One eskimO was ‘born’ in 2004 and is the brain child of Kristian Leontiou. At the time Kristian was at the end of promoting his debut album: Some Day Soon (Polydor) which sold over 200,000 copies. His debut single (Story Of My Life) also went Top 10 in the UK singles chart. Kris (as he is known to his friends) grew up in the north-west suburbs of London, his first experiences of music coming from his older sisters, who would regularly shake the Leontiou household whilst practicing with their respective punk bands, in their bedrooms! At only 10 years old Kris was mesmerized when sisters Anna and Alex would sneak him in to watch them perform at venues like The Mean Fiddler. When most kids were getting used to weekend lay-ins, at 14 Kristian had already developed a self survival ‘street’ mentality and had already undertaken work in an array of ‘grown up’ situations that not many so young are exposed to. The resulting attribute is someone very much of his own mind, a humble belief in his own visions creatively. Often he was a child in an adult’s world. It’s no surprise then at only 15, Kristian was introduced to recording studios, adding guest vocals on friend’s garage & dance demos, and using any down time to begin his first explorations musically. His early and lasting influences on these initial compositions were acts like Arrested Development, The Fugees, REM, Groove Armada and Finlay Quay. Working in various and unsatisfying dead-end jobs after leaving school, Kris went to the studio whenever he had any spare time, hoping it would one day pay off…and eventually it did. In his late teens Kristian met by chance Mike Sault of Warner Chappell (Dido/Craig David/Groove Armada) who promptly offered a publishing deal. Kris went traveling around the country working with various producers searching for ‘his sound’ Sault eventually paired Kristian with Producer/Song writer Pete Wilkinson (credits include Paolo Nutini & Amy Macdonald) of Melodramatic Records. Together, and with Pete’s wife Sarah, they wrote and produced the Some Day Soon album in Wilkinson’s ‘spare bedroom’ studio’ The initial bedroom demos got a great and instant response from many labels and in late 2002 Kris signed to Polydor (home of Ian Brown and Snow Patrol) within a matter of weeks; Polydor had the album mixed/mastered and promptly started promoting his first single which entered the charts at no. 9. Growing up as a studio based singer, Kristian suddenly found himself on stage for the first time in his life (Islington Academy – 1000+ capacity) performing to what felt like a million people including the press, the music industry, friends, and family. In his own words "it was the worst performance of my life, I was way too under prepared’ these days it’s a very different story ‘I feel free on stage today’ says Kristian in 2007 ‘I feel I’m meant to be up there, like I belong, back then I felt very nervous and extremely vulnerable’ During a long promotional tour for the Album throughout the UK and Europe Kris was finding it increasingly difficult emotionally ‘I began to feel like I was promoting an album that didn’t really represent or ‘belong’ to me. It didn’t say anything about my personality, and musically I longed to sound more like me, whatever that was’ Kristian has always been a free spirit but at that time felt like his life was being micro managed with advice on what he said, wore, did and sang. He craved creative expression but was on a ‘good looking young man’ pop-music treadmill, one that many before him had found a false and a crushing experience. On a flight back from L.A. in late 2004 Kristian had the flash of light that was the concept and creative birth of One eskimO ‘With absolutely no compromise’ he said ‘I wanted to create a sound of my own, magical, ambient, filmic, acoustic, beautiful and meaningful. I wanted to write about how I felt, life, love, losses & failures, highs and lows, even heartbreaks. But also about how amazing human life is and how mind blowing our very existence is’. ‘I also had my own visual interpretation of the music, for an animated visual to run alongside the music, telling magical stories with a childlike innocence whilst creating a sonic ‘journey’ for everyone. ‘Even if just for a moment, I want people to hear this and feel like it did before anything mattered in life, when they were truly free, when they were children’ The One eskimO sound was developed in a Battersea studio along side good friend – Craigie Dodds (credits include Sugababes) they took their time working with sounds and beats and soon came up with the song ‘Chocolate’. "This song just sums up that period in my life; this was the first proper song and just the right sound for One eskimO!". At the same time Kristian teamed up with Adam Falkner – experienced session musician/drummer and unbeknown to him soon to become a giraffe! They started rehearsing a live set, every detail was considered, including what everything would look and sound like for the audiences. With Kristian’s right hand man now on guitar – Martin Waugh (soon to be the penguin in the growing animal line-up) they were also lucky enough to now know Jamie Sefton who was a wizard on bass & horns, he also joined and rather inevitably, become the monkey. The band was formed. Meanwhile a mutual friend had introduced Kristian to Rollo Armstrong (faithless/dido and many more) Kristian asked Rollo directly and politely to get involved in the album, and a very reluctant Rollo agreed to take a listen to One eskimO demos. Upon hearing the song ‘Astronauts’ he immediately opted in and ended up co-producing the album with Kristian. The team was starting to mirror the vision. At this time, it became clear that Kristian’s idea of an eskimO world and animated videos didn’t really fit with the Polydor vision of a radio friendly ‘Kristian Leontiou’ so they respectfully and amicably parted company. With the One eskimO demos completed, the band wanted to record the album how any self respecting musicians would, together and completely live. They recorded alongside ‘ark’ (Rollo/Marky Bates/ Grippa) with Phil Brown (credits include Bob Marley) engineering and all had a great time doing it. After a month of recording the band, Kristian went to Rollo’s personal ‘ark’ studios where together they spent a further year experimenting with sounds, textures, and adding lots of magic eskimO dust!
In 2007 Martin was ‘lost in a snowstorm’ which in reality translates to Mika (who he also played guitar for) shooting to fame. He was promptly replaced by the exceptionally gifted guitarist Pete Rinaldi and what felt like a loss became a huge win ‘Pete makes us complete’ says Kris. Through a series of ‘happy accidents" Kristian met Nathan Erasmus who had just formed Gravy Media, quite literally an ‘independent company’ operating from people’s bedrooms and lounges. Gravy Media was formed with Erasmus’s childhood friend Phil Menni, together and from an early age they both shared an obsessive love for illustration and animation. It was Nathan’s shared love of the eskimO sound that inspired the intricate visual voyages of family, innocence and magic that became the first One eskimO video. It sits alongside the stunning single ‘Hometime’
You now know the eskimO…hello.
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