Interviews

In Conversation With… FERRIS & SYLVESTER

There were definitely a few nights where we didn’t sleep!” Archie recalls the last month on the road. Issy is typing one last email before she joins us. ”Hi Tom!” She calls down the line. Ferris & Sylvester have just finished their most recent UK tour. 24 shows in five weeks. You couldn’t tell by talking to them. They sounded refreshed.

I rang the duo the weekend after their last tour date. They had been resting up for a couple of days, and were quietly getting on with the ‘boring stuff’ when I called. I saw them as a fan at their Exeter show, the last of the tour. Even after a solid month on the road, they were still generous with their time. They’re good guys.

I caught them after the show, where they remembered me by name and we set up an interview. We had a quick catch up before we started. How had life treated us in the last year? They asked me about my guitar playing, and we shared a love of the Cornish landscape. With everybody relaxed, we started the proper interview. That Saturday morning, we talked about how they survived such an intense schedule, how their diary is still very busy, how they got to know Jade Bird, and how close are we getting to that first album?

Tom Haven: So guys, you made it! The tour is over. 24 shows in 24 days, is that right?

Issy Ferris: Uh, yeah it was 24 shows! We didn’t quite do it in 24 days. We did have a couple of days off. And we also went over to Nashville in the middle. So for me and Archie, with TV and stuff we did… about 30 shows in five weeks? So yeah, it’s been great! It’s been pretty intense but we’ve had our crew along with us. We’ve had our drummer on this tour, our tour manager and our great photographer guy. So yeah. We’ve all been in this together, which is quite good!

TH: Yeah, amazing! How have you managed it? Was there a key to staying motivated while you’re on the road? Or was it just about getting through each night?

Archie Sylvester: Well, we love it! I mean, there are some bits which are more fun than others. I mean, getting in the van, if we had to get up early and it’s raining-. You know, it’s not the most inspiring thing! But as soon as you get on stage, and you’re able to play and people are singing your songs back to you… No one should ever need any more motivation than that! We love it, so that kept us going.

TH: Where have you guys been staying on the road? Is it AirBnB’s? The back of the van?

AS: Um, depends really. Lots of hotels. Travelodges, Premier Inns. Cos, when it was just Issy and I touring we could just stay with friends. So, when we were touring around the UK we tended to know someone in Newcastle or Glasgow, but now there’s a few more of us. Which means we’ve got to… book a couple of hotel rooms. A couple of the lads have been sharing a hotel room for quite a long time. So they probably know each other quite well now!

TH: Ha ha. Yeah, I bet! Has there been a highlight for you guys over the last few nights? Can you pick out one particular night or moment that stood out?

IF: Um, I think probably singing ‘Flying Visit’ every night. Uh, does that count? Even if it’s like every night?

TH : I think so! The Exeter show was pretty good, I’ll give you that!

IF: Well I think that song especially. That came out earlier this year and, you know, it’s hard to know how much a song has reached people without going out and doing those gigs. So we were really, really surprised how many people knew the words and had taken something from the song. So I think every night, that was the special moment of the show. So, that would probably be mine. Singing that, night after night.

TH: Super. Archie?

AS: Yeah, I’d probably agree. I mean if you’re asking for specific shows, they were all great. I’d say… it’s really, really difficult to have a top show out of 24 or 25! It was really special to play London’s Omeara… We absolutely loved that. But then, playing at the Phoenix [in Exeter] was a big deal for us as well. We did really enjoy that. But, it’s impossible! There were some other really great ones as well, so, it’s hard to say!

TH: Sure, sure. I get you. And of course, you’ve got more dates coming up haven’t you? I hear that Jade Bird needs a support act for her Europe tour, isn’t that right?

IF: Yeah! We’re with Jade next year around Europe. That’s for five or six weeks in February/March time which will be great. But before then we’re also going around the UK with James Morrison. That’s start in… uh, I think two weeks? Two or three weeks. So, yeah, we’ve got a couple more tours in the diary which is great. To have those… benchmarks in your year and to tour with people you really like as well. You know, mates or people you really admire. It’s a real honour to be on those tours.

TH: Absolutely, yeah. How do those things come about? Was that through your friendship with them, or was that your management team, or what?

AS: Uh, these things never seem to come from one source or one person. It’s always, you know, a bit of teamwork. And Issy and I have known Jade for a long time. In fact, Issy and I both knew Jade before we knew each other! But then we ended up with the same agency and I guess, you know, that helps. And then James Morrison, yeah I guess it was management? Agent? Who knows!

IF: I guess at the end of the day it comes down to… well, this is what I believe. With any support act it always comes down to the artist you know you want. So it was just a real thrill for us that we were selected for James, and for Jade.

And, yeah, as people who have picked supports for our shows as well, we had… a load of great support acts for our shows. But we had two come on eight or more shows with us. One of them was called Sam Johnson, and one was called Roseanne Reid. And they were both just amazing, you know. And it was so nice to have musicians on tour who… you like their music and just always such nice people. So, it’s a very fun part of the touring process, I think.

TH: Yeah, I didn’t realise you guys knew Jade Bird before you knew each other. Is that true?

IF: Yeah! Yeah. It was quite nice cos at Spiritual Bar, there are so many good musicians who go through there. But me and Jade were both quite young at the time, and also at that time not many girls were going. So we got quite close from that. But yeah. Jade had been going for a little before me, and so she knew Archie. I was playing on the same nights as Jade and didn’t meet Archie until about six months of playing there! So that was quite funny. But yeah, that’s definitely true!

TH: Super, great! Now, your latest single, ‘I Dare You’, that’s quite a good song isn’t it? It’s a bit heavier than your other stuff. Is this a transition for you guys, or are you just exploring and seeing what happens next?

AS: Well I think- You know, you’ve seen the live set. Our sound can be quite dynamic. So, it doesn’t feel like a transition for us. It just felt like the next thing.

IF: I think we’ve been- well, as we said at the show, we’re now getting closer and closer towards the debut album. And we really want that album to express all the different shades to us. So, we really want ‘Flying Visit’ and ‘I Dare You’ to exist on the same album. We really feel like they can. And as Archie said, you know, you look at our live set and we like to take people on a journey. And so, as the last thing before the album campaign we just wanted to share another shade of us.

TH: Yeah. You mentioned last time we spoke that some of your songs have been- well, you’ve playing them for years. And they only made sense when you started playing them live. These latest singles, are they those sort of songs? Where you’ve had them for a few years, and they’ve just come back and you’ve been able to record them properly? Or are they new stuff?

AS: Well, ‘I Dare You’ we actually did write a long time ago, and then we ended up rewriting it lots of times! But yeah, ‘I Dare You’ has existed in some kind of form for three years now. So, yeah for sure. It’s a song that we have experimented with a lot.

But it’s not necessarily a rule. We’re just about to record the rest of our first album. Lots of it we’ve been playing on the road, and some of it is just completely fresh. So yeah, it shouldn’t be a rule. I mean, it’s not always possible to tour a song before recording it. But we- it’s nice to do it when you get a chance.

TH: Yeah sure, sure. So there is going to be some new stuff on the album, yeah?

IF: Yeah definitely. I mean, a lot of it will be stuff you heard from the live set. But yeah, then there are a couple of other tracks apart from the ones you heard.

TH: Yeah, thinking about it, ‘This is Really How My Voice Sounds’… that was a song that really stood out to me. Is there a story behind that one? Can you share it?

IF: Uh well, just listen to the song really! It really is just the most… non-metaphorical, very literal song that we have, which is just all about finding your voice. It started off as basically a spiel without any structure. No verses, no choruses. It existed basically just as a stream of conscience, if you will. Then we worked on it quite a bit after that. But yeah, that’s the song for anyone who needs to find their voice!

TH: Super. I was going to ask you about the album anyway, but we’ve already mentioned it! Anything else you want to mention about it? Anything else you can share with us?

AS: Uh, yeah, we’re due to be going out to Seattle to work with a producer… We’ll be heading out there as soon as the James Morrison tour is finished actually! Um, we’ll be doing a few tracks with him and then we’ll do the rest with Mike [Rendall], a producer we’ve worked with quite a lot. And we’re hoping to have at least the first mix of the whole lot by Christmas. So… 2020 is about accurate as we can be with the release date, but it’ll be next year!

TH: Nice, brilliant. Well, best of luck with it. I’ll be looking forward to it, as I’m sure you know! Right, I’m done. Thanks very much for your time guys!

IF: Thanks Tom!

AS: Nice. Thanks man!

Ferris & Sylvester’s latest track, ‘I Dare You’ is out now on LAB Records. For more information on their upcoming tour dates, see their Website.

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