A Chat with Cestra (08.09.2020)

Kat Marsh is back with her new solo project Cestra. Taking you on a linear story, her debut album under this moniker Portal is a true journey from start to end. While a linear story, each track stands well on its own. The album is also a glimpse into something that is uniquely Cestra. We sat down with Cestra to talk about the album, her creative process, future plans, music and much more!

OSR: What first attracted you to music?

Cestra: Music has always been my primary form of expression, there’s an old VHS somewhere of me at 2 years old singing for my family and getting mad if they started talking while I was performing! For me, it’s the most visceral, emotional art form that exists. My brother, Dad and Grandad are/were all drummers, so I feel like rhythm is at the core of what I do.

OSR: You have worked on many musical projects over the years, what is different about Cestra?

Cestra: Cestra is the most personal musical project I’ve ever created. When I write vocal arrangements for other artists I’m crafting melodies and harmonies based on their original song, the tone and feeling are already set and I’m just adding my flavour to it. With Cestra, the entire thing, both musically and lyrically, is all me.

OSR: You debut album Portal was recently released, is there a backstory or common thread through the album?

Cestra: Portal is a journey to ego death, starting with the first track ‘AlpHa’ which marks the beginning of the end of a predestined love. It travels through loss, devastation, obsession, war, apex, the rebirth of sexuality, intuition, repair and finally the relinquishment of ego in the last song ‘Reunion’. It’s pretty intense, definitely not easy listening!

OSR: What was your creative process for Portal? Did you start with one song and build around it or focus on the concept of the album?

Cestra: The thread that runs through Portal wasn’t planned, I realised what it was when we were in the studio recording the finished songs. I wrote the songs over a course of 2-3 years prior to recording in 2018, everything was basically demoed as they sound on the album.

My producer Peter Miles is incredible and we crafted the songs together at his studio Middle Farm in Devon. It was the most satisfying studio experience I’ve had to date, for the first time I completely let go of the outcomes and just enjoyed the process.

OSR: You are releasing a string of audio-visual singles from the album, can you tell us more about this process?

Cestra: We mastered the record at the start of 2020 and I was weighing up different ways to release it, PR campaigns, traditional singles/music videos, shopping it to labels etc. Then the pandemic hit and we were in lockdown, with the industry in stasis. I thought, fuck it I’m gonna release the whole thing in order, and I started crafting the first visuals in my house during quarantine. The visuals for ‘AlpHa’ and ‘Aeon’ were shot and edited in my bedroom.

OSR: What is your favourite and least favourite track on the album?

Cestra: All the tracks are meaningful to me, so I don’t think I have a least favourite. ‘AlpHa’ is an intro, not really a song, so that may count! ‘Monument’ is the heart of the album, that’s definitely my favourite. The title Portal is taken from the first lyric of ‘Monument’, it’s the start of the whole thing.


OSR: Did the pandemic have any impact on the creation of this album?

Cestra: Something about everyone going through the same experience and all our normal rules going out the window allowed me to begin the release process. I’m bad at self-promotion and PR, part of me just wants to make music and never show anyone, but there was a freedom of uncertainty that the pandemic created. It felt possible to put it out into the
world, so I went with that feeling.

OSR: If Portal was a new addition to the crayon box, what colour would it be and why?

Cestra: It’s definitely blue, it’s such a blue album to me! The same shades of blue as the cover artwork by Stoney Darkstone.

OSR: If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Cestra: I would love to sing at the Royal Albert Hall again. I sang a solo in front of a sold-out crowd there when I led the choir for Bring Me The Horizon’s orchestral show in 2016. It was such a rush. I wanna do it again, but for longer!

OSR: What else can we expect from you in the future?

Cestra: After I finish releasing Portal I’m gonna be filming some live sessions of the songs and I’ll likely begin writing new music. I haven’t written for a while, I feel like getting Portal out is an important step to free up that side of me again. Aside from Cestra, I’m also the founder of Choir Noir and we have some major sessions and albums for other artists in the works. We’re gonna be working remotely until we’re able to gather for projects again. I’d love to combine Cestra and the choir too at some point, that would be epic!

Thanks to Cestra for chatting with us! You can find more about her on her website, Instagram and Spotify.

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