Issy Ferris and Archie Sylvester are the two halves of the blues rock duo know musically as Ferris & Sylvester who have just released their latest single ‘Breadwinner’ as a further step towards their long awaited and eagerly anticipated debut album ‘Superhuman‘, which comes out on March 11th.
It seems an eternity since I first saw these guys play live at Cornbury 2018 and then at The Long Road Festival in that same year before seeing them smash The Forum in Tunbridge Wells, following in the footsteps of some hugely successful artists at that iconic venue, and seeing them just recently in Hastings at another iconic small venue, The Crypt, where they were taking part in an initiative to get people back into live music and small venues as the pandemic slowly releases us all from its grip. So, you can see I’m a real fan of these guys and to have watched them develop over the past years and to watch them slowly define the music they wanted to play and the sound they wanted to have has been not only a privilege but huge fun.
What started as a partnership that edged towards alt folk tinged rock has moved much more towards something much more bluesy which hugely suits the incredible vocal range of Issy Ferris who is an artist that flourishes live and who draws the listener into her raspy, emotional voice that is equally at comfort punching out something with rock, rage and raunch, like ‘I Dare You’ as it is bringing tears to your eyes with the beautiful ‘Flying Visit’, both of which will feature on the forthcoming album. To say that she has found her perfect foil in partner Archie Sylvester, who has a voice that seems perfectly adept at adding the background to Issy’s voice or in taking lead, would be an understatement. He has developed from a veritable one-man band with his guitar and kick drum to a blues guitarist of considerable style, who can still turn his heels to a kick drum if required, but who obviously now delights in giving his guitar and vocal skills their freedom.
The music of the duo has been honed and developed through a very deliberate filter of compromise and consensus to become something that they are both obviously happy with and, to that end, the long wait for the album will, I’m sure, mean that we will end up with something much closer to what they wanted to release than when they first stepped on a stage together.
This month has seen the release of ‘Breadwinner’ which features both of their vocals and could be the story of the making of their partnership. It hints at the pressures and difficulties that come with making music as a career, with making love and war with a partner. It talks of being a breadwinner but living off loans, it talks of throwing things away whilst it’s close harmonies confirm that this relationship is going strong. The intimacy of the lyrics gives us a further insight into what makes this duo a force to be reckoned with, the songs are immediately relatable and personal as are the protagonists.
Recorded in Cornwall, written in South London, Ferris and Sylvester say of the song:
“This song is a celebration of feeling lost. Of not knowing where you’re going or how to get what you want. Of working hard in your work life and your love life, and getting little reward. You imagined your life would be like an indie film, where boy meets girl and everyone lives in cool loft apartments. Instead, life is more like an unseen episode of Peep Show. The truth is everyone is in it together. There is an odd human comfort in that, and that deserves to be celebrated. That is what Breadwinner is for.”
The story of the album is the story of this duo. It is the story of a couple who have documented their journey in life through music brought to life in isolation as they switched South London for a countryside cottage, as they discovered life away from the touring, as they grew vegetables, knitted and hiked in the times they were not writing or recording.
The twelve track album, recorded in Seattle USA, with Ryan Hadlock, of Lumineers and Stroke fame, and in Cornwall with Michael Rendall, who has worked with Pink Floyd, is a record that will take the listener on a journey of self-discovery as a human and as a musician. I can’t recommend discovering this band for yourself highly enough; I’ve seen them live many times and never been disappointed. I can’t wait for the album!
The first thing you’ll notice in the video of ‘The Ballad Of Elvis Presley’ is Josie Cotton’s sky-high beehive hair, the likes of which we’ve not seen since the late great Amy Winehouse – or, more likely given the subject matter, Priscilla Presley. But hair like that is a good sign that we’re in for a treat, and Josie Cotton and Kevin Preston certainly don’t disappoint.
‘The Ballad Of Elvis Presley’ is just that – a biographical journey through his life and career, from his origins in Tupelo Mississippi to his demise at his Graceland estate. The collaboration between Josie Cotton and Kevin Preston – the latter with his own Elvis style bouffant – couldn’t come at a better time, with the recent release of Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ biopic, and with a rhythm section including Lee Rocker of the Stray Cats, and Blondie’s Clem Burke, is guaranteed to find a welcome space in the hearts of not just Elvis’s fans, but also fans of great music.
The music video for ‘Ballad Of Elvis Presley’, directed by Piper Ferguson, sees Josie and Kevin in a ghost town, set loose in a saloon, a church, and a duelling ground. They’re joined by others as well, including a laid back bartender, a gunslinger, a dead ringer for Calamity Jane, and a slew of poker players. The members of the band have set up behind the swinging wooden doors of the bar, and they’re certainly ready for a showdown with anybody who even dares question that Elvis Presley is, and always shall be, The King.
You can listen to ‘The Ballad Of Elvis Presley’ below, and follow Josie Cotton online to find out more about the artist and her music on her official website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Jojo Engelbert has been on our radar for a while now, and if you’ve not yet caught on, we recommend you do so, starting with her latest release, ‘Sweet N Sour’, because it marks a new turn in her career. Still in her teens, Jojo is nonetheless an entertainment industry veteran, and we caught up with her and asked her a few questions.
We’ve been following your music career for a few years now, and we’ve seen you go from strength to strength. Your new single, ‘Sweet N Sour’ is a different tack for you stylistically, what’s the reasoning behind that and what should fans expect next?
I really found the sound I love with Sweet N Sour. Eli (big brother) shared with me a track he produced and I told him it was perfect for the sound I wanted. I’m not a pop singer. I’m drawn to a darker alternative/punk sound. As much as I liked Grown Up, it just isn’t me. So I really wanted to find my space following that release. You can expect this sound to continue and develop.
You’ve seen your older siblings growing up in the public eye on their tv shows, and you’ve also appeared with them; what has that experience been like, and has there ever been a time where you’ve thought that you would rather not be in entertainment? What would you choose to do if you weren’t a singer?
Their experiences are their own, but I was fortunate to get a sense of what the business is like from a young age. I remember when I was like six or seven years old and they had a concert and were signing autographs afterwards. That looked like a lot of fun to me. I didn’t quite understand why nobody wanted my autograph. That night, Zoey taught me a song and the following day we performed it at their concert. I got to sit at the autograph table. One person asked for it. It was my dad.
I was fortunate to have a couple great roles in regional theatre (Small Alison in Fun Home and Mary Lennox in Secret Garden) which led me to Nancy Carson (Carson Adler Agency) which led to other really cool opportunities.
My passions are acting and singing. I can’t imagine pursuing any other career.
Who most inspires your musical style? What are the top three songs on your playlist right now, and why are they there?
I draw from inspiration from the likes of Charli XCX, Olivia Rodrigo, Ariana Grande, Hayley Williams and Marina.
My current top three songs would have to be:
Forever – Charlie XCX, Go Away – Tate McRae and Womanizer – Britney Spears
We’re coming out the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic. How did it affect you, and what lessons have you learned from it that you’ll take with you, returning to normal life?
It was a terrible time for everyone. It certainly impacted opportunities to act and perform. I decided to spend the time really developing my acting skills and vocal technique. I knew I did not want to fall behind. Quite the opposite. I wanted to emerge better and stronger.
Finally, I ask this of everyone I interview: what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer to that question?
That’s a tough one. Being a bit of an introvert, I’m OK with fewer questions. But I do want to thank you for this interview!
Anyone familiar with the music scene in New York would be aware of the talent of Jenny Bruce, who released her debut album in 1997 and went on to win the Billboard International Songwriting Contest in 2001, accepting her award at Nashville’s iconic Bluebird Cafe. She went on to build a huge following amongst the NYC crowd by appearing in festivals and clubs and appeared on stage with John Oates, Sophie B Hawkins, Vanessa Carlton and Avril Lavigne amongst others. Her songs have been featured far and wide in TV and film and to the musical bystander, things would have appeared to be going from strength to strength but this American singer songwriter was coming to a pinch point in her life that would create the need for a musical rebirth.
In 2015 she released an EP ‘Firefly in a Jar’ which included the single ‘Giving Up the Ghost’ which felt like a heart breaking goodbye to her Mother with lyrics like: “I still come undone when it’s time to say goodbye” and “I hear your voice softer than the breeze, you speak to me, the rustling of leaves, I don’t care why there’s a part of me that will never say goodbye, giving up the ghost” which is backed by a repeated mantra of “I’m not giving up”. This EP marked a return after a self-imposed step away from music of ten years and Jenny was quoted as saying:
“It’s such a long story. To sum it up. I didn’t write for myself for over a decade. I bottled everything up and locked it in a jar. Especially the feelings of loss after my Mother died. That loss broke my heart and hurt so much that I kind of shut down. Thing is, I became a mother around the same time. It was a very confusing period in my life. These songs are little life rafts that I wrote to pull myself up and out of a numbing sea”
It was to be 5 years later that Jenny released album GHOSTE, the name of which may have sprung directly from the thought of giving up the ghost by becoming GHOSTE, the silent e at the end almost suggesting anything but silence. Officially giving up the ghost and adopting GHOSTE meant that Jenny was able to emerge from the critically acclaimed and award winning song writing of the past to become something different but the same, a butterfly from the chrysalis of her song writing past. The eponymous album under the new name came out in 2020 and immediately caught the eye; the powerful song writing was of course still there but there was an ethereal quality in the electro pop style that suggested a musical rebirth.
Jenny has been asked about the name and she recalls:
“My late Mom cautioned me that after you turn 50 nobody listens to you and you become invisible, a ghost. Having crossed the 50-yard line, myself, I would tell her that aging doesn’t make you invisible. Trying to be something you are not, does.”
There are so many things we can draw from this simple and yet revealing statement. The nod to the 50-yard line suggests so much more than a number of birthdays and hints that Jenny sees this as a half way mark in her career before she goes on the offensive. There’s a real suggestion that up until now, she was trying to be something she wasn’t. She has garnered huge success from an early contractual agreement to write for TV and film but this comes with certain shackles that musically she seems determined to cast aside. The fact that she has moved away from the possibility of invisibility and being a ghost by becoming something more than a ghost, hence the added e, is a definite statement of intent that she will be heard.
Scroll forward to now and we see music from the artist in the shape of a five track EP show casing last year’s album release. The haunting music, excuse the pun, brings to mind the vocals of Kate Bush or Annie Lennox, artists whose vocal style has inspired so many of today’s singers and producers. Assisted by Matt Anthony, producer and composer, GHOSTE’s new music is the culmination of over a decade of collaboration that has finally found its wings.
The track listing of the teaser EP for the album could be the chapters of a book; ‘slow motion’, ‘deep water’, ‘fix you’, ‘hold on’ and ‘brick by brick’ suggest a progression of a career but all tracks are infused with Jenny’s inimitable style. GHOSTE even manages the almost impossible feat of covering a Coldplay song, often attempted but rarely adding anything. In this instance Jenny brings new nuance to the lyrics within the framework of this musical rebirth.
The selection opens with ‘Slow Motion’, an upbeat opener which quickly works its way into your memory before moving to the stunning ‘Deep Water’, which has a cinematic feel to it which builds with a beautiful ‘deep water’ refrain reminiscent of Ennio Morricone before a Kate Bush like climax; it’s a song that is so stunningly layered and the stand out track for me. Next is ‘Fix You’ which GHOSTE covers with real style; I’m sure that Chris Martin would love the almost galactic feel to the production of this wonderful song. The penultimate track, ‘Hold On’ is another wonderfully layered track with very moving lyrics and great production, much in the style of Jack Garratt, the superb UK artist. ‘Brick by Brick’ opens with the line ‘It’s a long way back, I can hear you calling’ and that feels like a direct reference to this musical return and the heartbreaks and life changing episodes that have made up the fabric of Jenny’s life since her self-imposed hiatus. The lyrics are a wonderful reworking of the three little pig’s children’s story and references the rebuilding of a musical vision but in brick this time; a suggestion that this time she will not be “blown down”.
There is so much emotion in this release and so much underlying story telling. Like the production, it will haunt you in stages. Firstly, you will love the wonderful electro pop cinematic quality of the music, then you will fall in love with Jenny’s wonderful voice, reminiscent of artists past but also reminding me of the brilliant Riva Taylor, a UK artist equally inspired by Kate Bush, but finally the thing that will stay with you forever will be the incredible lyrics; the honesty, the baring of a soul and the feeling that this is the start of a new exciting journey built on the lessons of the past. It turns out that the 50 yard line is just the beginning.