After being part of the same Camden music scene for almost a year, Issy Ferris and Archie Sylvester found they shared a love of Italian food, Bob Dylan, and Iceland. When they found they could write songs together, Ferris & Sylvester was born.
As they prepare to release their debut EP, ‘The Yellow Line’, the duo tell us about the single ‘Save Yourself’, the importance of drinking tea, recording in Spain, and working with the producer of such classic albums as The Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns’ and Crowded House’s ‘Together Alone’.
What do you have in common – musically or otherwise – that you bonded over when you first formed Ferris & Sylvester?
We met at a gig and had both been part of the same music scene at Spiritual Bar in Camden for a while, so we had a lot of friends in common. We also quickly discovered that we had a similar taste in music – from Bob Dylan to Simon and Garfunkel to D’Angelo – and bonded over our similar methods of songwriting. Additionally, we discovered that we both loved Iceland (we went on a songwriting trip there last year), beer, and homemade Italian food so things were pretty easy from there…
More importantly, what do you disagree on – musically or otherwise – and how do you think that influences your music?
Where do we start?! We disagree a lot. Sometimes we can spend hours deliberating over one line or even one word but it’s important because we push each other to come up with the best idea. It’s hard to be objective and decide whose idea is better… We also disagree on the importance of drinking tea and watching TV dramas.
As people – rather than musicians – what do each of you bring to Ferris & Sylvester?
Issy brings the sparkle and Archie brings the grit. We both work really hard. Archie’s attention to detail combined with Issy’s creativity makes us tick. Archie never knows when to stop and Issy never knows where to begin… but we both bring a lot of passion. And humour.
And what do you two bring out of each other that you don’t get working with others?
We are completely honest with each other and that results in better songs and better performances. We know each other so well, there’s no need to hold back. We make each other feel comfortable enough to make mistakes and voice our crazy ideas. We feel we’ve both really improved as artists since working together.
Could you pick one album, song, or artist that changed your life? And how has that influenced what you do in Ferris & Sylvester?
Archie’s going with ‘Up The Junction’ by Squeeze. ‘The storytelling is so believable and close to home, it really drags you in’. Each song we write, we strive to do the same thing. Still trying!
Issy’s going with ‘All I Want’ by Joni Mitchell. ‘I used to listen to this over and over again and wonder how she came up with it’. Genius. If we can come even close to this song, we’ll be happy.
You’ve been signed by Youth to his new publishing company. How did you feel when he first reached out to you?
It felt great to work with Youth, but it took quite a while. Archie had known Youth for a year or so when he was doing his solo stuff. He used to go round and play Youth his new songs in his front room, only for him to say they were rubbish! Then we went as a pair in early 2016 and played Youth ‘Save Yourself’ and ‘Berlin’ which turned out to be our first two singles. It felt pretty good when he eventually said he liked what we were doing.
What is it about your music that he connected with?
He connected with our songwriting and he felt that we had a vulnerability about us. We were only just starting up so there was room to develop and grow.
Before you went into his studio in Spain, what did you hope he’d bring to your songs?
We hoped he’d bring our songs to life. We had an idea in our heads what we wanted our songs to sound like and we had experimented with home demos. We knew that Youth would take them the extra mile and really stretch us creatively; get us out of our comfort zones.
We were surprised with how intense and detailed working with him and his team was… and how much weed they could smoke! We worked closely with Youth’s engineer, Michael Rendall, who is immensely talented. We worked very long days. But it was the most amazing experience. We stayed at his Space Mountain Studios which looked over Sierra Nevada and every night we sat down and had a great meal with his team before turning off all the lights and listening back to our day’s work.
What have you learnt from the experience of working with him – whether it be about songs, recording, or the music industry in general?
We have learnt how important it is to be brave and open minded with our songs. Youth would always be thinking where else we could take the song – his creativity is endless. We learnt a lot of recording techniques from him; since working with him, our home demos have transformed into more developed and experimental material.
‘Save Yourself’ is the first song you’ve released from those sessions in Spain. What made you choose it?
‘Save Yourself’ is a fitting song to introduce us as an act. It’s a very simple ‘anti-love’ song, which centres around our harmonies and our storytelling. It’s a personal song, along with all the other tracks on the upcoming record. We’d definitely say it sets the tone for what’s to come.