Bryan Estepa is a singer-songwriter who started his musical journey amidst the dusty strobe lights of Sydney’s late-90s pub scene. Fronting indie pop band Swivel from 1998-2000, an eponymous debut EP paved the way for Estepa’s inevitable solo career.
Inspired by Elliot Smith and honed at open mic nights under the moniker ‘Adeline’, 2003’s ‘Start Again’ was an upbeat EP that was enthusiastically received in iconic local venues from the Hopetoun to the Annandale and the Sandringham Hotels. As well as spins on underground Sydney radio stations FBI and 2SER, ‘Start Again’ also enjoyed sprinklings of airplay on US East Coast College radio, with Estepa’s sonic landscape beginning to encompass Pacific and Atlantic sensibilities alike.
Early 2006 was a landmark year for Estepa, who finally summoned the creative courage to start performing under his own name. Having successfully shed the pseudonym cocoon, Estepa enlisted the services of producer Michael Carpenter to help bring to life unused Adeline material and leftovers from his stint in short-lived band Hazey Jane (circa 2005). The result: ‘All the Bells and Whistles’, Estepa’s debut album. The product of a cathartic few months of inspired recording - the sum of Estepa’s artistic influences and an honest mix of alt-country and power pop. In fact, it’s this “alt-country meets power pop” label that has defined Estepa’s genre since.
‘All the Bells and Whistles’ was meant to be released independently but when Estepa was approached and signed by Melbourne label Popboomerang Records, everything changed. Admittedly a massive surprise, it was also a welcome one, vindicating the fledgling artist somewhat whilst offering much-needed resources and impetus for future work. Add to this the power of online forums and an era of music bloggers rearing their headphone-clad heads, and it was little wonder that Estepa was approached by respected Spanish label Rock Indiana Records who quickly sought to release All the Bells and Whistles’ in Spain and Europe.
In Estepa’s own words this “Blew my mind. It seems that ‘All the bells’ was a very popular album amongst music bloggers & forums in Spain and Europe and word got around about the album to the Rock Indiana team. I started getting great reviews and even a feature on their Uncut/Mojo magazine equivalent called ‘Ruta 66’. Lots of airplay too, on their national radio station ‘Radio 3’.” Other highlights of the album’s release year included the song ‘Right Now’ being featured on Season 1 of the Australian Channel 10 show Bondi Rescue and a write-up in Australian Guitar capping off a stellar year for the vocalist-guitarist.
Fast-forward to November 2007: Estepa finds himself on his first tour of Spain, playing to well-attended shows in cities like Madrid (which he describes as his “second home and biggest draw card city”), Barcelona and Valencia. On touring Spain, Estepa recalls “A most surreal but amazing experience. I also got invited the same year to play at the International Pop Overthrow festival in New York”.
Released in 2008, Estepa’s sophomore album ‘Sunday Best’ was an ambitious follow-up record, co-produced with Sydney producer Dan Nash. “I wanted to make a big and layered pop record. I was heavily influenced by Brian Wilson/The Breach Boys, Ryan Adams and Wilco during this period. Not sure if these influences showed but it at least gave me direction and a sound in my head”, said Estepa at the time. ‘Sunday Best’ was received well at the time in the press boasting ‘Indie album of the week’ honours in The Brag magazine, as well as an enviable inclusion of it’s 1st single ‘Myself’ in cult Canadian TV show Degrassi Junior High.
Capitalising on the success of ‘All the Bells and Whistles’, Estepa returned to Spain in 2009 for a full-blown national tour, playing a busy mix of live radio shows and festivals including a sell out concert at Madrid’s infamous nightspot The Wurlitzer Ballroom. After a short hiatus, Estepa released his third album ‘Vessels' in 2011 and first record with new label Laughing Outlaw Records.
Recorded mostly live to analogue tape with up to seven musicians in the room at one time, Estepa’s idea was to capture the esprit de corps of some of his favourite predecessors like The Band, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Self-produced and mixed by Michael Carpenter, ‘Vessels’ was the first real album by the singer-songwriter to be noticed by Australian indie radio, with regular rotation on the playlists of stations like 2SER, FBI, 4ZZZ and the Edge Radio Tasmania. Enjoying great reviews in both local and international press (4/5 stars in the Sydney Morning Herald), ‘Vessels’ was energetically supported by a short promotional tour marking the third visit to Spain in 2011 by the Sydney-sider.
Released in 2013, ‘Heart vs Mind’ was Estepa’s fourth, and probably his most successful, studio album in Australia to date. Produced by Sydney producer Adrian Deutsch, ‘Heart vs Mind’ is described by Estepa as his “most complete and cohesive album to date. I wanted this to be a great pop record with touches of AM Radio feel.”
Supported by a Pozible crowd fundraising campaign, ‘Heart vs Mind’ was an ambitious, somewhat risky yet ultimately successful venture. Released in Australia on Vinyl 12 inch digital format, ‘Heart vs Mind’ rode the “lo-fi vs binary” zeitgeist of the popular music climate, earning some great support from the Australian music press, including feature reviews and Album of the Week nods in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Courier Mail.
2015 proved to be a busy year for Estepa, starting with a European tour to support Heart vs Mind. The tour saw Bryan and band play a sold out show in London, England, Spain and a first time visit to Sweden. 2015 was also a year of changes to Estepa’s band with the introduction of the ‘Tempe Two’, made up of current band members Dave Keys (Bass) & Russell Crawford (Drums/Vocals). The new-stripped back classic trio lineup was a strong inspiration for Estepa to write the new songs, which makes up the new album ‘Every Little Thing’. This is Estepa’s 5th studio album and the first one with The Tempe Two. Exciting times ahead as this story continues.