Ferris & Sylvester
THE Yellow Line is the debut E.P. from Ferris & Sylvester and proof…
they are primed for big things, very soon. Berlin is their new single and one I wanted to hear the inspiration behind. Issy and Archie discuss the origin of the song and provide more details on their E.P. Each song conveys a different story and deals with separate emotions. They reveal how they got together and the recording experience at Space Mountain Studios. I was eager to know more about E.P. closer, This Is What You Get, and the truth of that tale – as it is one of the most extraordinary songs they have come up with. The guys talk about their favourite albums and the new artists they are tipping for success.
I learn more about their touring duties and whether a trip to America was on the cards – as they have a fondness for Americana. They discuss how songs come together and whether they get any downtime; how they both fit into the Camden music scene and the artist we should follow as the year unfolds…
Hi guys, how are you? How has your week been?
Hello, very good thanks.
Only slightly sunburnt from Field Day festival on Saturday!
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
We are a duo called Ferris & Sylvester; made up of Issy and Archie. We’re based in London and have been for the past few years. We were both part of the same music scene in Camden and played a lot in a great little place called Spiritual Bar, until, eventually we met and decided to start doing some writing together.
Since then, we’ve spent most of our days locked away in Archie’s bedroom, writing and recording. Early last year, we took our scruffy demos. and unpolished material over to see legendary producer Martin ‘Youth’ Glover (Paul McCartney, The Verve and Crowded House) and stumbled through a few new songs in his front room. A few months later, we were recording our debut E.P. with Youth and his amazing team in his studio (in Sierra Nevada, Spain).
It’s been a great year – touring Ireland, releasing our debut single/E.P. and working with some incredible people.
What can you tell us about the sort of themes and ideas expressed on the E.P.?
The E.P. addresses everyday feelings and emotions in the most frank way we could come up with. We didn’t want there to be any sentimentality, rather just portraying things that everyone goes through all the time. It deals with bitter relationships, vices and the sometimes-numbingly repetitive routine of being a young adult in London: from sitting on a busy train at rush-hour to pining for the memory of someone lost; to begging for a broken heart to getting your heart broken.
Berlin, the latest single, is a stark assessment of a relationship breaking up. Was it inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall? Is it based on a person experience or plucked from fiction?
It’s actually a very personal account of a fateful trip to Berlin, but we, of course, hope that it applies to more than one situation – as it deals with moments that we’ve all been through; both in personal relationships and the wider social picture.
It’s interesting how something so personal can be interpreted as something different to so many people. Of course, you could apply it to The Berlin Wall – in fact, we quite like that analogy!
The song was recorded at Space Mountain Studios. What was it like recording in that space? It sounds quite a wacky and fun place but can imagine it is quite serious and awe-inspiring?
It was completely awe-inspiring and completely wacky! The studio overlooks the mountains of Sierra Nevada, Spain, so you can’t help but feel inspired and slightly overwhelmed to start with.
Once we got over that, it was hard work as you might expect. Youth really stretched us creatively and pushed us to try things we hadn’t thought of – which added hugely to the record.
We also worked closely with Youth’s engineer, Michael Rendall, who was immensely talented. We worked very long days but it was the most amazing experience. Every night, we sat down and had a great meal with the team before turning off all the lights and listening back to our day’s work.
This Is What You Get, that closes the E.P., is a Blues-style song. It seems like you explore quite a few genres on The Yellow Line. Does that reflect your music tastes or is a need to broaden and diversify your sound as much as possible?
The E.P. does strongly reflect our music taste. This is our first record as a duo and we wanted to keep it open and leave room for our sound to grow and develop.
Before we were a duo, Archie was in a Blues trio and Issy was a Folk singer, so, naturally, some of our wider influences are included. By combining these influences, we feel we’ve found our sound and this E.P. sets the tone for what’s to come.
You worked with producer Youth on the record. He has worked with the likes of Paul McCartney. Was it quite intimidating and what was it like recording The Yellow Line out in Spain?
It was intimidating working with Youth – especially as it was our first record as ‘Ferris & Sylvester’. Archie had known Youth for a year or so when he was doing his solo stuff. He used to go round and play Youth his new songs in his front room – only for him to say they were rubbish! So, we were quite nervous at the start, especially when arriving in the incredible studio in Sierra Nevada. Of course, it’s hard not to think about all the legends that he’s worked with; but you have to forget about all of that and get into the swing of things!
It was important for us to be comfortable enough to voice our ideas and opinions – and we had to learn that quite quickly. The experience with Youth taught us to be more open-minded with our songs; Youth would always be thinking where else we could take the song – his creativity is endless.
I believe the two of you are/were part of the same music scene in Camden. Have you moved away from that area and how influential are the people there to your music?
Yes, we both were playing in Spiritual Bar up in Camden when we met and formed the duo. There is a huge sense of community in the bar and Raf, the owner, takes amazing care of his musicians and their development. There is no other place like it. We have made so many friends there and come on so much as musicians.
Things have gotten more and more busy for us since working on our E.P. But, we always love to make the journey up on the Northern Line to the bar and have a night of amazing music with our friends. Best place in the world.
Tell me how the music formulates? Do you record it at home and transfer to the studio and do you often write songs together – or prefer to take a various different aspect each?
We have no formula.
Sometimes, one of us will have come up with a nearly-complete idea and we’ll finish it together. Other times, we start completely from scratch but we both contribute equally.
We are completely honest with each other and that results in better songwriting. We know each other so well: there’s no need to hold back. We make each other feel comfortable enough to make mistakes and voice our crazy ideas. The one rule we have is the song has to work on just acoustic guitar and vocals. Until we’re completely happy with the song in its most basic form, it doesn’t go anywhere near a recording studio.
When we’re happy with the song, we record a demo. of it in our home studio. For us, this is when the song develops and really finds its feet. Some parts of the demos. do find their way into the finished recording.
It seems like you have a love of Americana and American Blues but great English Folk. Who were the artists you grew up listening to and who are the big artists you both admire now?
We listen to a lot of music. We both grew up listening to our dads’ album collections so some of our influences are pretty old-school. Issy grew up on a strict diet of (Bob) Dylan and Christy Moore whereas Archie spent his teenage years trying to be Jimi Hendrix! Our influences do cross over and we both love Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and Dawes.
We can’t get enough of Shakey Graves with Esmé Patterson. We love their track, Dearly Departed. Little Feat have been on the Spotify playlist a lot recently. Love their groove and Lowell George’s voice. His stuff with Bonnie Rait is also great! Laura Marling’s new album is brilliant – we saw her at the Roundhouse last month and she was sublime. We could go on…
Do you aim to play in America later this year? What are the touring plans for the remainder of 2017?
We hope to come over to America next year for SXSW (in March).
As for 2017; we will be doing lots of shows and mini-tours in England to promote the E.P. In fact, for any Londoners out there: we are celebrating the launch of The Yellow Line E.P. on 12th July at The Half Moon, Putney.
If you’re interested, find tickets on our website…
What comes after E.P. promotion? Any new songs brewing or will there be some downtime?
No downtime for us.
We’ve been writing solidly since we recorded the E.P. in September last year – so we can’t wait to get more stuff out there!
Expect more to come towards the end of the year. This record is the first of many.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Jade Bird: our pal from Spiritual Bar in Camden.
Her debut E.P. comes out next month and it will change your world! She’s brilliant.
If you had to select the three albums that have meant the most to you; which would they be and why?
Our chosen album as Ferris & Sylvester would have to be Nothing Is Wrong by Dawes.
We have listened to that album so many times and it has been both a comfort and an inspiration to us.
Number Two is Archie’s favourite album of all: Jack White – Lazaretto.
Great songwriting and inventive production as always from an absolute hero.
Number Three is Issy’s childhood favourite: Beautiful South – Solid Bronze.
And why? Reminds me of long car journeys with the family.
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
Make sure you’re as good as can be and keep trying to get better – keep writing and performing.
Be clever whenever you can. It’s not just about the grind: you have to spot opportunities.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Archie’s choice is Up the Junction by Squeeze
Issy’s choice is Daisy by Laura Marling
Follow Ferris & Sylvester