‘London is our inspiration’ – Streatham’s Americana duo Ferris & Sylvester

By Samuel Draper
December 17 2019, 11.55

Streatham-based duo Ferris & Sylvester are looking forward to spending time at home in south west London 2020 after recording their debut album on both sides of the Atlantic this year.

While Issy Ferris comes from the Midlands and Archie Sylvester comes from the south west of England, both have been vocal about their love of where they now call home. They recorded their 2018 EP in their kitchen and named it ‘Made in Streatham’.

Archie said: “I think London feels like home to us. It’s stressful getting in and out sometimes, but when we’re at home, we feel really comfortable. We’re not there enough at the moment. It probably won’t be until 2020 that we’ll get some time to spend at home which we are looking forward to.”

Their music takes traditional American influences and gives them a British twist. Archie said: “We have a lot of American influences, but we try and make sure we’re writing songs from a British angle. It wouldn’t feel genuine writing about pick-up trucks and cowboy boots.”

Place is integral to the duo’s lyrics. Issy explained: “You write about what you know. When we started writing, south west London was our backdrop, that’s where our friends were.

INSPIRED: The duo call south London ‘home’ despite hailing from different parts of the country and recording in the US

“It’s where our stories have been set. As we toured more, we’ve been broadened but London has definitely been an inspiration while writing together.”

Issy said “We get quite homesick on tour. South west London is a great place to be. We live near Streatham Hill. It’s a place with lots of hustle and bustle but it really is our home.”

She lists her favourite places in south west London as the Hood restaurant, the Hamlet bar and Tooting Bec Common. She also misses the ‘lovely little fox’ that lives in their garden, although Archie disagrees vehemently.

Issy said: “This year, we’ve done two headline tours, released new music, and played 101 shows. We didn’t plan it.

“I’m a massive fan of 101 Dalmatians but there’s no correlation. We just keep a tally of the shows that we’ve done and that’s the grand total.”

Issy declared the two nights at London Bridge’s Omeara in early September as her favourite shows of the year. Issy said: “We were lucky enough to do two nights as the first sold out pretty quickly.

“Those shows were insanely special. We couldn’t believe in six months, we went from The Lexington to playing two nights at Omeara.”

Their debut album has been recorded in sessions on either side of the Atlantic.

In Seattle, they worked with producer Ryan Hadlock, a connection made at this year’s SXSW Festival in Austin. He has produced records by The Lumineers, Brandi Carlisle and Vance Joy.

In Cornwall’s Sawmills Studio, they are working with previous collaborator Michael Rendall. They met him in Wandsworth, close to where Rendall has worked with the producer Youth.

Archie said: “It didn’t feel right to do the whole album in the States. There’s lots about London in our songs. All of the songs on the album have been written in Streatham Hill. It suits us doing half there and half of it back here.”

The duo has spent three and a half years making music, earning support from the Rolling Stone website and BBC Introducing along the way.

They were especially pleased to have been selected for the Emerging Artist Award by Bob Harris, known for championing young acts throughout nearly 50 years in broadcasting.

Issy said: “Bob and his family have been really amazing to us. We’ve done gigs with Under The Apple Tree, the company he runs with his son to promote new Americana music.

“He’s watched our writing develop, he’s watched us go from not selling any tickets to selling 600 in London. He’s seen that progression.”

It’s hard to pin down the sound of Ferris & Sylvester, but they accept the Americana term with grace.

Archie said: “It’s difficult to define what Americana is, and it’s difficult to define what our music is. There’s blues, folk, rock and soul influences, maybe a tiny bit of country too.

“That’s generally how people define Americana music too. As songwriters, it’s very important to not pigeon hole ourselves into one specific genre, but we feel comfortable in the Americana world.”

As one decade ends and another begins shortly, it’s an interesting place for Ferris & Sylvester to be.

Issy said: “This decade has been about development, discovery and growth. We’re ending it recording out debut album. We’re excited about what next year holds. We’ll be releasing and touring the album. It’s our first proper album campaign, so it feels huge to us. It’s going to be a good year.”

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