(Make Me a) TRISTE© Mixtape Episode 10: The Fernweh

credits: Christina Almeida

Liverpool band The Fernweh combine the baroque psychedelic sounds of ’60s bands like the Moody Blues and the Left Banke with British folk and a modern sonic punch. Their sound is made by three musicians who paid their dues as sidemen for years and used every sonic and melodic trick they learned along the way on their impressive self-titled first album, released in 2018.
The project started as an idea years before it became a reality. Guitarist Jamie Backhouse and keyboardist Austin Murphy, where at Glastonbury in 2007 with their band, where they were joined by bassist Ned Crowther, who was playing with its own band. The trio ended up sitting atop a hill discussing their shared love of classic American bands of the ’60s, psychedelia and British folk like Fairport Convention (whose album Liege and Lief became something of a guiding light for the trio.) Somewhere along the way, one of them suggested they should start a band. The sound they came up with was classic psychedelic pop with a huge swath of folky weirdness mixed in. The Fernweh’s debut self-titled album was released by Skeleton Key in late 2018. Their new single “The Wounds Of Love” is out now via bandcamp.

What They Say:
(Ned Crowther) The Wounds of Love is the first single from our forthcoming second album.  Putting this song together felt quite good because it came really naturally. The band got together in my house to play through some ideas. Jamie had this riff on his open tuned twelve string electric guitar. That’s really his world. Folk tunings but played loud through a very driven amplifier. I added a synthesizer riff because I was into a lot of synth stuff at that time – Wendy Carlos, John Carpenter, Moroder and Franco Battiato. Oz added the drum beat very instinctively, a kind of loping groove, and we went round and round like that for ages, just really enjoying the sound and the circularity of the riff and groove and playing music together – so we recorded it very roughly straight away. We left it alone for a while but we knew we had something that we all liked.  A few weeks later I was reading my son a bedtime story, The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. By the end of the story, where Wilde talks about the “Wounds of Love” it just got to me in a certain way. I suppose that’s one of the marks of a great writer – you can get children and adults totally transfixed. I knew that that was the idea we were looking for for the song. Bridges, walls, boundaries, redemption. It’s just about as modern and relevant as you can get. The words flowed from that. The song suited a big crescendo and an epic guitar solo. There was nowhere else to go – sometimes you have to end big and Jamie knows how to do big on the guitar! We recorded the song live in one take. Oz kept going at the end on the drums with this wonderful tom groove – so Jamie and I just went with him! Finally, Liverpool artist, Eimear Kavanagh and animator Sam Gill made the incredible stop frame video. Everything in the video is hand painted then shot frame by frame. A massive job! It’s beautiful. We’ve all become quite attached to the characters in the video – especially the ‘Minotaur’. We couldn’t really imagine the song without him now.

Their Mixtape:

Something old:
Frank Ocean, Super Rich Kids

One of those songs that just grabs you and forces you to listen. The groove in particular, which is Benny and the Jets. I love the way the chords surprise you on this tune. It’s just one of those songs you can press play on again as soon as it finishes.  It’s an absolute classic. I got very into hip hop making our new album: Some of the old guard like KRS One and Roxanne Shanté and more recent rappers like Kendrick Lamar and André 3000. I grew up in a home of word lovers so I really appreciate the playfulness and inventiveness of the word play in hip hop  but also the rhythmic attack of the delivery so that the voice becomes a whole new kind of instrument. To be honest I was exhausting myself with guitar bands. I still love guitar music but they weren’t making me feel good anymore. Hip hop music makes me feel good. 


Something new:
The Lost Brothers, After The Rain


I’m now going to contradict myself about what I was saying before about guitar music!
Every so often, a record comes along that just has such a mood and atmosphere about it that you are carried off to somewhere else outside of yourself. This is one of those. The arrangement here is quite sparse – it’s all about the space between the notes rather than the notes. There is such a strong sense of longing and yearning in the vocal delivery but the song also paints striking pictures and creates strong imagery in the mind. I really enjoy songs about songwriting. There’s a subtle playing around with the form – the process of writing and inspiration is being unraveled as the song progresses which I love but there’s lots of doubt and vulnerability in that process: “still trying to get away from that sad refrain”.  The playing is beautifully restrained – not too much but just enough. The colours and tones evoked in this record remind me of some of the very greatest recordings by artists like Dylan and Morricone. I know the singer Oisin well. We played in bands together when we were younger and it feels like here, all his skills of songwriting, story telling and singing have distilled to their most potent and concentrated essence. It’s perfect.



Something I said that we did:
Sylvester, Over and Over


When we were making our new album I watched a wonderful documentary about the artist Keith Haring. 
He lived at such an exciting and dynamic time and he was also driving that movement himself. Early rap battles and hip hop, graffiti, B boy culture, disco and break dancing. It seems that the underground culture in New York of the early eighties was way ahead of anywhere at the time. A riot of colour, energy and movement. Haring himself loved music and spent a lot of time in the discotheques of NYC. The hedonism, fun, creativity and energy of the gay clubbing scene in early eighties New York must have been something very special indeed. Before AIDS, before inner city gentrification and before the greed and ridiculous hype of an art market prepared to spend millions on a Basquiat. I believe it must have been a truly liberating period to be young and creative in the centre of a great city like New York and, with the emergence of hop hop culture, every bit as important and creatively progressive as the 60s and the era of the Beatles.
This was one of Haring’s favourite records and I can see why. It just explodes with exuberance and joy. It’s physically impossible to stand still when listening to this and I love that. You HAVE to move – especially on this 12″ disco extended version where you have about nine minutes to impress the dance floor crowd!



Something that reminds me of you:
Leonard Cohen, True Love leaves no traces 

I love this song and it was one I sort of carried around in my pocket when thinking about vocals for our album. There’s a theatricality to the arrangement and singing style. A bit Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra even. There is so much space around the phrases which always draws your attention to Cohen’s brilliant and often darkly hilarious words. But I also think he is just having a lot of fun as a singer – loving being a front man leading a band and enjoying crooning to the adoring audience – a glint in his eye and a spring in his step. But it sure aint My Way. There’s always much more of a sting in the tail with Cohen


Something that makes me yours:Ella Jenkins, You look so sweet

One of the things about having young children you’re not prepared for is just how bad a lot of ‘children’s’ music is. So much of the music for children out there on the internet is either really badly recorded nursery rhyme stuff or syrupy sweet Disney style songs.
Working on this album I was always interested in how my five year old son reacted to music. Children respond really well to interesting rhythm and great melodies and also the surreal, playful or the absurd. And whenever I need to understand how to get right to the heart of direct music for the soul, for young and old, we listen to Ella Jenkins. For one thing, she doesn’t talk down to kids. She is on their level. She doesn’t do cutesy, she does real.  And then she draws on age old techniques like call and response and gospel harmony to make the experience of her music a communal one. All of her back catalogue is extraordinarily good. She has my deepest respect as a musician, educator and story teller and my son loves her too.



Something that brings me closer to you:
Kraftwerk, Neon Lights


This is one of those songs I come back to again and again. When I think of Kraftwerk, I think of an amazingly beautiful and elaborate snowflake. It has a perfect symmetrical structure and is a miracle of scientific wonder – everything fits exactly where it needs to be and works perfectly –  but it is also breathtakingly beautiful. I suppose they are similar to JS Bach in that way – the music has a mathematical precision in its structure and form, but something mysterious happens in the process that transcends all that into something aesthetically magical.
Kraftwerk is the band that unlocks not only the possibility of synthesisers and drum machines but also their splendour and beauty.

The Wounds Of Love is out now. Look HERE for more information on The Fernweh.

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