Are ESG a Post-Punk or New Wave band? I hesitate to categorise them as such, simply because they slot equally well into other genres. Their background (New York’s South Bronx) was far from typical, and the only musical influence that is constantly cited by the band is James Brown’s early funk efforts. However, the band found themselves playing at punk/post-punk venues just as many of the artists were throwing off their Punk shackles and exploring more diverse styles. Public Image Ltd. and A Certain Ratio were mixing punk with dance and dub, and label-mates Liquid Liquid and Bush Tetras were flirting with the Dance Funk end of No Wave.
The band was playing their minimal funk at a New York talent show, when they were discovered by Ed Bahlman of 99 Records. Bahlman, a record store owner and music promoter booked ESG for many shows, but it wasn’t until Factory’s Tony Wilson took an interest that their recording career took off. A Certain Ratio had ended a session earlier than planned, which allowed the girls a priceless opportunity to get in the studio with none other than producer Martin Hannett. The result was the ESG EP (1981) which brought much favourable attention.
ESG appear in Nicolas Cage’s 1988 comedy/horror Kiss of the Vampire
A few singles followed but it wasn’t until 1983 that the first album Come Away With ESG surfaced. It was, and still is regarded as a classic album but the band would never sound this good again. 99 Records folded soon afterwards and eventually the girls packed it in. Their records were still finding an audience, mainly in the hip hop world—especially the track UFO which has been sampled multiple times—and although the band saw next to no royalties, the interest in the band peaked again in 1991. ESG were back in the studio and released ESG (album). Thankfully their style hadn’t changed too much but it must be said that the strongest tracks were UFO and Moody, originally released ten years earlier.
The band disappeared until the UK label Soul Jazz released the collection A South Bronx Story (2000) and got them in the studio again to record Step Off (2002) and Keep On Moving (2006) now with Scroggins family members Nicole and Chistelle on board. A final album, Closure was self released in 2012.
ESG – The Band
Best Known Lineup:
- Renee Scroggins – Vocals / Guitar
- Marie Scroggins – Vocals / Congas
- Deborah Scroggins – Vocals / Bass
- Valerie Scroggins – Vocals / Drums
- Tito Libran – Congas
- Leroy Glover – Bass
- David Miles – Guitar
- Lorraine Scroggins- Vocals
- Chistelle Scroggins (Chistelle Polite) – Guitar
- Nicole Scroggins (Nicole Nicholas) – Bass
ESG Discography Highlights