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Lollapalooza Interview: Ellis Ludwig-Leone of San Fermin

This weekend at Lollapalooza, I was able to sit down and chat with Ellis Ludwig- Leone from San Fermin. The Brooklyn- based band released their self-titled LP in 2013. Read the full interview below!

B: Your work with Milwaukee-native Rae Cassidy has given you quite the following here. Do you have any fond Milwaukee memories to share?

E: Last time we were in town we played a session at the station. Afterwards we went to Turner Ballroom and played a show there. I remember that being one of those shows near the end of the tour when we were all just kind of dead. I was just back stage thinking about anything. Then, when we came out to play it was full. It was one of those moments when you are pleasantly surprised by the audience. It was a great show. I remember that being one of my favorites. 

B: Where were you in life when you decided to form a band?

E: You know, I didn’t think I was going to form an actual band until after the record was done. Right after I graduated, I wrote the record. It took a couple months to record it. Then, we put on one show. That was going to be the one show we would play as a band. Then, the next day I was brought into the Downtown Records office and they offered us a record deal, but sort of made it clear that we would need to start touring. I think it was right around then that I realized I was going to start a band.

B: How much support did you have while you were initially making the first record? Obviously, a lot of support came after the record was already created.

E: Well you know, my parents didn’t love me until I write the first record (laughing). But no, in terms of support I knew I was going to be working with Alan, the male singer. I would send him stuff when I was writing. He would send me somewhat supportive notes, or not, depending on if he liked what I was sending. The whole beginning part was pretty much individual effort, which  thinking about it now, is kind of amazing because the band is such a collaborative business at this point. There are so many people working on it in one way or another. But, in the beginning it was just me bugging people to come record. 

B: How much confidence did you have going into the creation of the first album?

E: I think I had the kind of confidence that comes with not knowing actually what you are getting into. I thought that I had a good idea and that I had some good songs. I had something to say, but I didn’t really know beyond that. I didn’t know what being a touring band on a national circuit would entail. I was sort of lucky that I had that blind confidence until we had enough under our belt where I could be actually confident.

B: Do you think it is harder to write music now that you have gone through the whole touring cycle?

E: In some ways it is easier because writing that first album is always the hardest thing. You are trying to figure out who you are and what your voice is. Which, obviously, you continue to try and figure out for the rest of your life.  I think now when I write, I generally have a clear idea of what this music is going to be. On the other hand, once you finish it you have the this period of anxiety, which I actually have right now about the second record. I actually know that people will hear this now and i’m thinking, is this really something I want to say?

B: Still, that has got to be an exciting feeling.

E: Yeah, it is exciting. But, it’s an interesting dimension when there are actual people who will listen and possibly be disappointed. 

B: Is there someone that hasn’t heard the new record yet whose opinion you are particularly nervous about? Or are you nervous of the aggregate reception?

E:  I have sent the rough mix of the record to most of the people whose opinions I seek out. But, honestly the thing that I am most worried about is the reception of our our fans. The people who actually liked the first record, are they going to like the second record? Is it going to be a weird disjunction between the two, or will they be pleased by it? I really don’t know, and I won’t know until it comes out. 

B: How has you appreciation of music changed since you have begun creating it yourself?

E: Well, because we have been touring with a lot of different kinds of bands, and seeing different kinds of shows that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen, I have gained an appreciation for music that is trying to do something very different from what I am trying to do. Whereas, before I had the band, I didn’t have as much patience for music that wasn’t in line, or at least partially inline, with what I was interested in. Now, at a music festival like Lollapalooz, a lot of bands are trying to do a lot of different things. I realize that and they are all equally valid as long as it is executed well. 

B: Having a background in composition, do you think you enjoy the recording process more than live performances at festivals such as like Lollapalooza?

E: Yeah, probably. I think a lot of bands are probably that way. I think the making of the music is why you do it. The preforming of the music is just so people will continue to listen when you make new music. I do like preforming a lot. There is a real thrill that comes from it. Maybe it’s a little bit less intellectual, and a bit more visceral to play for a bunch of people. When you are actually writing it, it’s a real challenge. 

B: What is a song that is closely associated with a childhood memory?

E: I’d say Abbey Road, that whole record I pretty much associate with being young. I think I moved when I was five and I remember listening to that song in the first house I ever lived in. I must have been four. “Her Majesty” I remember at the end. I remember really liking it ; that had been the first time that I’d ever heard humor in music, which I really liked. The whole second half of that record, like “Golden Slumbers”, I remember being really affected by it when I was young. 

B: Is there anything you miss about being a little kid?

E: (Laughs) Yeah, oh my god! I think that almost any touring musician would admit that going on tours is just a desperate way to essentially stop getting older. The whole thing feels like a giant field trip, but one that lasts half a year. It’s exhausting but it’s also very rewarding. There’s some part of you that’s kind of secretly satisfied that you’re not having to do things that actual grown-ups do.

B: You clearly travel a lot. I’m curious, what’s one lesson do you think you can only learn by traveling outside of your own country or your county of origin?

E: Don’t use public restrooms in France. You can only learn that when you actually go to France.

B: Is there any place that you’ve travelled to that you feel particularly at home?

E: I would say Washington DC and San Francisco are both quite welcoming and homey to me. In Providence I actually feel like I’m home because I grew up near there. Then across the ocean I would say parts of London and parts of Paris – I felt like I could live there for long periods of time. And I would also say that Ferrara, Italy was particularly awesome. I could totally hang out there for a while. 

B: What is one word that you would use to describe a world that was devoid of all music?

E: Besides “quiet”? (laughs). Certainly boring, but also maybe kind of peaceful?


Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee