From one-man show to avant-garde powerhouse, San Fermin ready to show their chops
The Windish Agency
San Fermin aren’t a one-man show by any means. But without a doubt, the brains behind the Brooklyn-based experimental pop group is one Ellis Ludwig-Leone (above). The singer-songwriter studied composition at Yale University and had two feet deeply in classical music and opera music when he put his writing talents to paper and crafted the unique sound that became San Fermin.
“The idea was not to a start band when I wrote the first record,” he says. “It actually wasn’t even until I released [debut single] ‘Sonsick’ that I started to think about being a band that toured. The band basically formed while on the road.”
In order to write San Fermin’s self-titled debut album, Ludwig-Leone took a break from New York and crafted the record deep in the Canadian Rockies. What resulted was an intricate avant-garde pop album that explored being young and dealing with love. Six weeks later, the writing process was finished and he brought his work back to the Big Apple.
“I wrote the whole record without knowing anything except that Allen [Tate] was going to sing lead vocals,” says Ludwig-Leone. “From there, I came back and brought in friends of mine from school and people in New York to record parts. It was done in a few months in New York in my bedroom mostly.”
Even after the recording of the first album, San Fermin were still very much Ludwig-Leone’s pet project. Finding a way to translate the music into a compelling live show “has been a steady evolution,” he says, but eventually, the band found its footing.
“Our first show had 15 people reading off sheet music on stage with music stands, a glockenspiel and an orchestral bass drum. It was a pretty absurd scenario,” says Ludwig-Leone. “Over the course of a year-and-a-half, it has turned into an eight-person band. It’s basically a rock band at this point. It’s still a big group, but the energy is different.”
Now that San Fermin are a full band, Ludwig-Leone has had to alter his writing approach to their upcoming album Jackrabbit, due out in April. Rather than composing the songs with no musicians in mind, Ludwig-Leone could now visualize who would be playing on the album.
“For this record, I really wrote it for the band,” he says. “The songs just fit the personalities better. In a way, it was easier because I knew who I was writing for but it was harder because it was higher stakes.”
With the experience under their belt, San Fermin are ready to show they are more than just a novelty. Going from a singular project to a rock band, Ludwig-Leone believes the band has to truly impress.
“We know what we can bring to the table now,” he says. “But that is a double-edged sword. It gives us a unique sound, but some people are just expecting two guitars, a bass and drum set. We have to win these people over with how compelling our sound is. It’s not enough to make something that is just unusual, but something that is unusual and powerful.”