Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection is “Long Time, No See” by Massy Ferguson from their second full-length Hard Water available from Spark & Shine Records.
It’s funny that today’s artist, Seattle’s own Massy Ferguson was already dubbed “The People’s Band” before they earned enough votes in Seattle Weekly & KEXP’s REVERB contest to win a slot at Iceland’s Airwaves Music Festival in Reykjavik this weekend. [ed. note: tune in to the Afternoon Show today for live performances from Airwaves!] Part roots, part Americana, part rock this band seems to have something for everyone and their live shown is known for being raucous and lively. It’s easy to see why, with songs like today’s podcast song “Long Time, No See,” with its blend of earnest lyrics and driving guitar licks that transport you down dusty roads and into backwoods bars.
Even though the band is eagerly preparing for their Icelandic adventures, singer Ethan Anderson took a few minutes to share some travel tips and thoughts on the new album that comes out next week.
First of all, congratulations on winning the REVERB contest this weekend. What are you most excited about on this up-coming trip?
Wow, where to start. For me, it’s obviously the show but winning this contest came with a lot of other perks that I’m excited about. For instance, we get a free trip to the Blue Lagoon hot springs, bottled glacier water and, as they put it, “extremely warm hats.” The hot springs look other-worldly, I can’t wait to check those out. I can’t believe I’m bringing swim shorts to Iceland. The whole thing is pretty damn cool. The moment I think about the most is getting off the plane and really being in Iceland. Right now, it just seems like a fantasy.
REVERB is a great festival that spotlights the thriving local music scene in Seattle and in some ways you will be representing Seattle to people at the festival. How do you feel Massy Ferguson fits into the wide spectrum of music here?
I was checking out the other bands playing and there are not a lot of people who are doing anything similar to what we’re doing. As crazy as it sounds, twang rock is going to be exotic over there. I think that is cool, though, it will contribute to the diversity of acts. We’re excited about bringing our sound over there and seeing how folks react. Adam seems to think playing a twangy open G will bring the house down. It seems like there are a number of electronica acts so we’ll be a 180 degree flip from that.
You guys tour quite a bit and have spent some time doing shows abroad. Do you have any tried and true travel habits or superstitions?
True, it’s crazy to think this will be our third trip overseas to play. We’ve developed have some basic tour rules or habits that are common sense regarding beef jerky: don’t open the beef jerky on the plane unless you are prepared to eat the whole bag, don’t sneak jerky into Australia (we know from experience, bad scene), buy the jumbo sized bag for longer trips. A few other band booze rules: If you pass the bottle of tequila into the crowd, don’t grab it back. No hard liquor for Tony until after the show. And under no, absolutely no conditions can you eat a salmon Caesar salad if you plan on drinking micro brews. We have learned these lessons the hard way.
Your second album Hard Water comes out next week. What can you share with us about it?
Hard Water is the best work any of us have ever done. It’s a little darker, little more risky, more rootsy and twangy. I feel like it’s earnest. To me it sounds classic — without trying to do the vintage retro thing. It’s contemporary music based on the roots. We spent a lot of time on this thing. Not just in the studio but also outside of the studio, tearing our hair out to make the lyrics right, trying to dial in the parts. I like the lyrics and the tones most of all. Our producer Brad Zeffren is a wiz with tones. I’m also happy that we got all four of us to sing on the album. Me, Tony, Dave and Adam all sing on the album’s last track “Aspartame” — it’s kinda like a messed up men’s choir. It sounds cool.
What’s your typical songwriting process, is there a primary songwriter or is it a pretty collaborative affair?
Primarily Adam and I are doing the songwriting, though Tony contributed and wrote a number of songs on this album. Dave does arranging and wrote a couple killer bridges on the album. So, yeah, I think it’s very much a team effort. We’re open to each other’s ideas. I’d like to say that as the band leader I’m a dictator with how songs should be but it’s not like that at all. I think we have confidence in each other’s ideas and feedback.
Are your songs autobiographical or where do you draw your inspirations?
A lot of the songs on Hard Water came from stories that emerged from playing places like Eastern Washington and Idaho. There’s something so unique, real and kinda sad about playing out there sometimes. “Wenatchee Eyes” came about when Adam and I played a duo show at a winery in George, WA and this gal was looking at him with this completely wine-drunk and oddly sexy stare. He turned to me and said, “she’s got Wenatchee eyes.” A song was born. We wrote “Pretty Plain Jane” while playing a forgettable show at John’s Alley in Moscow, Idaho. We forgot the show but remembered the song idea.
One of the tracks I like the best is “Freedom County” which is about some, let’s say “misguided” militia dudes from where I grew up, the Marysville/Arlington area. They tried to secede not from the country but from the county. It was a great story and I was happy to turn it into a bad-ass southern rock sounding epic tune.
What’s the story behind today’s song, “Long Time, No See?”
Growing up, my parents had an odd relationship and strange affinity for pawn shops. I guess the inspiration for this song comes from that but it also comes from when I actually used to work at a pawn shop in Mount Vernon with my buddy Levi. We saw some things that are hard to imagine. People pawning their whole CD collection for beer money. Old ladies bringing in hand guns. Us trying to tell burly mountain men that their rusty chain saws weren’t worth anything. It seemed like a ton of musicians and want-to-be musicians like to either work or frequent pawn shops. Dudes would come in, grab a guitar, call it an “axe” and play a similar blues lick before trying to talk us down in price. It was great fodder for this song. It captures that moment when you come back in a pawn shop and find someone is playing around with your old stuff. Long time, no see.
Unless you have tickets to Reykjavik, your next chance to catch Massy Ferguson will be during the upcoming City Arts Festival where they will be opening for psych-rock legend Roky Erikson and Seattle faves The Maldives at Neumos on Oct 21st. More dates and information on their website or their MySpace page. For now, here’s a video of their exploits in Austrailia last year: