He looks like Morrissey and talks like Stewart Lee, but Ben Esser is a real individual when it comes to music. 24 and living London, there's the danger of the young musician being swept up but 2009's tide of 80s synth pop throwbacks, desperately clamouring for attention in an already full-up scene. Fortunately, Esser's a smarter lad than to fall for such unimaginative ploys, instead creating smart, creative minimalist pop that thrives on honed beats and lyrics of wit and charm. His hair may look silly, but his music certainly isn't.
What's the story behind Esser?
My dad was a music teacher so there was always music around. And I kind of gravitated towards drums, I played drums for a while in a few bands. And I started messing around on a computer and keyboard at home. So I did all those kind of things, and it never really came together until I started singing. I was taking all the stuff I'd done before and making them into songs really.
You were making music from an early age then?
My dad comes from a very musical family so whenever they came over, there was always loads of stuff happening. It was all very natural really I suppose. I think a lot of people see someone on television and kind of have an epiphany and think 'I want to be a rock star' or something. But for me it all came about from being in that environment.
Have you ever had a job not involving music?
I used to work in a cardboard factory. I used to have to check the flat pack boxes, where the lines are cut out to fold, and I had to check that they were the right length. It was one of those temping things. You had to fill out all the qualifications you got, and if by the end of the year if you haven't got anything, you end up at the cardboard factory.
How are you finding the music business?
I just want to keep doing stuff that's interesting, because when you're in a new band and you get thrown in with all these other bands, you try and work out who's going to be around for a while. Not everyone can possibly have a career that's being hyped up at the moment. Hopefully I can still keep doing interesting things, and keep myself interested.
2009 seems to be a rebirth in 80s influenced synth sounds. How does your music fit in?
I guess there's a similar thing in terms of wanting to make pop songs, and write melodies and choruses again. I think it's all about starting somewhere, and when you're a certain level, start progressing all the time. This is what I do now, but it's not what I'll be doing forever.
When can we expect an album?
It's coming out in April I think. Or May. I have to start remembering dates!
You're doing a headlining tour as well?
Yeah, around the time the album comes out. Then some festivals and SXSW, which should be good.
What's been your favourite moment so far? Having your song in Skins?
No, on Hollyoaks! I think I'm just really pleased having the album done. All the other stuff, like the tour and hearing the song on the radio are really good things, but finishing the songs and knowing their good yourself is the best feeling.
And finally, do you have a word of advice for young artists?
Esser plays King Tut's, Glasgow on April 17