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(Credit: Olivia Richardson)

Music

Far Out Meets: Self Esteem is prioritising pleasure

@josephtaysom

Self Esteem, the moniker used by the fearlessly talented Rebecca Lucy Taylor, recently released her second album, titled Prioritise Pleasure, in what is a mantra by which she lives by with every fibre of her being. The album is a step up from her impressive debut, and after a decade of working as a recording artist, Taylor is unquestionably making the most compelling music of her career.

Taylor’s first creative chapter saw her as one half of the indie-folk band Slow Club, but in truth, the venture restricted her artistic aspirations. As Self Esteem, she is finally being able to flex her muscles, making the kind of art that truly represents her as a person. It took her time to reach this destination, fighting hard along the way, but the battle scars she’s picked up have helped the singer become the resolute, fearless artist capable of producing the bold, Prioritise Pleasure.

Her infectious hook-laden tracks, which have a powerful subtext about living as a woman in a man’s world searing through them, should be storming the charts. Sadly, we don’t live in a utopian music world. However, there is no bitterness about the situation for Taylor, and, in her eyes, adulation is secondary. Just seeing out her creative vision is all the nutrition she needs.

Far Out recently sat down with Self Esteem following her set at NBHD Weekender, a performance that saw Taylor overcome technical difficulties that would have marred the show of the most hardened live performer. Instead, she hid behind humour which kept the crowd entertained before diving into her bracing yet, short performance. Despite only receiving limited stage time, the Yorkshire singer delivered an enthralling appearance, which stood out colossally alongside the sea of indie bands she shared the bill with.

In her music, Taylor is refreshingly honest, and the same can be said when it comes to social media. Thankfully, that rousing honesty is translated over to interviews, too. “For me, power has always been in being honest and real, I’m very sensitive, and the music sounds like it does because I’m exhausted by trying to be cool like how I spent my whole life,” she explains in her Portakabin behind the scenes at the festival. “It’s very liberating, and maybe it’s annoying, I talk the way that I do, but I just spent so many years feeling bad about who I was, and now I refuse to,” Taylor added.

As the name of her project suggests, this entire era for Taylor is about taking pride in who she is and not shying away from herself. Rather than trying to morph into the person she thought others would want her to be, Self Esteem has a more profound essence. However, this concept didn’t simply materialise on a whim; the renewed sense of vigour that encouraged her to swap folk for experimental pop has been a learning curve of unhappy circumstances. Sadly, it was treatment from Slow Club’s tour manager, who she eloquently describes as a “nasty bastard”, which eventually made her reach boiling point.

On ‘I Do This All The Time’, Taylor sings, “All you need to do, darling, is fit in that little dress of yours, If you weren’t doing this you’d be working in McDonald’s,” a comment made by the aforementioned nasty bastard before one particular show.

“I was looking around the room at people that I’d been in a band with for ten years, thinking, ‘Can somebody stand up for me here?’ but nobody did,” she achingly recollects about the incident which inspired the lyric. “I’m not saying they are bad people because they are not, but it’s all about lived experience. I don’t blame a single soul, but I also need not to feel every day like I’m a burden. I had to do it either way, even if I was playing to like ten people.”

Taylor is also a must-follow on social media. Unlike most musicians, she paints a highly authentic image of her existence rather than a version that shares little resemblance to the grey reality. Social media, however, can also be an absolute cesspit. Recently, she made an appearance on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch and was inundated with sneery comments from viewers. Meanwhile, a couple of weeks before we spoke, she shared the visuals for ‘How Can I Help You’, which led to an onslaught of sexist comments on her feed because of her chosen outfit for the shoot.

“It’s shit, but it’s fine, it’s just a numbers game,” Taylor says about online trolls. “I’m smart enough to know that if you do that, then these men will illustrate my point. I don’t need to react. It’s like, ‘Okay, you do that in plain sight’ and that’s how my point will get across'”, she calmly adds.

(Credit: Olivia Richardson)

Being in control of her artistic output is something that Taylor isn’t taking for granted, and while she enjoyed periods of her time with Slow Club, it was trying to represent two people at the same time, which proved to be a task that eventually wore her down. “I couldn’t vouch for someone else, that’s what killed me, but I can vouch for myself now and say what I want to say,” she added.

After making the brave leap to solo artistry, Taylor admits that she felt immense nerves going into the release of her 2019 debut, Compliments Please. “My worst nightmare would have been that I made the wrong decision, but having said that, I just fucking knew I hadn’t, and I couldn’t do it anymore,” she revealed.

“It felt like a toss-up, I was thinking maybe I’ll need to re-train, maybe I’ll have to go to Uni, but it all felt worth it as I couldn’t not represent myself anymore. With Self Esteem, it’s lovely. Everything is going nicely, but I don’t take it for granted, and I don’t believe it’ll be there forever,” she modestly adds. “All I want to do is make ends meet, make art I want to make, and have somebody care about it. That’s what is currently happening, and I believe it might happen for a lit bit longer.”

In truth, Taylor’s songs should be infiltrating dozens of Spotify playlists and finding a home on daytime radio. However, life isn’t always a meritocracy which is something Taylor knows all too well. With that said, the reaction to the songs has been almost universally positive, and Self Esteem is even set to headline the O2 Kentish Town Forum in March, which is no less than she deserves.

That courageous decision she took back in 2017 to leave Slow Club behind in search of staying true to herself as an artist while waving goodbye to a more comfortable life has paid dividends, and now, Taylor is starting to bear the fruits of her labour. “I make bare minimum money, and the money I pay myself could pay for a brass player or the money I could pay for a studio or a better microphone like there is no money being made,” Taylor honestly says about the economic state of music in the streaming age. “I’m not complaining that I’m not decked out in furs, diamonds and cocaine, it doesn’t matter to me.”

For Taylor, Self Esteem is simply about creating music that can allow her to look in the mirror with pride when she stares at her reflection and not feel an ounce of regret. She didn’t set out for it to connect with people in the sizeable way it has, and while Taylor might not be packing arenas (yet), the people who care about her project have had a visceral reaction to her work.

After being in the music industry for almost her whole adult life, it’s not until these last few years where she’s been able to express her identity. Her debut, Compliments Please, acted as a stepping stone for, Prioritise Pleasure, which is the invigorating sound of Taylor at the peak of her powers. 

Stream Prioritise Pleasure, below