Interview: San Fermin


Brooklyn indie rock octet San Fermin put on a larger-than-life live show in support of their new album Belong at D.C.’s 9:30 Club on May 10th. While I was unable to sit down with the band before their show due to finals week, I was recently able to ask the band’s founder, keyboardist, and lead songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone some questions about the band and his future plans for the group via email. Check out our interview below:

You put on a particularly high-energy show at the 9:30 Club in D.C. last month, where the chemistry between all of you was pretty evident. Would you say that most elements of your shows are planned, or do you like to ad-lib and feed off each other’s energy a lot?

It’s fairly planned out, though we have moments in the show where there’s a bit more spontaneity. For example, the sax solo in “Parasites.” There’s a loosely written part that Stephen is working from, but he takes some pretty obvious liberties with it. And similarly, in a lot of the drum parts, Michael will start with what’s written and then kind of expand it rhythmically from there.

San Fermin is a considerably larger band than what people might be used to seeing today. What unique challenges and advantages does this present?

Well an obvious, boring one is that every check gets split across eight people rather than three or four. So we have to tour twice as hard to make a living! But I think that a lot of our fans come back again and again because our live show is pretty special, and that has to do with the size of the group. It’s a spectacle.

How do you feel that your style has changed over the past three albums, both in terms of songwriting and the band’s overall sound?

I think the songwriting has grown to reflect the live sound a bit more. On our new album, Belong, it’s the first time that I would say the record actually sounds like the show. Also, as I’ve grown as a songwriter, the songs have gotten more personal and less reliant on an outside framework. Like the first album, everything tied into this larger concept, but now I’m better at writing a song that creates its own little world in the span of three or four minutes. 

Who are some of your favorite artists, past or present? And who are some of your musical inspirations? 

I love Paul Simon. His music has spanned so many styles and eras and yet it always feels unique to him. I also love Kate Bush. I listened to her a lot while I was writing this new record, particularly with respect to the songs that Charlene sings.

What are some of your goals for the band in the future? Is there a particular stage you’d like to play, amount of recognition you’d like to get, or musical element you’d like to incorporate into future endeavors?

I try to keep the recognition thing out of the equation… it’s too fickle and seems like a recipe for unhappiness if you’re constantly thinking about it. In regards to musical elements, I guess I would just like the band to continue to be an outlet for me to experiment with sounds and explore my own emotional landscape while also providing good careers and lives for all the band members.

Is there any advice you’d give college students hoping to pursue music in the future or budding musical groups hoping to make it big? 

I would tell them that “make it big” is a bad way to look at it. Think about what you can bring to music that is specific to you, and then go do it. And hopefully people will respond to that. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fan base?

Thanks for sticking with us!

Click here to see the rest of San Fermin’s North American tour dates and check out their new album, Belong, below:

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