FARRAGO are an exciting and rock-solid…
Alt-Folk/Indie band that marries lush cinematic sounds with powerful acoustic guitars and silky bass – plenty of expressive percussion and epic vocals. I talk to lead singer Ian (in the photo above) about the band’s career and recording their E.P., Oh, Beautiful Darkness, at Abbey Road Studios. He tells me about arriving in London in 2012 – having started his music lust in Brisbane; having walked out of a fruit-picking job – and how they all found one another.
I learn more about the E.P. and what one can expect on 7th September at The Finsbury – where the video for Better Than Real Life will be projected during the performance. Ian discusses the musicians that matter most to him and each of the band picks a song to end the interview with.
ALL FARRAGO PHOTOS: Sebastian Trustman (unless indicated otherwise)
Hi, Ian. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi! It has been great – and hectic.
Lots of exciting work going on with the new E.P. - which is being pressed at this very moment.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m Ian Bennett: lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of Farrago – an Alt-Folk band made up of myself plus Tina Longford (on Violin and B.V.s); Simone Feroci (on Bass and B.V.s) and Jack Robson (on Drums).
The music is a real mixture of Folk, with Rock, Indie; Jazz and Blues thrown in for good measure.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mr. Fizzy
I am interested in Farrago’s origins. I believe it was 2009 and a busking outfit birth? Can you expand on that and how you became the band you are now?
Farrago was born on the streets of Brisbane, Australia - after walking out of a fruit-picking job.
It was just two of us back then – me on vocals and guitar and my partner, Ruth, on melodica. It was amazing, to me, people were more into our original tunes than the covers. There was a real thirst for hearing new music.
We played our way around Australia and New Zealand, in venues and on the street, then, spent some time in India writing new material and making some D.I.Y. recordings.
But, I really missed having a whole-band-sound; so we came back to England to keep the project growing. The line-up we have now is just what I was hoping for!
Big, dynamic and bold.
You arrived in London in 2012. What compelled that decision and how influential is London to your music?
I’m from London, and so, coming home was always on the cards...
London is hugely important to my music: I love the vibe and variety here. I love that London draws people in from all around the world. I’m always meeting inspirational musicians from all walks of life. Also, London pushes you hard!
To get anywhere, you have to work like crazy - which certainly keeps the standards high! I met all my band-mates whilst playing various live shows in London - so I have a lot to thank this city for!
The E.P., Oh, Beautiful Darkness, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios. What was it like recording at such a hallowed space?
Man...it was incredible.
I felt like a kid in a sweet shop – so much great gear that has been used by some of the best musicians in the world. It was humbling and unbelievably exciting to be there for a while. We recorded the E.P. in the main studios but I have to thank the Abbey Road Institute for making it happen. We worked with two fantastic students – Noah Dayan and Lucas Cristoff – who took us under their wing.
The future of the recording industry is in safe hands!
PHOTO CREDIT: Mr. Fizzy
Can you tell me how that opportunity came about?
Myself and Simone were playing a few tunes at an open mic. at The Magic Garden in Battersea and Lucas happened to be there in the audience. It’s a great open mic. for meeting other serious musos – a night called Sing for Your Supper; run by a very passionate poet and friend called Carl Chamberlain. I got chatting to Lucas and the rest is history!
I met Noah at the Institute and we hit it off immediately. They co-engineered - and Noah mixed the E.P.
When will the E.P. be launched? I understand the video for Better Than Real Life will be shown for the first time there? What can you tell us about the video and its storyline?
The E.P. will be released on 7th September - with a launch party the same night at The Finsbury pub (in Manor House).
The Better Than Real Life video is going to be projected during the performance. It has been great fun making it with director Daria Lanz; actress Stephanie Cannon; Director of Photography Philip Moran and the band. We’ve been messing around with L.E.D. lasers; paint, masks - and confusing members of the public in the process!
Better Than Real Life is about a character that prefers to live in the digital world - rather than reality – so, all the scenes are about the tension and release this creates.
Uncle Onion Records is the band’s label. What was the decision behind releasing the E.P. on your own label? Did it provide a freer creative construct?
I decided to create the label, back in 2014, for the release of our first studio-E.P., All Beginnings Are Illusions.
It was, mainly, so that we can build-up our own catalogue of music without any external forces coming into play. It has been a steep learning-curve but it has been useful learning more about how the industry works. I love the ethos of D.I.Y. and community building - so I wanted Farrago to reflect this.
How do songs come together for Farrago? Do you all collaborate or will someone write lyrics – the remaining members pitching in with the music?
I’m constantly writing new material at home.
The ones that stick I bring to the band. By the time they hear the songs, they already have a structure and lyrics. Tina, Simone and Jack bring their musical magic to the songs at this point. This way, I can filter out the songs that don’t make the grade - before the others spend any time on them.
It’s a pretty productive way of working, I find...
PHOTO CREDIT: Mr. Fizzy
Are other there any tour dates later in the year? Which dates are you most looking forward to?
We’re holding off on new dates until after the launch.
My next focus is on getting festival bookings for 2018…so keep an eye out! The odd gig will creep in though, I’m sure.
Keep an eye on the website for dates...
Do you have anything else planned in terms of more music? Do you think ahead to the next record or are you very much focused on the latest E.P.?
There’s always plenty of new music in the pipeline.
Once the launch has happened, I’ll be working with the band on a handful of new songs that I’m focusing on at the moment.
I’ll be looking to record another E.P. or album in 2018.
How do Farrago unwind and is there ever a chance to break away from the music?
That’s a good question!
I’m around music, pretty much 24/7. I spend most of my free-time seeing my mates play music or going to music community events. My favourite way to escape for a bit is to go to a festival – preferably, a very chilled one, like Womad or End of the Road.
Last year, I saw The Shins, Joanna Newsom; Teleman, Ezra Furman; Savages and Kevin Morby all play on the same festival bill. It was incredible!
Who are new acts you recommend we check out?
I am lucky enough to have some very talented mates...
Russell Joslin is a Folk music tour de force. He sings with Sarah McCaig and they are simply stunning together.
Tom Hyatt writes and performs a lot in London. Well worth checking out.
My friend, Mary Erskine, has a band called Me for Queen. She is incredible (Russell, Sarah and Tom will be playing with us at the launch).
(Probably) the artist I most admire at the moment is Scott Matthews. His songwriting and voice are truly inspirational. He won an Ivor Novello for his song, Elusive. It gives me shivers just thinking about it!
If you had to select the album that means the most to you; which would it be and why?
I’d probably have to say Grace by Jeff Buckley.
It completely blew me away the first time I heard it and has been a benchmark ever since. As far as I’m concerned, it has everything an album should have: incredible dynamics, feeling and depth…and, of course, there’s his voice.
My god; what a voice.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
My advice would be to always get what you want from it. It’s a weird time we’re living through - with consumerism ruling everything - but the craft of songwriting takes time and perseverance - so enjoy the ride and trust yourself.
Everyone will have their opinion about what you should do but, ultimately, it’s what you want from it that matters.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Ian: Elusive by Scott Matthews
Simone: Beautiful Freak by Eels
Tina Longford: Play Dead by Björk
Jack Robson: The Bronx by Booker T. Jones (ft. Lou Reed)