FIVE QUESTIONS: THE FERNWEH

With their debut single, “The Liar,” now available via Skeleton Key Records, The Fernweh’s three main men take five from us. 

 

 

 

JAMIE BACKHOUSE: Guitars

1.) What’s your favorite Beatles song and why?
I’d say “Strawberry Fields Forever.” I just love the sound of Lennon’s voice, the chords, the instruments, the subject matter. There’s a dreaminess to it, and a very childlike nature about it. I loved it when I was four or five years old and it’s been there ever since.

2.) Who are three songwriters—living or dead—that you wish you could sit down and write a song with?
Ian Brown. I think there’s a certain magic in his voice and his words that would make him great to work with. I’d love to write with Danny Kirwan, who has that “other place”/Fernweh feeling in his songs that you tend to find in a lot of early 70’s off-the-beaten-track English records. He became the main writer in middle-period Fleetwood Mac. He’s not a hit maker, but I absolutely love him. The front cover of the album Bare Trees kind of nails his music. Hell of a guitarist too. And then in terms of writing guitar lines, I’d probably go with Bert Jansch. Even just to play with him – for the experience, if not the outcome.

3.) What’s the one song you’ve written that you think really sums you up as a songwriter?
Most of the songs on the album are collaborative efforts so it’s hard to pick one that sums just me up. But musically, “Next Time Around” is the best I’ve done. It was Ned’s concept lyrically, but I identify strongly with it. Of the stuff I wrote on my own, I’d say ‘Timepiece.” I wrote that when I was 20 or 21 – it has quite childlike melodies and those dreamy guitars. There’s a big part of my personality in that piece.

4.) What’s one song that you wish you would’ve written?
I’ll say “Strawberry Fields Forever” – let’s go back to that. As far as the demo or the final version? I’d like the final version because you’ve a bit of everything wrapped up in it.

5.) Is there anything you’re listening to right now that you’re particularly digging?
Kikagaku Moyo
is seriously worth checking out. It’s psychedelic, really interesting Japanese music. I’ve been listening a lot to Deerhunter, and I really, really enjoy them. The Left Banke – I really love that kind of stuff and that kind of songwriting. I’ve been hammering them quite a lot.

 

NED CROWTHER: Bass, vocals

1.) What’s your favorite Beatles song and why?
Oooh, that’s so hard. I’d say “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).” I mean the Beatles were the band of my childhood, and they’re the band, really. It’s so raw and emotional. The way I experienced that song, listening to it as a child was like going into another world. The sound – the sitar for a start, then Lennon’s vocal delivery and the lyrics. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it really painted a picture in a way that no song had done for me up until that point. The lovely soft, almost warm feel with the slightly menacing undercurrent of “I lit a fire.” Yeah, it’d be that one.

2.) Who are three songwriters—living or dead—that you wish you could sit down and write a song with?
Hmm. Could you even get in a room with Dylan? I mean it’s kind of like, “Where do you even start?” I’m going to say Evan Dando. I think he was the first guy I heard mixing metaphors like, “If I was a rubber check, would you let me bounce?” He was the first guy I heard playing with words that way and I love his sort of direct line into melody with those brilliant country progressions. John Cale. I love the fact that he was the avant-garde guy in the Velvets, bringing this very, very European balance to Lou Reed’s American beat lyrics about low-lifes, hookers, pimps, druggies, and transvestites. Lou Reed was so on the money melodically, but John Cale’s solo record, Paris 1919 – which I really adore – has this very warm, almost church-like style in the songwriting. For number three, I’d go with Elizabeth Cotten. Very, very simple, stripped-back, early blues with guitar and voice. It’s so pure and unfussy. Sometimes I feel like the tendency I have is to overindulge – too much mayonnaise, too much mustard, too much butter. She’s a good example of how you do it by taking stuff out.

3.) What’s the one song you’ve written that you think really sums you up as a songwriter?
To be honest, I think “New Brighton Sigh.” It’s very British – tied to a place and talking a lot about memories, quite whimsical, quite nostalgic. It’s also a ballad, which is easier to write, if I’m honest. You try writing a song like “Twist & Shout.” It’s a lot harder than it sounds. Anyone can go, “Oh, she left me.” But I say that one because of the thing about nostalgia – I can’t seem to shake that when I come down to write. Everything comes down from childhood memory, nostalgia and whimsy in that very British way. I wish I could write songs like Lou Reed, but sadly, I can’t. Because I haven’t lived his story.

4.) What’s one song that you wish you would’ve written?
Let’s go on the Chicago vibes. I think “Anything Can Happen” by Ezra Furman is just what I would love to be able to do. It’s that kind of you’re taking an absolute mainline into everything that’s good about American rock and roll music. The same way Jonathan Richman did it. The same way the Ramones did it. You’re just tapping into that current of rock and roll in its best form. Big admiration and big respect for the Chicago son.

 

 

5.) Is there anything you’re listening to right now that you’re particularly digging?
I love the Nick Power record. He’s a member of the Coral and he’s brought out a solo record called Caravan that is really different to our record. The arrangement is really skeletal, but there’s so much confidence in his arrangements. The songs are just so beautifully clear in their presentation. It’s lovely and I think it’s a record songwriters should take note of – you don’t have to slap loads of stuff on everything. I thought the last Gil Scott-Heron record was amazing. I have to admit, I lapped up the Lemon Twigs record. It was thumbs up for me. I know the jury’s out on them, but it’s so good to hear a band that enjoys what they’re doing. You can hear the joy they have in that kind of songwriting, which has fancy chords and instrumentation, but just great tunes. It didn’t disappoint. We’ve had so much music that’s very serious and earnest, and then there’s this band that could be Wings. We like middle of the road. We’re proud of that AM soft rock, and it sounds great. I’d go for them. And I’m enjoying anything Ezra Furman does as well.

 

AUSTIN “OZ” MURPHY: Keyboards, guitars, percussion, saxophone

1.) What’s your favorite Beatles song and why?
Probably “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” I love the way it’s like three songs stuck together, which just really work well – for me anyway. The words are just surreal, but they kind of make sense as well. It’s really arty piece of music, kind of avant-garde, but it’s also a pop song. The bit at the end is a really nice pop ending to a song. Then they’ve got the change in the time signature in the middle bit. It must’ve been quite hard to record it in the first place, but yeah. It reminds me of being a teenager as well. Good times listening to that. Great song.

2.) Who are three songwriters—living or dead—that you wish you could sit down and write a song with?
Obvious this one, but I’ll go Lennon and McCartney. David Crosby – love all his stuff. And Ronnie Lane. I just love him. He’s quite organic, isn’t he, really? Quite loose. It just seems effortless the way he comes up with classic melodies. They seem like they’ve been around forever. Some of the chords are quite simple, but “Ooh La La” – it’s just an amazing tune. It’s one of those songs that seems like, “What was the world like before ‘Ooh La La?'” “Debris” is one of my favorite songs of all time. An amazing song. Hint of melancholy and sadness there. I don’t know if he had a hard childhood, but there’s that kind of underlying theme for me and nostalgia.

3.) What’s the one song you’ve written that you think really sums you up as a songwriter?
Brightening in the West.” I like the way it was a collaboration between the three of us, and keeping up with this idea of us all throwing stuff in. After “The Liar,” it was the next one we finished, so that was quite nice. I started it off with some chords, and one weekend we were just jamming it out. Jamie came up with the riff, and then Ned put the words in. It just seemed to flow really nicely together. It’s something I’m really proud of.

4.) What’s one song that you wish you would’ve written?
I’m not going to go for a Beatles one. [Laughter] Right. The Byrds’ “Lady Friend.” It’s from the extended version of Younger Than Yesterday, I think it was a single, though. Wasn’t on an album. It’s a David Crosby song, layered harmonies, lovely trumpet breakdown. It’s got a bit of a “Catcher in the Rye” vibe to it. Sad, but uplifting as well. One of my favorite songs, really.

 

5.) Is there anything you’re listening to right now that you’re particularly digging?
I’ll have a look on Spotify. This Sun Ra reissue, I think it’s just called Sun Ra Exotica. The whole thing is really great. It’s all instrumental, but quite relaxing when you’re doing the cooking on a Sunday with a glass of wine. A band called BADBADNOTGOOD from the U.S. Really good band. I heard them through a collaboration with Ghostface Killah from Wu Tang Clan. They did the backing tracks, it was like these early ’70s samples. The production is amazing, but they released this album, IV, that has great, lovely analog synths. The drummer’s amazing, the sax player’s amazing. They’re all top-notch musicians.

 

Look for a full-length feature with the Fernweh here in June to coincide with the release of their self-titled debut album. 

 

One thought on “FIVE QUESTIONS: THE FERNWEH

  1. […] See the Fernweh’s answers to our “Five Questions” here.  […]

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