Based in Bovina, NY, Esquela released their fifth studio album A Sign From God on June 25th. The album features 10 tracks, produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, and was recorded entirely remotely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic which prevented members from getting together to record during the Spring and Summer of 2020.
Over the course of several months, Finn wrote all the songs on the record, except the final track, “Wait For Me” which utilized a poem by Konstantin Simonov and was arranged musically by Becca Frame and Brian Shafer. He then sent bits of songs to Roscoe, involving Keith Christopher on bass, Brian Shafer on guitar, Becca Frame on vocals and Matt Woodin on guitars and mandolin, and Mike Ricciardi on drums with the audio engineering accompaniment of Jeff Stachyra. Their individual parts were woven together by their brilliant engineer, spinning a 70’s style overdub in a completely remote 2020 world.
Once the reality of COVID 19 hit us, nobody knew what was going to happen and for how long our normal routines would be disrupted. Since I was homebound for the duration – I decided that I should get my home recording studio up and running again. After weeks of technical frustration– I was finally able to get my home setup cobbled together with a Universal Audio Apollo interface and my MacBook, using Protools recording software.Bandleader John “Chico” Finn
Amidst a race war and global pandemic, the album captures the cultural conversation surrounding the time, including addressing sensitive topics that unfolded during the year like racism, sexual assault and climate change. The first track on the album, which premiered ahead of the others, addresses climate change and humanity’s impact on Earth. “Not In My Backyard” was inspired by a conversation that transpired between Finn and a friend about fracking in West Virginia. Between the rhythmic guitar riffs and pulsing drum beat, a larger message lies at the core of the song.
The bottom line is that energy is cheap right now…in order for the climate to improve will mean people will have to pay more for their energy source, and I am afraid it won’t happen anytime soon, sad to say.John “Chico” Finn
Premiering as Esquela’s first album since 2017, the band chose to tackle pressing issues about the world, spreading a message while telling a narrative throughout each song. The last song, “Wait For Me,” has a more stripped sonic atmosphere with soft acoustic guitar and less processed vocals. The song tells the story of Konstantin Simonov and a poem he wrote as a homesick Russian soldier during World War II. Esquela uses the poem as a vessel to acknowledge racism in the deep South, much like the French village of Oradour Sur Glane destroyed by Nazis within the poem.
With Esquela, challenge brings creativity. The album is a true testament that challenge breeds creativity amidst the pandemic. Even prevented from taking a band photo all together for the cover art, they crafted a creative solution to replicate images of them in a fun illustration pictured below. While COVID-19 forced the members to send over the tracks individually, the cohesiveness of these tracks expands beyond Roscoe’s phenomenal work as a producer. These songs tell a narrative about what we need to change as a society in 2020 (and now, its roots have spread into 2021).