Spin Band of the Day: Ester Drang

Don’t lie. If all you knew about indie band Ester Drang was that their name is Ester Drang, you probably wouldn’t be too intrigued. But just as thou shalt not judge a book by its cover, thou shalt not judge a band by its name (which sounds like a random aunt’s), or by the contiguous state they’re from, for that matter. These guys emerged from the depths of tumbleweed-ridden Oklahoma. Despite the weird name, despite the Oklahoma thing, Ester Drang manages to make some flawlessly ethereal music.

On the band’s third full-length album, Rocinate (out Jan. 24 on Jade Tree), vocalist Bryce Chambers proves himself a quietly stellar leader, a la Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle. Think Elliott Smith’s seriousness (minus the sheer misery), Chris Carrabba’s sincerity (minus the whining), and Imogen Heap’s innovativeness (minus the cool name).

After releasing an EP, single, and full-length album, the duo of Chambers (vocals, keys, guitar) and James McAlister (percussion) scooped up Jeff Shoop (guitar) in 2003 and signed with Jade Tree. Then came a second full length — the well-received Infinite Keys — and an abrupt reality check in the form of a wicked car crash. The band walked away unscathed; their equipment was annihilated.

While recording Rocinate, McAlister and Shoop squeezed in a stint as backing musicians on a little record called Illinois. Spending their spare time helping out cult hero Sufjan Stevens? Even smelly Aunt Ester back in Oklahoma would be proud.

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