Bands to Watch #393: The Fernweh

By on Tuesday, 9th January 2018 at 12:00 pm

For my birthday last November, there was only one place I wanted to spend it in. Liverpool, these days, is famous for many things, including my beloved Liverpool FC and Anfield and having birthed the Titanic. While Manchester tries to shrug off its decades-old connections to Joy Division, the Stone Roses and Baggy, Liverpool revels in its place in popular music for being the birthplace of the Beatles. TGTF used to make regular pilgrimages to Liverpool Sound City when it was still a city festival: that’s where I felt the true heart of the city’s music scene. To be clear, I’m not faulting the organisers for wanting to host larger events to make more profit to pump back into the city. It’s just unfortunate that what used to be a useful proving ground for less-known acts is no longer with us.

Five to seven years ago, I heard first-hand the frustration some young Liverpudlian musicians felt in having to compete with the Fab Four’s long shadow. Today, as we sit looking towards the rest of 2018 to come, I think the music landscape in Britain has changed to reflect the modern turmoil of wars, refugees and uncertainty. A phenomenon we witnessed here in America following 9/11 was a return – or for some people, a mad dash – to eat the comfort food we loved as children, an attempt to recapture our innocence. If the same concept can be applied to music, it isn’t a surprise bands like Sheffield’s High Hazels and The Crookes (now defunct), Sunderland’s Frankie and the Heartstrings and London’s Hidden Charms have tapped into a sound from days gone by that delighted previous generations. And certainly, if you deride the American or UK record charts and their entries written by soulless hit-making teams, looking back when musicians actually wrote their own music seems like a no-brainer.

Liverpool’s latest entry into this growing market is The Fernweh (they don’t even have a Facebook yet), sat somewhere between the folky harmonies of The Mamas and the Papas and The Hollies the bridge between the Byrds’ Sixties psychedelia with that of current day Temples. Unsurprisingly, Fairport Convention’s fourth album ‘Liege and Leaf’ served to bond together The Fernweh’s members and sharpen their resolve to tap into “into an older English soundscape to create something fresh and exciting.” As of last summer, the band had been pretty mysterious, having only played a show in the Wirral, spending the rest of the time in hiding, presumably working on a debut album.

What The Fernweh have so far released to the world sounds magical. The just enough jangly guitars of ‘Next Time Around’ work well against the sweeping vocals. ‘Is This Man Bothering You?’ takes a more aggressive stance with fuzzy guitar and psych reverb. Their debut single, ‘The Liar’, is scheduled for release on the 26th of January, and appropriately on James Skelly’s Skeleton Key Records, a Liverpool indie label invested in doing things the old-fashioned way. It’s important to note that Skeleton Key also released Stockport band Blossoms’ early singles, so it’s not too big of a stretch of the imagination to picture The Fernweh capturing the country’s imagination with their sound.

Make no mistake, The Fernweh’s guitarist Jamie Backhouse is clear in a past interview with Bido Lito about their intent to distance themselves from the comparatively hedonist and lackadaisical English folk movement of the Sixties:

Folk music is often perceived singing about corn dollies and dancing round the maypole. But it’s important that it is relevant. The difference between the big folk revival of the ‘60s compared to now is that was a hopeful, post-war time and it there was a certain Arcadian paradise about it all. We’re posing different questions with the album, so it’s naturally gonna have a slightly darker tinge to it. It’s very much an album about this country. The darkness and violence has always seemed to be very close to the surface. There is a lot of tension and friction. The likes of Shane Meadows and Ken Loach seem to have really captured that and I don’t think all is well in this country. I think it’s an important time for culture to flourish and document the feeling of the time.

Watch this space for more from this exciting band from Merseyside. I, for one, will sure be keeping my eyes and ears out for more from them.

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One Response

10:31 pm
16th February 2021

I was there for the folk revival and it was a mixed bag of music enjoyed by, all but tainted by intellectual purists. The folk revival was different things for different people. I was classed as a ‘good time singer’ by people who had a mission to be political and frankly bloody miserable. I’m still singing. They are not.

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