photo by Trask Bedortha
Green Grow The Ferns
New power-pop trio hits the stage
By Rick Levin
Usually, when it comes to the architectonics of rock ‘n’ roll, less really is more. Stripped down, sharply honed and prudently pared of all sonic chaff, the three-piece band stands as the Platonic ideal of vital post-Beatles bang. From the Jimi Hendrix Experience to Hüsker Dü, from Minutemen to Cream, the power trio is the holy triumvirate of modern music, filling all essential channels with the urgent clarity of third degree burns and triple boom-boom.
Entering the three-piece power-pop fray, local boys The Ferns have barely just sprouted from the fertile soil of Eugene’s scene — hell, they’re still working out lyrics only days before their debut at Sam Bond’s — but there are several reasons you should trust the band’s relative greenery and pre-anoint them an outfit worth watching.
Anyone who’s been wondering where Yeltsin disappeared to since opening for Warpaint a while back — well, keep wondering, because nothing’s official regarding one of Eugene’s finest bands. In the meantime, however, Yeltsin’s singer/guitarist Jacob Pavlak has planted The Ferns, cross-pollinating this new band with bassist Jeremiah Harris (Lonesome Doves, Los Mex Pistols del Norte) and The Kyd (The Ol’ Howl & Smash, Mr. K’s Orchestra) on the kit. That there’s some firepower and pedigree.
“Working in a three-piece band is rad because it’s easier to find space,” Pavlak says. “There’s more room for the individual instruments to breathe. A lot of the stuff I love to listen to is pretty minimal. I think our sound is pretty minimalistic at times.”
The Ferns were breezy enough to let me sit in on a quick, three-song set this past Labor Day weekend, just to get a feel for their under-construction music. Even packed into a tight practice space across from Monroe Park, the sound was crisp and chunky, chugging and bright, with lovely ascending riffs, and woven through with Pavlak’s graceful guitar lines that recall the melodic savoir-faire of Doug Martsch and Neil Young. The instrumentation was both aggressive and poppy, salted down and cooled up with jazzy tempo changes, chromatic twang and catchy choruses. I even heard an occasional vocal — an “oh oh oh” here and there — that hinted at what’s to come.
“Hopefully we’ll record soon,” Pavlak says. “At this point we’ve just been trying to get ready to play our first show.”
Because The Ferns remain, for the time being, in the embryonic stages of developing their aural identity, I offer Pavlak a shot at defining what the band’s sound is all about. This is no easy task, he says. “Whenever anyone asks me how we would describe our music, I always envy metal bands,” Pavlak explains. “We play metal. It’s so simple.”
With that descriptive door rapidly closing, I decide to hit him with the old ‘dream bill’ routine — no holds barred, temporally or geographically, what would be the perfect Ferns’ gig? “It would have to include Black Sabbath from 1970, when they were at their peak and Ozzy was at his all-time cutest,” Pavlak says. “And The Smiths from 1984, when they first got going. Johnny Marr’s playing from that period is the greatest pop-guitar playing of all time.”
So there you have it, some clues for the blues, a little GSR on the calling card: Ladies and gentlemen, The Ferns. Book it.
The Ferns play with Nick Jaina and Mystery Siblings 9 pm Thursday, Sept. 8, at Sam Bond’s; $5.