Massy Ferugson are a four-piece twang-rock group from Seattle. The quartet have just released their second album, Hard Water, and recently finished a small tour of the Western US. Hard Water represents a stylistic maturation for the band, with improved recording quality, a more honed sound, and a generally more confident-sounding album than their debut album. Founding member Ethan Anderson was kind enough to speak with Randomville about what the band has been up to these days.[audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/01LongTime.mp3|titles=Long Time]
Randomville (RV): How’s it going, Ethan?
Ethan Anderson (EA): Doing alright – right now we’re just trying to figure out the spring booking schedule. We’re gonna do a couple of tours, and we want to figure stuff out before everyone leaves for the holidays.
RV: How’s the new album being received?
EA: Very well! We’ve had a lot of really good luck since it came out: in October we won the Seattle Weekly poll to send one band to Iceland to play the Iceland Airways Festival. So we did that right around when [the album] was released, and we’ve been getting ogod press since then.
I’m really happy with the album. We put in a lot of work into it…this is probably the most we’ve ever scrutinzed our own work. In the pre-writing stage we did a hell of a lot of “does this work, do we need to change this…” So yeah, I’m happy with how it turned out, and it’s being received pretty well.
My favorite radio station is KEXP, which is the Seattle station, and it’s got a good national reputation for breaking albums and new bands and that kinda thing. We were the song of the day about a month ago, which was a thrill. It’s great if you can get love in your hometown.
RV: Definitely. It must be nice to know that at the very worst you can always find a solid fanbase at home.
EA: If you have the home base covered, at least you can have fun in your hometown. It’s funny…sometimes we’ll play a show in Seattle in front of like three-hundred people, and then we go to a place like Roselyn, out east, and it’s always hit or miss. We could play for three-hundred people in Seattle and like eighteen the next night in Roselyn. It’s funny how that goes, but a long as you got your one place, you’re gonna be okay.
RV: How would you say the album is different from the debut?
EA: Like I said, we were a lot harder on ourselves with this album. [We] weeded out a bunch of songs, chopped up our own stuff ,and just spent a whole lotta time analyzing it. The first album, we just wanted to get something out there and we wanted to make a statement and have an album that made sense. I mean, even the track order, we spent ungodly amount of time saying, “hey does this go into this, does this sound good after this.” So you can only imagine us in the studio, trying all these things. I think there was a lot more…we didn’t take any shortcuts, and I’ll put it that way.
I think a big difference is that this album is more rootsy, a little bit more twang to it, which is fine by me, but i don’t think that was intentional. We’ve just been playing a lot more, kinda gravitating towards the songs and sounds that we were probably most comfortable with, doing more twang and rock…not necessarily alt-country, but twangy rock is more of our thing.
RV: Do you think you’re going to keep on in that direction?
EA: Hard to say, but I think in some ways that’s like our default setting, that rock/twang thing. I’d like to see how we deviate from that on our next album. I don’t think we’ll deviate too far, but I’d like to see I guess what type of offshoots, as far as songs, come from that.
RV: You guys used to record in an under-construction building. What was that like?
EA: It was a Boys & Girls club being built, and at the time Adam and I, we both worked at the club, and they had this new building they were gonna renovate. It was gross and dirty, but it was free.
It goes to show, though, we tended to be more raw because of that…it gave our music, at the beginning, a harder edge, playing those unforgiving surroundings. It was one of those things where we were just getting our bearings, and I think it mayne influenced our sound. We did an EP in that practice space, a little bit of recording and what came out was this super gritty lo-fi thing that I almost, just cause it felt so raw.
RV: Have you got any large influences going through your CD player right now?
EA: I’m actually a pretty big fan of a lot of different genres, and I guess what comes easiest to me is what I grew up on, which is basically clasic/southern rock, and kinda folk music like the Grateful Dead, Crosby Stills & Nash…Jackson Brown and Van Morrison, those are my dad’s two favorite artists. As I got older I matured my tastes a little bit, and I got into all kinds of different stuff. Right now the stuff moving me is more that rock/electronica mix, like Phoenix, Spoon, those kinds of groups. They’re doing rock with a little more interesting percussive electronics. Rock with a beat, which I’ve been digging lately.
RV: What are future plans for Massy Ferguson? Any plans for a larger tour?
EA: We’ve been doing a radio campaign, and we’re gonna try to make a go at the midwest. I’ve never been out there before, but we have friends and contacts out there, so I’m curious…we dunno what to expect, but are excited at prospect.
We’ve been fortunate to tour internationally, and I had a ball doing that, man. It’s been really fun getting out and testing your music in front of international crowds. As a result, we’ve played Australia, Iceland, Costa Rica, a lot of places, and that’s been such a key part of my life over the past couple years, taking chances and risks on what people would consider odd gigs, and for the most part they panned out. I’d like to do that again before we get into the studio…recording an album…I mean that’s part of our art, but I think another big part of [it] is testing the music out in front of a pretty wide range of people and learning the craft of delivering the songs. That’s an art in and of itself.
I think now with CD sales declining and things getting more single-oriented, the live show is more important than ever. If you’re not able to deliver your song live, I think you’re at a big disadvantage. That’s what we have as musicians that makes us really different from, say, painters or sculptors: we get this forum to do things live, spontaneously, in front of people. I love the communal thing about music , and until we feel like we’ve taken this thing out to a ton of people and done everything we can to promote the shit out of it, I’m not too worried about recording another album. I think within the next couple years I want to focus on getting it out there.