We recently had a chance to sit down and talk to Ellis Ludwig-Leone, the man behind all that is San Fermin and ask him a few questions. For those who aren’t familiar with San Fermin, they are an American baroque pop band started by Brooklyn-based composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone. They released their debut self-titled album on Downtown Records on September 17, 2013.
We hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as we enjoyed conducting it!
Indie Minded: Thank you for taking some time out with us here at Indie Minded in the midst of your tour! Boston loves San Fermin!
Ellis Ludwig-Leone: We’re happy to be headed back there. I grew up just south of the city, so it’s a bit of a homecoming for me.
IM: You’ve been playing some new music on this fall tour, which you say should appear on the new CD, how have they been received at the live shows?
EL-L: Quite well, which has been a relief. The new songs are a bit more uptempo, with a lot of quick shifts, which I think come across well live.
IM: You played some festivals this summer, how did you like that experience versus a straight, old fashioned tour?
EL-L: Festivals are such an insane concept. It’s like, here’s a crowd of thousands of people, quick, take 20 minutes, plug in your instruments and entertain them. They can be stressful, but it’s a real rush when you play well.
IM: What has been your favorite city to play in so far? Don’t worry, no one is going to hold it against you!
EL-L: I quite liked Reykjavík. We played there last year for Airwaves, which is an amazing festival. I wish we could go back every year, but they have a rule about it.
IM: All things aside, you MUST love heading home to NYC to play in front of the hometown crowd! Two shows there this time around! How was that experience?
EL-L: It was so crazy headlining Webster Hall, I was basically in shock the whole time, like this is a venue where I’ve seen Real Bands play. And in our hometown… it’s so great to have all your friends and family there, but it adds this funny stress to the hours before the show. I’ve taken to hiding myself backstage until afterwards.
IM: Have any pre-show rituals?
EL-L: Allen and I will go for a pre-show walk before big ones. Usually we talk about anything besides the gig. It helps block out the noise.
IM: What is your writing process like?
EL-L: I write for all the instruments and lyrics at once. I’m not much of a singer, so that whole singer/songwriter way of sitting with a guitar or at a piano doesn’t really work for me. Usually I’ll start with a fragment, maybe a drumbeat or a sax line, and then build from there. I have an idea of what the song should be about, but the lyrics happen at the same time as everything else. Then I edit those a lot after.
IM: Speaking of, you retreated to Banff Centre for a few months to write, do you think you’d do that again? How was that whole experience?
EL-L: It was so great. I would love to go back there, but there isn’t enough free space in my calendar at the moment! Maybe after we finish touring our second record I’ll take a month or two and go back. It’s a big place and I think it’s best used for undertaking big projects that you might have trouble starting at home.
IM: How was it writing for a band that didn’t quite exist yet? Will it be easier next time around (assuming that you stick with a band)?
EL-L: It was the most natural thing for me to do it that way— I was used to writing for instruments rather than specific people, so it was nothing new. But now that I have a band, it’s more fun because I can write parts that I know will suit the band members well. And there’s a little less pressure to be quite so specific with the notation since we’re all on the same page creatively.
IM: This question is from a fan (Leah R.) – What first inspired you to combine your more classical music composition that you studied with more pop based music?
EL-L: It wasn’t a conscious effort, really. I just wrote what I knew how to write. I had done a lot of classical music in school, and I had done a lot of pop and rock music outside of school. Once I graduated and those barriers fell away, everything kind of smushed together.
IM: What new music has been on your radar lately?
EL-L: I recently bought that Twigs album people have been talking about. Let’s see… yMusic, the new alt-J, Rubblebucket. We were just on tour with Courtney Barnett, who was great. And Mikhael Paskalev, of course, who’s still touring with us.
IM: If we looked at your iPod, what guilty pleasures do you have hidden on there? Nickelback? Justin Beiber? Let’s hear it….
EL-L: Does Ben Folds count? No, right? He’s just good. The Fray? The Fray.
IM: Thank you so much again for taking time out to talk to us, we’re big fans and can’t wait to check you out in Boston! Look for our photographer, Annemarie, she’ll be the one in the pit… with a camera.
EL-L: Tell her to be careful, John jumps around down there sometimes.