One eskimO's striking sound and presentation can be traced back to 2004, when Kristian Leontiou first hit the UK Top 10 with his solo debut single, "Story Of My Life." His album, entitled "SOME DAY SOON," proved equally successful, selling more than 200,000 copies and catapulting the soulful young singer to pop success.
The idea for One eskimO began to gel on a long flight home after a promo tour for Leontiou. Rather than continue on the same unsatisfying path, Kristian did something both brave and rare - he walked away from success to create something he could be proud of. After some R&R, Leontiou reached out to drummer Adam Falkner and the two began writing songs and developing a distinctive new sound.
Sonic inspiration came from a variety of diverse sources, from The Beatles and The Fugees to Massive Attack and UK hip-hop/folk duo Nizlopi. Bassist Jamie Sefton and guitarist Peter Rinaldi were brought in to complete the group, which then spent long hours in rehearsal, building a multi-layered foundation with largely acoustic instrumentation.
And now the UK-based band and Warner Premiere have created an innovative new musical experience for consumers that brings a musical album together with groundbreaking animation and story - to offer music fans a fully immersive musical and visual storytelling experience.
The brainchild of Kristian, “The Adventures of One Eskimo” is a visual album comprised of a series of animated musical story episodes jointly developed and produced by the band and Warner Premiere, and will be distributed by Warner Bros. Digital Distribution (WBDD) August 31st on iTunes and other digital channels.
Their debut full-length CD will land September 22nd, 2009.
I recently had the pleasure to sit down with all four of the guys on their tour bus before their gig opening up for Tori Amos here in Detroit, and over a cup of PG Tips tea, I first asked Kristian to tell me more about this innovative new musical experience called ‘The Adventures of One Eskimo’ [Kristian]"Well, 'The Adventures of One Eskimo’ is kinda secondary to how we started out, really. We started out making this album with quite a specific sound that we were after. Like an ambient, filmic sound. We wanted the whole sound of One eskimO to sound quite acoustic. We then spent a lot of time adding some ambient sounds and while we were developing that we started working on the visual side. Which was basically not having a picture of four guys on the front cover. We felt like we'd tried to make quite a magical album so the idea was to come up with imagery to go along with the album."
And the bands name? [Kristian] "Well, along with all that came the name, One eskimO. We felt like there was a lot of peace in the sound of the album and it went really well with the whole kind of snowscape simplicity of that as well. So yeah, we started working on the visual side of it. At the beginning it was just kind of drawings but I found a friend of mine who knew some illustrators. So we pulled together a storyboard and screen shots and along with four other animators it took six months to do our first animation. And we won a British Animation Award."
And who funded all this? [Kristian] "It was all out of own pockets. This was a couple of years ago now, but because of that award it just felt right to us to carry on moving forward. We got offered a couple of record label deals which we turned down at the time, because we felt that we'd come up with this different side of the album and we didn't want to just give away too much to people - when we felt we'd done all the work."
"We felt we had a good recording and had a good idea for the visual side of the album. So, while we were working on our second animation, which was again another six or seven months with six or seven animators, we started working with a company called ATC, who are Radiohead's management. And luckily for us they had some really good contacts. And at the time we had Warner Bros. and Dreamworks contact them and say they really liked our story and the whole animation we'd first done. And how would we feel about writing a movie to go along with the whole One eskimO album. Which at the time was something we really wanted to do, but at the time we were two animations in, a lot of money in debt, and over a year of our lives also."
"So, we were really lucky. We took a bit of a time out and wrote the story, did the screen shots as well, and then got the funding from Warner Bros. just over a year ago now to do an animation over the whole album. And that's kinda turned into the 'The Adventures of One Eskimo'!"
And it all visually turned out exactly as you had planned? [Kristian] "Well, our version of One eskimO was probably a little bit different from how their version turned out, but our story is still there. The animation runs over the whole album and will be out in September alongside the album. It's something we're very proud of."
So, why the Eskimo vibe to it all in the first place? [Kristian] "The Eskimo was a mixture of things. The idea of kinda being locked away in the studio, that was kinda part of it. But, as we were coming up with this album we really wanted the core of it, the underneath of the songs to sound quite tribal - almost as if they'd been made by little Eskimo kids. That's how we've kind of developed it."
Yeah, it seems like each song has many layers to it [Kristian] "Well, the whole idea was to put a lot of sounds into our songs. Just before we came out I mixed one that we had about 120 tracks running on this one track. But, although there's a lot going on we really try to keep the simplicity in there. We put all the parts in and then pull it all back to make sure we've got it sounding right. And so while we were developing the visuals it was just the peacefulness, the simplicity of the sound - the snowscape, the igloo, and the idea of this little character just locking himself away and making this music. It just really leant itself well to the songs. And I think that as we were developing the sounds at the same time we were developing the visuals they started to come together. Like, the visuals started going back into the way we were playing, the way were were kinda making it sound. So, as we've had the luxury of having a lot of time to work on this it's all turned out really nice."
And what about the reason for your name, One eskimO being capitalized at the start and then only again upon its last letter? [Kristian] "That was more of a visual thing. We were in the studio and the name came up. One of the guys I was locked away with at the time, he just did it on an email - and it stuck from there. The whole thing has this slightly fun side, slightly not-so-fun side. The whole album's got all those elements and I think that was just something that just really worked well."
It’s been said that One eskimO is your ‘brain child,’ Kristian, but is that wholly accurate? [Kristian] "It started off a massive thing for me. This for me was something that I've really put my all into for the last however many years. But as it started we all started working on it. Adam went in and started working on the sound of the album. I think we're all into the album side of it as a project, but I think I focus more on the other side of it."
So, tell us more about the live experience [Jamie] "Well, as there's only three of us creating the backing, a lot of people think we use a backing track, which we don't. And we decided on that right from the inception of playing live. We wanted everything to feel organic. Lifelike. We wanted it to live and breathe. Even if a mistake happened, we could carry on, but if we wanted to expand the song and carry on a little longer we could. And it still sounds musical as well, instead of a backing track going 'click, click, click' in the background."
One eskimO's sound it very British, very acoustic-style Coldplayesque, very Snow Patrolesque, but do you see those elements too? [Kristian] "I can get that, but it's really weird. A few people have mentioned Coldplay as we've been out on tour, and I can see what they say from certain sounds, but ..."
[Pete] "I think it's more that they've been so well known over the last few years that we'd obviously get compared to them. Because we're another British act."
[Jamie] "In Britain we get something a lot different. We get Massive Attack, Radiohead ..."
[Kristian] "Yeah, Radiohead, that's my favorite. I much prefer that to Coldplay, but I can see what they mean. I think it just crosses over into different kinds of musical genres."
[Jamie] "I think there's a lot going on in it. People can hear just one little motif and think 'that sounds like that.' Which then pigeon holes you. They then forget the rest of the song. It's just that one little bit that they pick on."
In the artwork for the One eskimO band shot, you all have different characters - penguin, Eskimo, monkey, and a giraffe! Did you have a choice in which ones you wanted to be or will the public make their own decisions? [Jamie] "I think that is what the public will decide, yes. But, each one has already related to us. Kristian, as he was locked away in the studio had the sense of solitude and peacefulness and so became the Eskimo. He then needed more people to join and create the album and the animation. And so all the way through the animation there are characters that as the animation and the music was developing more characters were popping up."
So, who's who to your minds? [Jamie] "Adam is the giraffe, I'm the monkey and Pete's the penguin. It's loosely based, but I still think it's almost a metaphor about all these animals appearing in a place they shouldn't. It's a metaphor for us all coming from different musical backgrounds. But that's still only one facate of the type of music and style that we've all come together with - and that's One eskimO."
But why is the giraffe wearing glasses?! [Adam] "Because they look cool" he laughs.
[Kristian] "When we started doing it I think it was a case of what character would you like to be? We had to find out which character went with our own personality. I think visually it works as it's just a mixture of everything. I think the fact throughout the whole animation is that it doesn't take one person - it's a team of people that moves everything forward."
[Adam] "And it kinda takes us away from the usual band thing, as well. The average kinda look of a band where they would have the usual kind of clichés. It just removes us from that a little bit. We've got a different aesthetic that we can play with."
You don't go on stage dressed as these characters, do you?! [Kristian] "No, but we're not about to rule anything out. We'll probably one day do something like that. Our latest task is that we're trying to project the Eskimo's head onto the moon," he laughs, "so, we'll see how far we get with that!"
Moving away from the album, if you had to recount one regret in life, what would it be? [Adam] "Wow, that's a sucker punch, isn't it," he exclaims loudly, smiling. "I would have practiced the piano more. Other than that, I'm entirely fulfilled and everything's great."
Is there an instrument you've tried to play and just fail at every time you pick it up? [Kristian] "Yeah, massively," he laughs. "Honestly, these guys are amazing. They seem to be able to pick up anything they want to play and play it. I think, even from a young age I'd got given a guitar, but if something's not instant with me I find it hard to pick up afterwards. I think I've had the luxury from singing to get all these good people around me to play the instruments. It's almost like when people are so good at what they do they stop you from wanting to do it yourself. But I think if I was performing behind an instrument, and I would love to be able to be at that standard, it would add something different to who I am."
What is your most embarrassing story to tell? [Jamie] "Basically, I was in my first year at high school back in South Wales and I was in a Home Economic class. I always fancied myself as a bit of a chef, so I was making soup. I didn't think I needed a spoon to stir it and so just kind of tossed the pan around. And it was such a sh*t school that the rivets were quite loose on the pan and the f**kin' thing went all over my crotch area and down my legs! It was scolding and the fashion those days was that we wore tight grey trousers, elasticated at the top. And so I was like this demented monkey trying to pinch the trousers of my legs, screaming!"
"Next thing I know, the Home Economics teacher comes running across the room, slid to her knees commando-style, and started pulling on my trousers! But, because they were so tight she pulled the trousers down and the pants as well. So, I'm now just standing there with my pre-pubescent c**k and balls just dangling for all to see - in the middle of Home Economics!"
"But my screams were then silenced by girls laughter and there was such a commotion that next door to the Home Economics class was the GCSE German class - and they all came in to see what was going on! So, I was left standing there with this Home Economic teacher head-height to my c**k and balls as everyone rushed in."
Well, not that you can beat that, but what is one of the most painful foot-in-mouth episodes you've had recently? [Pete] "I'm gonna go with something relevant to this tour ... in that the first night we played on this tour, I managed to embarrass myself and Tori at the same time! While Tori was going on stage to do a media Meet & Greet, for the first time to meet her we went up to the side of the stage. And as she walked past we introduced ourselves. And I was last in the queue of One eskimO to say hello."
"So, she gets to us and says, 'So, you guys are all English. My husband is also English and he's annoying.' She was just joking, and just to try and get in on the joke I wanted to come right back with, 'Oh well, at least he's your kind of annoying' ... but I said it faster and it suddenly came out as, 'You're kind of annoying'! And then I kinda froze after that and stuttered, 'No, no, no'! But luckily she saw the funny side of it and we're still on the tour!"
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today and why? [Pete] "I've got one. And I was actually thinking about this today as I was gonna go and learn it for soundcheck. I would love for us to do a version of 'Don't Stop Believing' by Journey. That would be amazing."
So, throwing you a journalistic curve ball, but given the bands name and such, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins ... do you?! [Adam] "They're nicer to look at than smell," he wrinkles his nose. "They're easy on the eye but not so easy on the nose."
[Jamie] "The origin of the name Penguin is from a bird called the Great White Orc. And it's a bird that was first found on the North Coast of Wales, and Scotland and Ireland. So, it was a white-headed bird and so 'white head' in Welsh is 'pen gwyn.' And I think that 'March Of The Penguins' is just fascinating. And there's another one that we've been watching, Planet Earth."
Lastly, what’s next on the One eskimO horizon? [Kristian] "I think that we've been building up for the past four years and we've had a lot going on. I think that with the album out on September 22nd that's something that we've been working towards. That's almost like Judgment Day for the last four years of our lives. So, that's the next hurdle to get over."
"And I think it's weird because as much as there's been lots of very nice happy coincidences happening to us over the past few years, there's not been any guns to our heads at all. It's been 'take you time and develop it' and so now it does feel like this one big hurdle that we've been working towards. And so until that's out of the way, then it's time to start thinking about what the next step is."
So, on that release date of September 22nd, 2009, what is the one thing above all else that you will collectively do? [Adam] "Break up," he laughs, the others all joining in also.
Yeah, that would be great ... just break up for the day ... citing all the tension and the pressure to the media ... and then four hours later tell them that you're coming back for a reunion tour! [Pete] "With the original members, yeah," he quips, as the tape is turned off, the laughter from everyone still ringing around the tour bus.
Help One eskimO before it’s too late! By visiting
www.findlittlefeather.com fans can join One eskimO and his band on a quest to track down his lost love. Users are confronted with a series of challenges and games set by the dastardly Mr. Top Hat which they have to overcome if they ever want One eskimO to see Little Feather again. Each game corresponds to major plot points from the animations themselves and employs the same unique look and feel. The online experience allows fans to delve deeper into the story and to feel part of the world of One eskimO.