NadaMucho.com Interview – Biography of Ferns
Q & A with Justin Hamacher
Biography of Ferns are a three-piece band who play catchy, tightly-constructed indie pop/punk in the vein of lots of other bands you know and love but not exactly like any of them.
When the band played our monthly EMP Liquid Lounge showcase in March we noticed that their singer/guitarist, Justin Hamacher, seemed almost as bat-shit crazy as we are. So we decided to chat with him a bit about his band, their music and the local scene.
NadaMucho.com: Hey man, how’s it going?
JH: Slow. My friend is here and he bought me a couple beers, so I am a bit slow and quite possibly drunk. Earlier we killed seven raccoons with a magic wand while screwing around in the Wallingford P-Patch, though, so it’s been a pretty good night.
NM: Fun! Give us the reader’s digest history of Biography of Ferns.
JH: Biography of Ferns is DNA from a lost splinter race of Sleestacks and Crunchberries. Larry (bassist) and I fucked around in the basement for two years and at some point he suggested we get a drummer and form a band. If he hadn’t, I probably would still be hunkered in a bunker somewhere. I’ve always liked to compose, but really had no performing ambitions at all. At some point after many drunk and stupid drummers, the mathematical wizard Brett moved in on drums. Then we played shows. The crowd went wild. They bit each other in the knees. Authorities were called. People were unjustly bludgeoned. So we held a rally and it was very moving.
NM: “Hunkered in a Bunker” rhymes. Do you use a rhyming dictionary when you write your songs? Did you use one to rhyme “dead nation” with “detonation” on the title song from your 2004 EP Memory’s Servant?
JA: I used a water divining stick to write all of those lyrics. I also planted an armload of fortune cookies in the yard years ago. Soon I will search out the remaining fragments, which will become the fodder for our forthcoming lyrical drivel.
NM: Speaking of Memory’s Servant, it was recorded by Seattle rock stalwart Jack Endino. How’d you get hooked up with him?
JA: We met Jack at the gun range – he had the same caliber handgun as me, so we bonded. Either that or we sent him some stuff in the mail and he decided we werenâ€™t complete morons so we went to work on wasting his valuable time.
NM: The EP has received some very positive, yet intermittent press. Talk a bit about the Seattle music press and local scene.
JA: The EP was done for a fancy, grossly undesirable mammoth record label as a demonstration of our foolery, and upon their welcome scoffing and rejection, we opted to release it ourselves. People did, indeed, seem to like it and we wound up getting attention from some odd, toothless fellows and “hip” places. It’s weird, I see some pretty bad bands get some good press and some pretty good ones get not much at all. This sir, is due to what I term “the payroll.” Its music biz 101: clubs have ties to restaurants, newspapers, clothing stores, record stores and labels. They all have their hands in each other’s pockets. It’s capitalism under the indie/punk flag. A few people are getting very fat off indie Jimmy and indie Suzy’s music habits. It’s kind of funny when you see a new band come out and within two weeks they have all sorts of great gigs. A tersely amount of research into the lineup will generally show some direct connection to the club that is pushing them, a label, paper or some successful band circa 1994. It gets kind of boring and it dilutes the quality and honest of the music being produced locally.
NM: OK, put your money where your mouth is – cite a couple examples of these local, indie pre-fab bands who are only getting shows because they are tied to the clubs, which if I understand you correctly, you are saying are the epicenters for the commercialism surrounding local indie rock?
JA: Oh Matt-San (Justin assumes hovering posture of spooky, pastel Oriental type deity), I leave it up to you and your righteous readers to decipher for themselves (resumes earthly personage).
NM: Are you telling me that if some fat corporate schmuck came to town and loved the album that you’d shun his generous monetary advances in favor of continuing the DIY ethic?
JA: Yes. Music corporations’ money advances generally have worse terms than credit cards. And they don’t actually care about music, the art, the people or the community. They are basically big, smelly banks. Just ask any of the “famous” guys working at local coffee shops after their band got dropped from a major label. No thanks.
JA: On second thought, we’re eagerly waiting for David Geffen to kick back on our front porch with us. We’ll drink Pabst, tell jokes and laugh ourselves to tears, then look at photos of one another’s children. Then we’ll go on a meaningful hike and camping trip together, followed by a relaxing sweat lodge ceremony and emerge having an everlasting bond. This goes for any fat corporate schmuck who wants to work with us.
NM: You were recently featured on a Kill Rock Stars (KRS) compilation. How’d that come about?
JA: We sent Slim (Moon, KRS label head) a picture of our cat and some other stuff and he liked it and wrote back and asked us to be on his compilation. It was pretty cool to be on a record with artists like Thurston Moore, Billy Childish, Superchunk, the Decemberists, Devendra Banhart and yadda yadda yadda. If you had told me I would be doing this when I was 20 I would’ve punched you in the neck with a handful of chicken nuggets.
NM: Can you tell us more about your cat?
JA: He is a boy named Sue. Perhaps we will release a compendium DVD box set of Sue eating an entire box of potato chips alongside the album. It will make Bright Eyes look like Captain and Tenile.
NM: What’s next for Biography of Ferns?
JA: We have eight new songs tracked. Those, along with the EP and the track from the KRS comp, will comprise a full length called Pastel Gothic that will drop later this year. We’ll do national college radio promo from NYC and a tour to support it. Try to get to Europe, wreck the carpet in some kid’s basement in Madison, you know, the normal stuff.
NM: By the way, why “Biography of Ferns?”
JA: Because “Homosexual Rainforest and the Dachshunds” was already taken.
Read the biography of Fern Garber.