Fergus & Geronimo—the Denton, Texas duo of Andrew Savage and Jason Kelly—had a great 2009.
They started a side project, named themselves after characters in Irish boy-gang movie War of the Buttons
and made three garage-pop-meets-Detroit-soul singles (released on three different independent labels), all while Savage was still touring with his main band, Teenage Cool Kids
. (Kelly’s regular project, The Wax Museums
, was inactive for much of the year.) The duo’s jangly, soulful pop flew in the face of the biting reverb of some of their Woodsist labelmates (like the snarly fuzz of Wavves), but it looks like things will get a little darker on the new EP to be released by Woodsist this summer and a debut LP coming before the end of the year. Paste recently talked to Savage (the Fergus half) about the new EP and LP, their impending move across the country and the plans for his other band.
Paste: Tell me about how the two of you got started.
Andrew Savage: I know Jason because everybody in the Denton DIY scene knows each other. I don’t remember how I met him—probably at a show. Jason records and he recorded the Teenage Cool Kids album Foreign Lands. That took a long time, like five months, so a lot of the time it was just me and Jason mixing. We were listening to music at the time and talking about starting a band, and if we did, what would it sound like and what would we do, like would it ever transfer live or anything. And Wax Museums and Teenage Cool Kids did a Midwest tour, and when we got back we just started it up. That was winter 2008.
Paste: There hasn’t been a lot of Fergus & Geronimo news in the past few months. What have you guys been up to?
Savage: We just finished this record. We’re done with it. We’ve been recording it for exactly two months and we just finished it a little over a week ago. It’s a full-length. It’s mixed and everything—it’s not mastered. But yeah, it’s pretty much done.
Paste: Tell me about the album.
Savage: It’s 11 songs, and it’s pretty different than the singles stuff, but I think it’s our best stuff. I don’t know who’s putting it out right now, but hopefully it’ll be out soon. I’m really happy with it.
Paste: What do you mean when you say that it’s different from the singles?
Savage: I guess maybe it’s a little more moody, less poppy. The songs are recorded in much higher quality. It sounds great. With Fergus & Geronimo, there isn’t a whole lot of collaboration, so I guess there’s a lot of Jason songs that are really, really poppy and kind of garage-y, and my songs are maybe a little bit darker. But there are some soul ones and there’s a doo-wop song in there, too. One thing I should add, probably, is that the first three singles that came out really fast all at once—the Woodsist, the Tic Tac Totally and the Transparent one—me and Jason recorded those within the first week of being a band. So one of the reasons that the LP is going to sound different is because we’ve been a band for roughly a year now, and all of our recorded output that’s on a hard copy right now is from our first week of being in a band. Like “Harder Than It’s Ever Been” and “Powerful Lovin’” were literally our first practices recorded, you know? So we had no idea that people would even like this stuff, let alone want to put it out. The idea of a band changes from the first week that you’re together.
Paste: You said that there isn’t a whole lot of collaboration. So you write separately?
Savage: Yeah, we don’t really collaborate at all. Fergus & Geronimo is basically two people’s solo projects, you know what I mean? It’s not really a band as much as it is me and Jason working on our solo stuff and doing it together, you know?
Paste: Do you both play on every track?
Savage: Yeah, we’re both on every track. But some of my songs will just be his drum track and I’ll do everything else, and on some of his songs, he’ll do everything and I’ll add maybe a few vocals. We pretty much work kind of independent of each other, but we still help each other out. Like when he wants to do a song, I’ll record it, and when I want to do one of mine, he records it.
Paste: Are there any of the singles on the album?
Savage: Yeah, a couple. We redid “Powerful Lovin’”—it sounds great. It sounds huge. And I guess “Baby Don’t You Cry” wasn’t on a single, but it was in that magazine Yeti on their CD, and we redid that for it, too.
Paste: You were saying that this album is much higher quality. Lo-fi was a relatively popular sound choice for a lot of bands in the past couple years—do you prefer the higher quality recordings to the lo-fi stuff?
Savage: I think it’s case by case. There are some bands that I listen to that wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t lo-fi. I think a band like Eat Skull wouldn’t be the same band if they didn’t record lo-fi. Lo-fi, a lot of times, most of the time, is done out of necessity and not out of an artistic choice. Sometimes it is. With us, we had the equipment to record a really great sounding record, so we wanted to. I think that too many bands do try to put this false aesthetic of low fidelity on their records, and it sounds like kind of a front. But I think it’s something that people are going to start getting away from real soon ‘cause it’s kind of getting old hat already.
Paste: “Harder Than It’s Ever Been” was marginally lo-fi.
Savage: It wasn’t in your face. It was still decipherable, yeah.
Paste: So it’s definitely higher quality than something like that?
Savage: Oh yeah, totally. It’s pretty much night and day. The few people who have heard it have said, “Wow, these songs are really different, not only in the songwriting, but also in the recording. This sounds huge.” Which is what we wanted. We worked our asses off for two months so this would sound huge.
Paste: Do you have any intentions to release any more singles or an EP?
Savage: Yeah, we’re going to release an EP as well, and that should be out before the full-length, actually. So that should be out by late-spring, early-summer, our EP.
Paste: Do you know what label is putting that out?
Savage: Woodsist is going to put it out. It’s going to be just kind of like a little mini-LP or EP. It’s a four or five song 12-inch. Just something kind of short and quick to get people acquainted with listening to the band past the first slew of singles. And I think we’re going to tour around that time, so it should be ready by then.
Paste: I know you’ll be at SXSW. Where else are you thinking about touring?
Savage: We’re doing South By, and I think we’re going to do a Midwest/East Coast thing, and also the UK, and that will be in probably May and June.
Paste: You mentioned earlier that you don’t have a label that’s planning to put the full-length out. Have you guys been talking to any labels?
Savage: We’re shopping it around right now. We’ve gotten some feedback—we’ve gotten some “possibles” and some flat out “nos.” And we’ve gotten some “yeses,” too, but we’re still kind of seeing who all’s interested. And next month, we’ll probably figure out who’s doing.
Paste: So you’ve got a full-length, an EP, a tour and some festivals to play. Any other plans for 2010?
Savage: Jason and I are moving to New York halfway through the year in September.
Paste: Wow, really? What instigated that decision?
Savage: I was born here in Denton and Jason was, too. We’ve just lived here for so long. I’ve only ever lived in Denton and Dallas. And it’s a college town, so it’s a constant revolving door of people in and out, always. You get older and your friends start to leave. I guess maybe one of the reasons is that we didn’t want to be the last people hanging around. We just want to go off someplace new. It’s going to be me and him and a few other friends of ours heading up there. And we have a lot of friends up there, too, and we always enjoy the city whenever we go up there. That’s kind of a major plan.
Paste: That’s very cool. I hope that goes well for you guys.
Savage: I hope so, too. It gets me really excited, the new changes in the future. I’m out of school, I’ve been graduated for a couple of years now. I just think it’s time.
Paste: Are you still going to keep Teenage Cool Kids going when you move out to New York?
Savage: Yeah, Teenage Cool Kids is recording right now. We have another album coming out, and it’s also pretty different stuff, too, so I’m really excited about that band. And yeah, when I move out to New York, I still want to do the Teenage Cool Kids stuff. I know a couple of those guys are moving to either Philly or New York and another guy is going to stay here in Texas. So the band will be less active as far as playing live goes, but it’s something that I want to do. We’ll make it work. And yeah, we’re recording some stuff right now and we’re all really excited about it. It’s funny because Fergus & Geronimo just got finished recording two weeks ago and I got a four-day break, then I started working on Teenage Cool Kids stuff.
Paste: It sounds like you’ve got a really big year of output coming up.
Savage: Yeah, it will be. I don’t know what I’m in for yet. (Laughs)