Espers was formed by Greg Weeks, Brooke Sietinsons and Meg Baird in the early years of this decade. Here is how the three original members met and how they met the members who joined the band later…
GREG: I met Brooke in Brooklyn. I met Meg at one of Brooke’s loft shows. I met Helena at an early Espers show in the back alley of The Philadelphia Record Exchange. I met Otto in Rochester, NY at a vintage store called Velouria’s.
BROOKE: Yes, Greg and I met in Brooklyn around 2001(?). I had heard his record “Fire in the Arms of the Sun” and liked it. I wanted to meet Greg because he had written an extensive catalog of album reviews on European folk and progressive music. In the late 90’s he ran a music distribution company called New Sonic Architecture. An excerpt of the catalog was printed in the zine Badaboom Gramophone, which is where I came across it. I was intrigued by his extensive knowledge of this genre, and I started tracking down many of the releases he wrote about, all extremely inspiring… Jan Dukes de Gray, Catherine Ribiero, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Saint Just (just to name a few).
I went to see Greg perform at the Brooklyn Brewery, but missed his set. I invited him out later that night to see my friend Kevin Barker (one of my favorite guitarists, and eventual Espers collaborator) play a show. By the end of the evening we made a plan for Greg to come to Philadelphia and play a show at my loft space. Meg and I were already playing music together at that point. I met Meg around 2000 when I started dabbling with fingerstyle guitar and searched for other people who were interested in folk music and fingerpicking. Meg and her sister Laura grew up playing traditional Appalachian folk songs and singing together. I invited the Baird Sisters to play on the same bill as Greg. Greg loved Meg’s voice and wanted to start a project with her. I suggested that we start a trio. We were all unemployed at the time, so Greg decided to move to Philadelphia and bring his 8 track reel to reel tape machine. We spent the next year making Espers s/t record in my loft, and played a few shows as a trio. Espers were on a bill with GHQ and Fursaxa at the Philadelphia Record Exchange. Helena Espvall sat in with Fursaxa at that show, and we loved her wildly experimental cello playing. She joined Espers soon after that first meeting.
MEG: I met Helena when she first arrived in Philadelphia. We talked about how it would be great to play music together someday but it took about 4 years to happen. I met Brooke through filling in the role of female vox/keys in the band Clock Strikes Thirteen. Ben Kim always made fun of me for being so folky. Once he learned that Brooke was looking to play with folk musicians, he made an introduction at a show. We were opening up for Saturnalia. I was really excited to get a chance to meet David Gedge, but he only asked me why I looked so miserable when I played. I thought that I was having fun, however. I met Greg at Brooke’s salon shows. I met Otto in Greg’s mom’s kitchen. He had his arm in a sling, but managed to play some drums anyway later on that night at the now closed Bullwinkle’s Tavern in Rochester, NY.
The band’s name arose not from comic books on kids with ESP powers, nor from Final Fantasy, but from a late 60’s text on deviancy. “Espers” was the fictitious name assigned a backwater religious cult. Greg initially grabbed the text from an estate sale, thinking it was a book on Mick Farren.
Since they formed the band have played with such friends as DEVENDRA BANHART, P.G. SIX, SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE, SHARRON KRAUS, FERN KNIGHT, THE EYESORES, FOUR TET, SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN, JOSEPHINE FOSTER, JOANNA NEWSOM, JACK ROSE, GHOST, VETIVER, ANIMAL COLLECTIVE, CURRITUCK CO., MVEE, COMETS ON FIRE, DOUBLE LEOPARDS, FURSAXA, PEARLS AND BRASS, BERT JANSCH, BARDO POND and the original psychedellic folk group, U2.
Although currently on hiatus we hope that the core of Espers, Meg, Greg and Brooke, as well as cellist Helena Espvall and original drummer Otto Hauser will regroup in the studio one day to begin work on Espers IV