By Tim Stacey
“I’ve been trying to think of a story because we gotta have a story,” says Luke Honsberger, one of The Ferns’ two front men.
“Yeah, we don’t have a story yet,” agrees the other, Kurt Dunn.
“We could say that we both worked at the garden center, and we were the ‘fern boys’, or something to do with selling ferns, that’s how we met,” said Honsberger.
“Ferns have always just sort of been around in our lives; it’s one of the oldest plants, man, they were around during the time of the dinosaurs.”
So began my interview with two members of The Ferns, both trying to imagine a fitting fiction for how they chose the name of their band. The truth is perhaps less organic than the name itself, but no less informative to the spirit of this new project.
“We just like the name; it sounded like one of those names that was already a band, but it wasn’t,” said Dunn. “It’s like how ‘Life is a Highway’ and ‘Taking Care of Business’ were songs that were just going to be written. You knew someone was going to have to write that.”
The Ferns grew out of St. Catharines staple band The Bends, after their final performance at Silver Spire United Church back in July. After eight years of playing in the group (four of which were in high school), the members felt like it was time to move on to something new.
“It’s just something different,” said Honsberger. “The Bends helped us find what we wanted to do, but we weren’t going to find success in a band we started in grade nine, and it just felt like it was time because you need something different.”
Unlike a band like The Bends, that grows and changes as rapidly as any one person does during high school and young adulthood, this new band provides Dunn and Honsberger the freedom to develop a more consistent sound. Along with The Bends alumni Dave Klassen playing percussion, they plan to use the band’s smaller and more flexible lineup to play more shows and lend a more intentional and consistent sound to their music.
“On albums with The Bends we’d record, and it’d be like ‘I’m listening to funk a lot right now, so I’ll write a funk song’, so then it was just kind of all over the place sonically,” said Dunn. “[In The Ferns] it’s finding the perfect balance between generic and original. It’s typical format (two guitars, bass and drums); we’re just writing pop songs, and that setup has been used, but we’re trying to find new ways to use that setup.”
“The songs are shorter, too,” said Honsberger. “There’s definitely been a move towards songs that are two minutes and under, like Frankie Cosmos, Mac DeMarco, Elvis Depressedly. You can’t do anything that’s going to change how people enjoy your song in three minutes.”
In line with their streamlined sound and roster, The Ferns’ first foray into recording has so far been refreshingly rewarding and simple.
“Now we just want to play ‘jingle jangle’,” said Honsberger. “We just recorded a bunch of songs and we wanted to sound “jangly”, so we kept tight treble delay on the rhythm guitar, and a little chorus on the lead to sound like early REM, so it’s just kind of poppy.”
Listening to the rough mixes of their recordings, (produced by Dylan Frankland, of Thrifty Kids at Candle Recording Studio in Toronto), you can hear the more methodical approach to their undeniably enjoyable sound. Delay on the rhythm guitar and understated percussion tie the songs together, and ear-worm choruses keep you interested long after the two-ish minute runtimes are over.
“It’s almost a little melancholy, but fun melancholy,” said Dunn. “There’s a lot of songs that are tongue in cheek, like there’s ‘Fuck Boi’, obviously: ‘I’m just a jerk, but you love me, but you love me’, it’s so fun to sing that with a shit-eating grin because everyone knows someone like that.”
You can see The Ferns’ first performance on August 26 at Detour Music Hall, and check them out online at theferns94.bandcamp.com.