"Someone, somewhere, has a bag of my teeth," states Ezra Williams, matter-of-factly. Growing up, the Irish musician had a condition called hyperdontia -- otherwise known as an excess of teeth -- and has been hanging onto their supernumeraries since they were six. Their official, supernumerary title struck Ezra as a decent starting point for a record, but when it came to hunting down the original inspiration, the toothy leftovers were nowhere to be found. "I don't remember where I put them," they shrug. "So that's that."
And so instead, they made 'Supernumeraries,' a debut album which collects and explores some of the other things that Williams has shed since releasing their debut single 'Thinking of You' while still in their teens. Now 20, the musician lives in the Irish city of Cork, having relocated from their hometown of Greystones to study Contemporary Applied Art, but regularly visits their childhood home to check in on their two cats and make use of their seomra; a bedroom-stroke-studio at the bottom of the garden.
Growing up in the coastal town, in County Wicklow, Ezra always loved living right next to the sea -- but hated the sand. "It's ironic," they laugh. An introverted person growing up, they veered between being "the quiet kid or kid that was always getting in trouble," and in hindsight, they observe that they subtly shifted depending on the people surrounding them. "I was a different person depending on who I was around, which I think is an autism thing," they say, "because it's like, masking." At night, Ezra would steal their brother's iPod Shuffle to listen to music under the duvet, and constantly jotted down "little poems'' and "all the words I could remember that rhymed with each other." Back then, it never occurred to Ezra that these observations could form the basis of songwriting, and they mostly felt "embarrassed" to share them instead.
The musician's debut single 'Thinking of You' meanwhile came about by accident while mucking about on Apple's production software GarageBand for the first time. "I played it for my mum, and she wanted to know how to listen to it," Ezra says, "and so I put it on SoundCloud. It kind of picked up from there, so I just kept releasing things. That was it. And it kind of feels like the same thing even now -- except, well, now everyone's acting like my mum!"
While Ezra's earliest releases were spare, honest snatches of life over minimal strums -- ranging from the knowing self-deprecation of 'A Shitty Gay Song About You' to the shoegaze-tinged 'Seventeen' -- their subsequent EPs 'IS IT' and 'Stuck' gradually began pursuing an amped-up out, live band sound. Grappling with journeys of identity, meanwhile, 'My Own Person' found a wider audience after it soundtracked Nick Nelson's own search for answers in the Netflix teen drama Heartstopper. Steadily gathering pace, the song plays as Nelson listlessly flicks through online quizzes to figure out his sexuality; and funnily enough, Ezra was inspired to write the song seeing a very similar scene unfold in the Norwegian LGBTQ+ show Scam. 'My Own Person' now has over 8 million streams on Spotify and counting.
In the background, meanwhile, Ezra was hard at work on what would later become 'Supernumeraries,' with the songs first taking shape in Dundrum shopping centre's toilets, and on the DART rail network which sprawls out of Dublin. Mostly self-produced, with additional contributions from Ezra's friend Jacky, it was recorded at friends' houses, and in the seomra (or room) at the bottom of their parents' garden back in Greystones.
Spanning from the beginning of 2020 to the present, 'Supernumeraries' dwells in an introspective headspace, making sense of past relationships and fractured friendships. Tangled lead single 'Deep Routed' struggles to shake loose the weight of figures from the past in order to commit completely to somebody new, while 'Until I'm Home' and 'Bleed' both explore anxiety and disconnect. "The warmth of your hand on my face can only help until I'm home," they sing on the former, "then it's late and I'm alone."
Throughout, Ezra's vocals are bold and prominent in the mix, deviating from the lo-fi sensibilities of their earlier releases, and though the musician doesn't view themselves as belonging to any particular cluster of musicians, their tender, self-examining indie recalls the likes of Fiona Apple, Soccer Mommy and Indigo De Souza, all of whom are major influences. It's also party to Ezra's most creative production to date, incorporating drum machines, warm washes of synthesiser, stuttering vocal manipulation, and soft, synthetic woodwind.
Aside from a drastically reimagined new version of 'Seventeen' -- which takes on a new, epic shape -- every track on 'Supernumeraries' is previously unreleased. It's a detail that felt important to Ezra when it came to forging a debut album with sticking power. "I get bored of playing the same things over and over again," they reason, simply. "Once I've written something new, it's more exciting to play that. Also, I feel like the songs on my album are a lot more upbeat or lively, especially to play live."
And crucially 'Seventeen' -- originally written when the musician was just 16 -- closes the album, ending in a cacophony of screams. "I always said I feel like I'm in purgatory," a younger Ezra sings, their words taking on a new resonance today, "I hope that it gets better when I'm seventeen." On 'Supernumeraries' meanwhile, there is no neat tidy resolution to these past worries and questions. Still, there's strength to be gained from knowing that life rarely throws up any straightforward answers.