Fun; entertaining; sexy; powerful; energetic; intense; electrifying; captivating. These are just a few words used to try to sum up just what it is that makes Orange County ska-core crew Save Ferris so special and unique. Borne from the same SoCal scene that has given us the likes of No Doubt, Offspring, Ignite and Reel Big Fish Save Ferris are a breath of fresh air. Utterly original they shine through all the stale, financially-motivated, MTV-pleasing pap-punk that’s currently dished up by the majors, bringing smiles and sunshine to kids all over the world through a sassy live performance that’s been known to persuade even the most hardened metallers to get skanking down the front.
Tonight is no exception. Downstairs at The Garage in London, kids from all over the capital have descended, clad in traditional hoodies-and-shorts ska-punk uniform and some in response to their incendiary performance at Reading festival, to witness one of ska-punk’s truly special live acts in an intimate environment. From the jazzy brass opening of ‘The World Is New’, the song that originally started the ball rolling for Save Ferris back in ’96 to the seductive ‘Lies’ and playful ‘Under 21’ Save Ferris are astounding! The tight synchronisation of Bassist Bill, hard-kicking drummer Evan and the bold brass of Eric is truly reverential and the completion of guitarist and vocalist Brian and the lovely Monique are the cherries on a brightly coloured, multi-layered, fruity punk rock trifle that’s hard to pass by.
“You know what?” enthuses Brian after the show. “Tonight reminded me of home because the crowd was so into it and going so crazy. It was really, really cool.”
“We first came over in ’98”, comments Monique. “And we were the first from our scene to come to England and there were like, three people at our shows. They totally didn’t get what we were doing.”
“We remember playing Manchester in this little bar,“ adds Brian. “I think it was the Roadhouse, and nobody was there to see us apart from like, three kids but it’s crazy to come back now and see people actually know what it’s all about. They’re awesome – it’s great to see people really getting into music.”
Indeed, ecstatic would probably be a better description of the guys and gals here tonight. And I would count myself in there, for Monique (she tells me I can call her Mo, but for some reason I prefer ‘Monique’) really does have a way of working up all that pent up testosterone. The eye-opening site of her gorgeous, curvy figure manoeuvring itself round the stage, hips swinging is surely a site to behold but coupled with her rich, deep, jazz-tinged voice the magnetic attraction between herself and the crowd becomes ever more tense.
But there’s little or no lustful looks on anyone’s faces, her alluring presence instead catching admiring gazes from the teenage crowd squeazed against the barrier hoping to catch her eye for just one milli-second. Or it could just be that they’re looking for something else. “There was a rumour that she had three nipples”, laughs Brian. “There were people who actually believed it. They came up after the shows and asked me while I was floating around – this was about 3-4 years ago and we were just cracking up. I don’t know how it got started but I have to say it’s probably the most unusual one I’ve ever heard!”
Monique has star quality. She has the kind of personality that oozes charisma, that makes you blush, that makes your hairs stand on end as soon as you’re in the presence of her distinctive charm. Which may go some way in explaining the lengths that Brian went to, to get her to try out for Save Ferris, despite her already singing in six other bands in Orange County. “I had seen her sing like, background and I remember thinking ‘man, that girl should be the lead singer in a band’. So when we decided to look for another vocalist I kinda mentioned it and the guys went ‘you’ve gotta get her’! It was my job to always do the tough stuff so I was like ‘oh great’, like ‘I don’t know her!’ So anyways, long story short, I got a phone number for her but it was her parent’s line, not her personal line so we call and I went all shy and went ‘err… hi, is Monique there?’ and hung up.”
Her Dad thought you were prank calling didn’t he?
“Yeah, yeah. He kept thinking we were wierdos because no-one called that line for her any more. So like, two days later I got a call on my machine and it was like, ‘ I don’t know who you guys are but this is Monique and I don’t know why you keep calling my parents but you’d better leave them alone because I don’t know who the hell you are’. So we were like ‘oh shit! Now she thinks we’re like, wierdos; now we’ve fucked it up!”
Fortunately Brian picked up the courage to call her back, “I talked about hundred miles a minute like, (talking fast) ‘look I got this band, it’s really good, you gotta join, we’re really good, we’re playing with Reel Big Fish and all these bands, you’re gonna love it, we’re gonna love it, they’re gonna love it!” Luckily, the band she was in had stopped playing anything for a while and because she already knew a couple of the guys from Reel Big Fish, she went down to a practise on their recommendation.
What was the first band practise like with Monique? “Wow, that’s a good question. The very first practise we brought Monique down she actually wouldn’t play. She made us play all of our songs for her first with like, me just trying to sing the parts myself. She liked the music so we went for dinner and had a big talk about it and she was like ‘if we’re gonna do this I want it to be like, really good. I wanna do it serious, I don’t wanna fuck around.’ So we were like, ‘alright, cool’, because we’d been playing for a little while with another singer and we’d got to the point where we wanted to take it a little bit more serious. We started practising and about a month later we were playing shows and stuff.”
During the summer of 1996 Save Ferris created their own record label, Starpool Records, taking care of all merchandise and production costs to release a seven song EP entitled, "Introducing Save Ferris." They began playing everywhere from SoCal amusement parks, local concert venues, popular clubs and even bars before they were old enough to drink. Save Ferris were in demand and sold copies of the EP faster than they could produce it. After selling 15,000 copies they were still managing and promoting the band themselves before Epic got their mucky paws on them, so would they ever consider going back to all that and working independently again?
“I would definitely. It’s way better. You have more control and you get to do what you wanna do. Playing with the majors is a fucked game. You need the money to try and get out there and tour as much as possible but at the same time it’s a shitty deal. They make all the money and you don’t really get anything in the long run. We’re at the point right now where it’s real debatable – we’ve talked about it and I dunno. It’s getting to the point nowadays where you can do stuff on your own; CDs are burnable.”
Being old schoolmates Brian and Bill formed the band seven years ago with a friend from work, trumpeter Eric, and his friend José. Taken from the classic film ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ the name ‘Save Ferris’ was discovered by Brian on the wall of his study cubicle at school, “I was studying so long, you know when you’re zoning-out and you’ve been doing it for three hours? I kinda was like (long sigh) and looked up and it just stuck out and I was like ‘Wow’. It just hit me like, ‘that’d look really cool on a shirt.‘”
That was one of the films when I was growing up (not that I’m ‘grown up’ now) that I used to watch time and time again. Ferris just seemed like the coolest guy.
“It was a good movie for me too. I watched it at the right age; I was totally into it and stuff. When we started the band we were all like, 80s freaks and that was a kind of common thing between all of us.”
Six years on from their inception Save Ferris are still the best of friends and despite a few member changes they’re still as close-knit as in their early days and know how to have a good time with each other, which is kinda rare with bands that spend months on end touring in a tiny van. “I think over the years when you’re living with people touring-wise you kinda develop a similar sense of humour about things. It’s just kind of a survival tool. We’re also really really good with partying with one another as opposed to having to go separate ways. (laughs) we know how to have a good time, let’s put it that way. You have to be to be in our kind of music you know what I mean?”
Your drummer Evan is the newest member to the band and watching him onstage I thought he’d fit perfectly in a band like AFI, with all the make-up, tattoos and died black hair… “Yeah, he’s kinda got that rock look. One of my friends from Homegrown recommended I try him out and he was awesome. The thing you’ve got to figure out is when he first joined the band he had one tiny little tattoo – he had virtually no tattoos or anything.”
Really? “Yeah, he had one tiny little tattoo and he looked all normal (laughs) and the over the years this punk rock side kinda came out, you know. But he’s a drummer, you know what I mean? Like, everybody is different and it’s cool. He adds a harder element, that’s why our second album had a little more oomph to it coz he was more of a harder guy whereas the first guy was more jazzy, kinda funky.”
As mentioned before Save Ferris are from the burgeoning Orange County punk rock scene. It’s no surprise really with the amount of punk and ska bands that’ve bounced their way out of its sunny confines. It’s almost like some kind of breeding ground for bands of this ilk. “Yeah, well a lot of the bands have kinda been doing it for years and years and years. It kinda ‘hit’ in the states & once one or two bands got a break all the labels were like, ‘oh, who else is around?’ and they’re like, ’oh, there’s all these good bands!’”
I hear Ignite have signed to a major label as well. “Really? Did they really sign to a major?”
Yep. I think it’s TVT. “Yeah, there’s a lot of bands, like the bands on random punk vs ska compilations like, years & years ago. I think just where we come from there’s a lot of bands in general so the competition kinda breeds to make better bands. See, you guys see maybe 8 or 10 bands coming out and you’re thinking ‘wow, there’s a lot of good bands coming out’ but back home we know there’s 50 or 60 bands and the rest are like, so-so. It’s really competitive.”
You won the Recording Academy National Showcase Award a couple of years ago. Now, I always think of your music as being quite accessible as far as pop-punk goes but have you ever played with any major pop bands?
“Yeah, we did a tour with Sugar Ray before back in ’98 when they had that ‘Fly’ single. It was their second record but their first big hit. We toured with Lit and played a couple of gigs with some random people, like, some people that you kinda go ‘what are we doing playing with them you know?’”
Not Britney Spears by any chance? “No, no-one like that but more erm… we used to play with Incubus quite a lot actually when we first signed to Epic, because they were relatively new to Epic – they’d been signed for a little less than a year and we’d just gotten signed so they were sort of our buddies. They would be like ‘oh, you’ve gotta go get free CDs dude’, and tell us what to do & stuff. And it’s weird because they used to open up for us, like we used to get them on shows and now they’re fuckin’ huge, so it’s pretty cool and I’m happy for them. It’s good that you finally see a decent band get a lot of press & stuff.”
Can you tell me something about Save Ferris that might surprise me?
Ah… I dunno. You’ve kinda put me on the spot. Erm… well, they have this thing in the United States called the Mediaeval Times. They make it look like the old days with the knights and people eat with their hands and they have, like, a thing where knights joust & stuff. Well, Bill used to have to be a bard but he’s only like, this tall and they used to put him in a suit of armour and it was so big it used to fall down on him It was pretty funny because he had to wear it all the time. I think me and Eric had the worst jobs. We worked at one of those convention centres. It’s like where they have Home & Garden shows and all that kinda stuff. We used to have to clean up & build stages for shows and like, watch other bands play and carry trash. We had shit jobs. That’s probably something not many people know. Mo worked in a flower shop and a museum. She didn’t really have too many bad jobs. I really wish I had a more exciting story!”
So no embarrassing habits then? “I think it’s the same with all bands. You sit around & eat fast food all day long…(short pause)… gas,” he says as if stumbling on something that he’s ashamed, yet strangely proud of. “We have gas wars.”
Does Monique ever light her farts?
“You know what? We’ve been on tour for six years and Monique never farted in front of us until this tour. This tour she started lighting them and they’re crazy. They’re like, light green!! It’s the wierdist thing ever! She’s gonna kill me but it’s pretty crazy. We’re in this small van and we’re eating bad. You’ve gotta do something to pass the time. In fact, we invented a new sport! Ok, here it is – you can print this – we’re mixing the elements of extreme sports with farting. It’s called ‘extreme farting’! We’ve come up with moves and everything, like run-up, jump off, do a 360 and you fart on your mate’s head and it’s great! We’ve been filming it and we’re making a little movie with fish-eye lenses – just like skateboarding. It’s great, it’s a new sport.”
Have Epic approached you about doing a home video? “We’ve talked about it a couple of times but I dunno…”
If you had one that would be in it I take it. “I would love that to be in it, that would be hilarious. I’m telling you, we’re gonna put that tape out one day and we’re gonna use pseudonyms so no-one’s gonna know it’s us. It’s gonna be great!”
Have you heard of a website called extremeironing.com? It may be right up your street. “Extreme Ironing? Wow.”
*At this point we’re ushered out of the already very noisy backstage area that’s accommodating the excess rock music currently blaring out of the main room and into an even noisier room where Monique is stuffing her sweaty stage gear into her bag*
“He asked for an exclusive so I told him about farting,” shouts an amused Brian above the noise. “Oh, fabulous!” She shrieks in her drawn-out Californian accent.
“Beans are actually banned on the tour bus along with Broccoli. You know what I think?” She says, standing up straight and looking me in the eye. “If you’re putting that stuff in your body, your body’s angry. It’s like ‘fuck you! Don’t put that in me any more.’ And I think we shouldn’t eat stuff like that. It breaks down the o-zone layer, all that methane.”
Caring words there. It still pains me to imagine her lighting illuminous green farts in the sweaty confines of a small tour bus though. “I told him about ‘extreme farting’," Brian smirks. “Oh, you did not!” laughs Monique. “Hey, we’ve already trademarked it.”
And as hard as it is for most of their fans to believe I actually think they might have done. By interviewing the kings and queen of ska-core I should have been prepared for a non-serious interview but what is the fascination with bodily functions and ska? [see Lightyear interview] I dunno. Save Ferris will be returning to the UK at the end of the month for two shows in Birmingham and London, supported by the ever-faithful Lightyear. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll be there.