About

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Genres
Folk, Indie, Singer-Songwriter
Website
eszterbalint.com
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About

Eszter was born in the glorious capital of the land of Arpad. (And where is that, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to brush up on your Central European history to find out.) At the encouragement of her grandparents and her mother, who had studied harp and piano, she took up violin at the age of six. Eszter’s parents were part of a theater group, later known as Squat Theater. Though their work was not overtly political, in a time and place where celebrating the spirit of individual expression and freedom is the most political statement of all, the authorities put the group under constant surveillance and prohibited any public performances. When Eszter was ten, she and her parents, along with the rest of the company, moved to Paris where Eszter went to school for a year and a half while also traveling and performing in Holland and the U.K.

In the late 70’s, following an invitation to a theater festival in Baltimore where Squat Theater won a prestigious award and many new fans, the company set up shop in a four story building on West 23rd Street in New York City, next door to the legendary Chelsea Hotel. The landmark building, which the company called home for the next nine years, had once been a famous 19th century restaurant, a renowned sewing factory, and finally a transvestite nightclub just prior to Squat settling in. (What remains is merely a ghost, it is one of three torn down structures where the 23rd St movie theater now stands.) Here the group made a name for itself with their Obie award winning plays, many of which featured Eszter, and which were staged in the ground floor storefront. The performances amazed some, outraged others, and amused many, particularly the spectators/unwitting participants passing by on the street.

During these formative years, Eszter partook in a sort of lifestyle of the hardly rich and somewhat famous, where glamour, adventure, grit, and day-to-day struggle existed side by side. During her teens, when Squat wasn’t performing, the theater space would be transformed into a nightclub, and Eszter would DJ, spinning an eclectic mix of No Wave, funk and blues for the musicians, filmmakers and artists who frequented the venue. The club was home-base to many groundbreaking bands of the period, including James White and the Blacks, The Lounge Lizards, Defunkt, Sun Ra, DNA, and Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Eszter made her recording debut (on violin) as a young girl on an early rap track produced by artist Jean Michel Basquiat and featuring rapper Rammellzee. Around this time she also appeared in a cameo role in the film Downtown ‘81, a chronicle of New York’s music scene. At age 15, Eszter was spotted in a play by director Jim Jarmusch who asked her to star in his film Stranger Than Paradise. Following its premier at The New York Film Festival, the film garnered Eszter international acclaim and led to subsequent starring and featured roles in several films. Meanwhile the happy co-existence of glamour and struggle to survive prevailed, and throughout some of the 80’s and 90’s Eszter held an endless variety of strange, funny, pitiful, noble, and sometimes absurd jobs. Eszter also embarked on voice lessons for a number of years and briefly entertained the idea of becoming a classical singer.

In 1990 Eszter moved to Los Angeles where she spent seven long years losing herself and finding herself. And losing herself. And finding herself. It was during this self imposed exile to Hollywood when Eszter threw herself wholeheartedly and violently into her love of music and words. But not before she appeared in one of her favorite films, Steve Buscemi’s Trees Lounge for which she also co-wrote a song with guitarist Smokey Hormel. Eszter formed a short-lived band with Sixteen Horsepower’s Pascal Humbert, which managed to survive a bumpy first set; this included Eszter downing a pint of cognac in five minutes, singing all the songs slightly off key and gyrating nervously in an enticing miniskirt. The band went on to become a regular at L.A. venues such as Café Largo, and was featured on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic. After their break-up, Eszter made the rounds at L.A.’s clubs singing harmonies with bluesman Jake LaBotz.

After Eszter relocated to New York, she recorded her debut album Flicker, produced by JD Foster and featuring a diverse collection of brilliant musicians from New York and Austin, where some of the recording took place. Since Flicker’s release on Scratchie Records, (co-owned by Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne and James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins fame) Eszter has toured the East Coast, the West Coast, and Europe with her songs, and has performed steadily in New York. For her sophomore effort, titled Mud, Eszter joined forces once again with JD Foster. Eszter is currently gearing up for her third solo album. She can be heard on several albums by Michael Gira’s Angles of Light, on Swans The Seer, and on a number of albums by Marc Ribot. Throughout 2010 she toured Europe as a guest member of Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog. Eszter can be seen in Louie, Season 4, on F/X and she can be heard on the soundtrack.

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