroom or the Art Gallery. Across the river Tyne in Newcastle we have places like the Star & Shadow. Bands are still playing in bars just as much as DIY indie venues.

Newcastle and the surrounding area have a really good scene for both metal and experimental music, with a lot of crossover between.

What’s your music background ?

I was a child in the ’90s when Britpop and Alternative rock were popular. The earliest music I owned were the Shine cassette compilations of indie hits from around ’95/96. I still revisit that music occasionally. .

Our influences include Cranes, Velvet Cocoon, Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. We’ve both played in bands for many years before this, and have projects outside of Penance Stare. We currently rehearse in Gateshead’s Soundroom.

Are you from a musical family ?

My dad played guitar, not well or in bands but he would pull faces while jamming bad blues licks. He bought me some used equipment as a teenager.

My mother exposed me to a lot of music too. Growing up I would steal her records and tapes. She sang a lot, not very well, but she got a lot of enjoyment from it. I can relate to that.

When did you first pick up an instrument and what was it? 

Aged 12 or 13. My first electric guitar was a black Encore Stratocaster. A horrible guitar, the quality of cheap instruments has increased dramatically since then. I plugged it into a tiny Kustom amp.

Like a lot of kids my age I was really into Kurt Cobain. I moved on to Sonic Youth and started writing my own songs.

What do you think of crowdfunding, have Penance Stare taken that route ?

We haven’t done anything like that. I’m not sure its what listeners want. I note that one of the big platforms recently went bust.

Have you recorded any of your songs ?

Penance Stare recordings are deliberate in their rawness and intimacy and all of the recordings thus far have been made at home. We anticipate that future recordings will continue in this tradition. All releases were made available on limited edition cassette and digital download.

Much like a lot of the UK underground at the moment, we deal in cassettes and downloads. That’s out of necessity as much as anything. Hardly anyone can afford to make vinyl now.


House Of Bastet EP  (summer 2017)

Scrying (spring 2018)

Solananceae (early 2019)

What are the Penance Stare plans for this year ?

We won’t be playing any shows in a while as we’re writing a brand-new live set. So far, progress has been fast, so we expect to be back by the summer. There will also probably be another release by the end of the year.

 Contact Esme at  https://www.facebook.com/penancestaremusic/

 Interview by Gary Alikivi     February 2019.