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San Fermin Solidifies its Brassy Sound with “Belong”

By Megan Yoder | 4/28/17 2:41pm | Updated 4/29/17 11:19am
Courtesy of San Fermin's Facebook Page

The brainchild of Brooklyn-based songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone during his college days at Yale, San Fermin continues to develop its classically-inspired brand of indie rock with its third album “Belong.”

The band continues to rely heavily on the dauntless vocals of Charlene Kaye and Allen Tate – Kaye’s voice bold and sturdy, Tate’s smooth and rich. The complementary punchy aural combination echoes the sounds of previous albums “Jackrabbit” and “San Fermin.” Kaye, never hesitant to belt powerful riffs, and Tate, anchoring tracks with a warm resonance.

With “Belong,” the band has branded its sound as a uniquely jazzy variety of indie rock. Just as the two albums before it, brassy horns back up catchy beats on a number of tracks, like “Better Company” and “Cairo.” Melodic strings, too, provide classical depth to the album, evidence of Ludwig-Leone’s Yale music background. After “Belong,” there is no doubt about it – this band knows how to use traditional sounds in innovative ways.

While “Belong” does not stray far from the musicality of “Jackrabbit” and “San Fermin” before it, the album continues to build the band’s memorable and daring sound and explores more personal concepts in the themes of its individual songs.

Ludwig-Leone dove into more personal territory with the songwriting the third time around. In particular, he opened up about his anxiety in “Belong.”

“Anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since I was a kid, but on this album I talked about it more explicitly than I ever had before,” Ludwig-Leone writes on the band’s website. “As I’ve become more confident as a songwriter, I decided that I could drop some of the artifice and write something more direct.”

The suffocating pangs of anxiety are evident in “Bride,” a song that captures the feeling of suffering a panic attack while in the throes of a wedding, fear of disappointment in “No Promises,” and the blatant cynicism evident in the the lyrics of “Happiness Will Ruin This Place.”

Highlights of the album include snappy, bass-driven “No Promises,” about the Ludwig-Leone’s uncertain request to the band members to place their trust in him and opposingly haunting horn-heavy “Cairo.”

The band also explores a softer side with the gentle melodies of “Happiness Will Ruin This Place,” and its title track and ode to being in love, “Belong.”

You can see the group, including trumpet player John Brandon, saxophonist Stephen Chen, violinist Rebekah Durham, drummer Michael Hanf and guitarists Tyler McDiarmid and Aki Ishiguro at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, May 10 with support from Low Roar. Get your tickets here.