Ed Power: San Fermin are madly eclectic, with songs that walk the line between avant-garde and pretentious
With a name that suggests a minor character from a Wes Anderson movie and a degree from fancy-pants Yale university, Ellis Ludwig-Leone was never going to end up fronting a hair-metal band.
True to stereotype his group, San Fermin, are truly, madly eclectic, with songs that walk an adroit line between avant-garde and pretentious.
"It's a surprise to me that a lot of the talk around the band has revolved around [Yale]," he says. "I'm not sure it's the most interesting thing that there is about us. For me, it's not where you learn – it's what you learn."
Curiously, though Ludwig-Leone is San Fermin's creative guiding light, he is not lead singer. On stage the pallid composer is easily overlooked: he typically hangs to the back, practically a bystander at his own concert.
"I don't sing and yet I'm the band leader. Yeah it's confusing," he says. "It doesn't feel strange. This is basically the only band I've been in in a serious way. So I have nothing else with which to compare it. I think it benefits us – there's a more democratic dynamic as everyone is equal. If I've written lyrics that the others don't wish to sing – well, then, they're not going to sing them."
San Fermin recently released their second LP, Jackrabbit. Assembling the album with other musicians represented a strange new world for Brooklyn-based Ludwig-Leone who had previously written and recorded alone.
"In some ways it was more difficult – it's always that little bit harder when you know people are going to be listening to it. Knowing I was writing for an audience, and also for other band members, complicated things. Of course, in another sense it made it easier – I was able to build off our first record. It gave me a starting point going into the process."
As an ambitious young composer at Yale, it would have shocked Ludwig-Leone to know he would one day travel the world in a tour-bus and play rock clubs in front of occasionally rowdy audiences. In that respect, the past two years have been a learning curve.
"At the start I thought, 'I'm a composer who tours a little bit'. Now, I'm a guy in a band. Before the first record, I hadn't toured much. It's a really big part of being a musician. That wasn't something I had thought about very much."
San Fermin play Whelan's Dublin tonight. Jackrabbit is out now.