Smile Politely

New favorites: San Fermin

This is one of those articles that tries to convince you now of something you’ll know with certainty in a year from now. This inevitable knowledge is that San Fermin is a great band. You have the opportunity to see that band play at Pygmalion Music Festival this week. I recommend that you take it.

San Fermin’s self-titled album was written by the young Brooklyn composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone, but he doesn’t sing on it. Instead, Ludwig-Leone composed the concept record as a kind of mini-opera for three voices. The record follows a musical narrative about a couple emerging for the first time into the complexities of the adult world and trying to figure it and each other out without falling apart. It unfolds over the course of 55 minutes and 17 tracks.

Maybe when we see each other in a year, we’ll talk about first impressions—about how the two female vocalists (Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius) gave the record a Dirty Projectors vibe, but that we didn’t have to strain to understand it or feel dumb that we don’t. Or we’ll talk about how its lush orchestration and bright harmonies made it nearly endlessly listenable. We’ll rejoice together in Allen Tate’s beautiful baritone, which is basically what Matt Berninger of the National would sound like with a year or two of vocal coaching. We’ll debate a little bit about the term “chamber pop,” which sounds a little too much like “chamber pot” to me, that gets tossed around to describe this kind of intricate melodic music that is too poppy to be considered “art music” but too artful not to be celebrated for its intelligent elegance. 

Dropping the gimmick now to say that the only thing that I’m left wondering about San Fermin after listening to the record over and over since it came out on September 17th is how they are going to pull it off live. Will there be horns? Will there be strings? The band is odd in one important way: it is an ensemble. It was assembled to perform Ludwig-Leone’s compositions and not more traditionally in a garage or bedroom between friends. So actually, in a year from now there may not even be a “band” anymore. But I hope there is. You’re going to hope so too.  


San Fermin is performing on Saturday at Pygmalion alongside Major Lazer, Youth Lagoon, Dessa, Caveman and many more. Grab your tickets here, and catch their set at 3:30 p.m.

Related Articles