Night of Seashell Radio: G'Bye Esmé


The Seashell Radio gig at Che's Lounge (350 N 4th Ave.) Saturday night (Aug. 13) is more than just a chance to get what I call a Seashell fix. The band's cellist Esmé Schwall is leaving the desert for the Pacific Northwest, and this is her last show with her fellow 'Shells — at least for now.

One could say Seashell isn't Radio without Fen on drums, Cassie on keyboards, Courtney on guitar and Esmé rocking her cello — all singing their brand of heart-wrenching and cat-celebrating pop. Tucsonans don't easily embrace change, so this is going to go down as one of those "Hell no, Old Pueblo" moments.

Esmé told The Range that it's hard to leave the best band she's ever been in, but she's a Northwesterner at heart and it's time for her to go home where she has a teaching gig at a high school on Bainbridge Island, Wash., across Puget Sound from Seattle.

"It's been an extraordinary experience working with those guys. It's the best band I've ever worked with. I've had a few experiences, but (this band is the best because of) the creativity and humor and truly collaborative nature of what we do," she says. "Once I graduated from my MFA program (in creative writing) I didn't want to go yet, but I had an opportunity to go to Bainbridge Island and so, I'm Seattle bound. ... It's a big leap to just leave everything here to go there, but it feels right to be grounding my life."

Esmé has two weeks to find a place to live on the island, but before she goes she and the other 'Shells are going to try to record an EP and she suspects she'll continue to collaborate with her band members even after the move. "This is a perfect moment technology-wise to do long-distance collaboration."

"It is sad, too, but it hasn't hit me. I'm sure it will on Saturday night."

I'm sure it will for everyone else at Che's, too. Drink heavily and bring tissue.

The band's Facebook invite suggests wearing a black dress and bringing chains and locks:

With heavy hearts, we report to you that this will be our beloved Esmé Schwall's last show with us here for a long time (perhaps ever, but I hate the way that sounds). She's moving on to bigger and better things and departing for the Pacific NW in mere weeks. So, in the name of all that is good and holy, come out and celebrate the glory that is Schwallski-wallski and her mighty cello.

Wear your black dresses and bring your padlocks and ropes, because if she's locked up, she can't go anywhere.

The Weekly's Gene Armstrong did a great feature on the band last year, which included this tidbit on Esmé and her cello:

As a classically trained cellist, Schwall has done her share of for-hire string-quartet jobs, and hopes never again to play Pachelbel's "Canon." She's also a master's candidate in creative writing at the UA.

With no bass guitar in Seashell Radio, Schwall can handle the low end or melodies on her cello, an increasingly popular instrument in rock bands. "It's got the perfect range to be versatile," she said, chuckling that "it's just that it can also be a feedback machine."