Esmeralda Road profile

April 26, 2024

For Esmeralda Road, 2024 has brought a new lease of life to the band. They just never thought that a rebirth would happen so early in their career.

Under the name Moonboot, they had garnered a following that helped them to take Single Of The Year at 2023’s NI Music Prize for their debut track, and first song they had ever written together, ‘To U’. Yet within a matter of days, the band’s social media accounts were taken down due to complications with a footwear company of the same name. Eager to let people know they hadn’t disappeared after this success, the band knew they needed to rebrand. After throwing around ideas they finally landed on Esmeralda Road, named after the street where they had lived in London. 

Esmerelda Road by Sarah Ellis @tellyourmumitookphotos

Charlie Magill and drummer Aodhan Moran reflect on how they saw it as a chance for a fresh start. “It’s highlighted our journey from a small garage band to a… slightly bigger garage band.” They started during lockdown, at the end of secondary school, with friend Josh Vance on the keyboard. Now they are seven members strong, with the addition of guitarist Ben Murray, bassist Calvin Wells, trumpeter Tony Cowan and saxophonist Josh Baker, Esmeralda Road’s sound has developed into a montage of jazz, funk and indie that they can only call a “mixing pot of everything” they grew up listening to.

Their latest single ‘I Think’ is no exception. Written last year, Charlie explains, “it was a Frankenstein of everything we had been working on for months”. The introspective lyricism and gleaming instrumentation of the track embrace the likes of Tom Misch, Fizzy Orange and Kean Kavanagh. As listeners are hit with the dizzying production, it is obvious that this is a band whose songwriting is fuelled by the prospect of live performance.

Esmerelda Road by Sarah Ellis @tellyourmumitookphotos

The previous move to London only strengthened their drive to expand their audience as a band who were used to playing in Belfast. Charlie recalls how, when they moved there, “our egos were huge because we had previously sold out Ulster Sports Club and thought we were so cool. Then you get that kicked the clean fuck out of you because the standard is so high over there. We thought we weren’t very good at all, so that was a big push to try and be the best we can be. I don’t think we would be so progress-driven if we hadn’t have gone over there and experienced being a band in a city that’s so competitive”.

This is what led to them getting the opportunity to open for Cosmo Pyke on the Irish leg of his tour, citing this as a major personal milestone in the band’s career. After being heavily inspired by Pyke’s experimental jazz sound, Charlie reveals, “He’s the reason I know a lot of chords in a way. Then I got to have a pint with him and told him he should pour his Guinness straight… and he does that now”.

They currently live between Belfast and London, but the guys still feel ingrained in the NI Music Scene. Their sold-out headline show at The Empire last September made them realise just how much they feed off the audience’s energy in order to make each gig as vibrant as possible. They were joined onstage by Belfast hip-hop artist Leo Miyagee who features on their track ‘Feel’. Collaborating with artists who bring something unique to the table was something they had always intended on doing when writing, and they were especially eager to bring together local talent.

“Usually when we played it live,” they say, “we just had a sax solo in that section. But we’d be friendly with Leo. He had busked with us. We were in the same sort of circle. We thought this was the kind of song that could have a rapper on it. So we asked him, and he was all for it”.

Moonboot at the NI Music Prize, 15.11.23

Gigging is clearly important to the band. At their most recent show at the Notting Hill Arts Club, Aodhan remembers being “totally swept up by the adrenaline and emotion. We had developed so much. There was a lot of camaraderie. We really felt each song had settled into how we wanted it to sound live”.

Audiences at the Empire last September were bowled over by their unexpected cover of ‘Man or Muppet’ from the 2011 Muppet Movie – a plan that came about after months of intense karaoke rehearsals during nights out. The band insists they’re “great craic at parties” but add “we just hope we don’t get another copyright strike” at the hands of The Muppets.

Ellen McGinn

(Esmeralda Road play the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast, 11 May, followed by Stendhal Festival, Limavady, in July. Watch the video for ‘I Think’ here.)


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