Introducing San Fermin: a band bursting with contemporary classical arrangements, post-rock rhythms and catchy pop vocals. Their clashing (but articulate) instrumentals will have fans of Beirut skipping. Oh, and did we mention this eight person troupe is Brooklyn-based? We caught the band’s sold out performance at Music Hall of Williamsburg last week! Take the bull by the horns and check out this week’s Bushwick Music Crush.
At the helm of San Fermin is composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone. After graduating from Yale with a degree in music studies and a former stint assisting music composer/arranger Nico Muhly, Ellis holed up in the mountains between Alberta and British Columbia. There he crafted the self-titled debut, a 17-song epic, San Fermin, released on September 17th via Downtown Records. It was only after the full composition and writing of the release that he fortuitously found eight talented artists to form the band (Allen Tate and Rae Cassidy, lead vocals; Eliza Bagg and Rebekah Durham, vocals/violin; John Brandon, trumpet; Stephen Chen, saxophone; Tyler McDiarmid, guitar; Mike Hanf, drums). During their Brooklyn concert, Ludwig-Leone performed in the least illuminated portion of the stage; stepping out of the spotlight and allowing his bandmates to shine respectively.
Anguishing themes of anxiety, loneliness and danger are doused in a confetti of blaring brass and pop-driven choruses. Lead singers Allen Tate and Rae Cassidy provide polarizing strains of vocals that dance together in a lyrical waltz – Tate, a deep and narrative baritone similar to Matt Berninger (The National), and Cassidy, a Ella Fitzgerald sultriness with ethereal chants and Bjork-like screams. “The Count” was a visually theatrical tune during the live show; each bandmate danced, slammed, blared within their respective craft, while “Oh Darling” interrupted the energetic flow as a dark, classical love ballad.
Standout track “Crueler Kind” veers into unpredictable arrangements and vocals that are uncomfortable in a cool way, bringing forth a Dirty Projectors vibe. The message of the song is just as backwards and conflicted, nudging listeners with repeated chirps to “love the enemy.” Crowd favorite and heavily radio-played “Sonsick” had the entire audience erupting and preaching a similarly dangerous message – resolving to love someone hopeless. A relatable, danceable and yet a uniquely San Fermin sound is packed with brass instruments and howled choruses.
The nine person crew can quite literally fill a stage, and yet each talented member will demand your attention with their unapologetic energy during a show. Musical alchemists, San Fermin charm the trivial tribulations of our generation into solid gold. There’s a constant tone of impulsivity and irrational behavior, yet the band takes weighty, drab affairs and turns them into a sparkling celebration. With 2014 just around the corner, there’s no better time to squeeze in some bad decisions that feel so right! San Fermin would approve. Their next show will be on February 7th at Bowery Ballroom with the excellent support of Son Lux.