ABOUTMassy Ferguson is a bar band in the best sense -- not a band relegated to bars because it will never rise higher, but a band that plays music perfectly suited to dark, crowded rooms in which there's at least a possibility of a beer glass smashing against a wall.
The songs, filled with barflies, broken hearts and doomed late-night romance, would sound pretty good anywhere, though. Singer-bassist Ethan Anderson says the sound is Americana that leans more toward rock than country, and that's a pretty good description. Think Drive-By Truckers or some combination of Son Volt and The Hold Steady. Think Springsteen's "Greetings From Asbury Park" or "Nebraska." Those are all influences, as is 1970s Southern rock and good-time classic rock bands like Thin Lizzy.
If that means Massy Ferguson is derivative, well, that's partly true. It doesn't really matter, though, because the songs, if not particularly groundbreaking, are just plain good. And the lyrics are full of enough detail and imagery that you start to forget any objections. Take, for instance, this bit from "Powder Blue," on the 2008 album "Cold Equations":
She worked the desk at the Klose Inn Motel
We snuck in, half-price at a quarter to twelve
Orange juice and vodka in a plastic cup
In a couple of days she'll break my heart.
Now, you've probably never been to the Klose Inn Motel, and your probably don't know this girl from the song, but you can picture it and her.
"You write about things you know," Anderson says. "I used to live across the street from the Klose Inn Motel. No one knows where that is, but in a way it kind of resonates."
Indeed it does. That's thanks to the writing partnership between Anderson and singer-guitarist Adam Monda, Massy Ferguson's founding members. They started the band in 2006 as a duo, playing a farmers market in Mukilteo. (They were paid with a fruit basket.)
"Adam's pretty good with the weird, abstract details, and I'm pretty solid on the storytelling," Anderson says.
Since adding Tony Mann on keyboards and Dave Goedde on drums, the band has graduated from fruit-basket gigs to some of Seattle's most prominent stages, places like The Tractor Tavern, the seat of Seattle's roots-rock Americana scene. They've headlined regionally in Boise, Portland, Spokane, Yakima, gigged in Chicago and Minneapolis. They've toured internationally (Germany, Holland, Costa Rica, Australia) on numerous occasions and last fall landed a slot in the prestigious Iceland Airwaves Festival in Reykjavik after winning the Seattle Weekly's 2010 REVERB festival Favorite Band poll.
Additionally, for the first time in any of the band members' history, they signed a record deal. The results of that deal -- the new album "Hard Water" and the accompanying support of Spark & Shine Records -- have the band primed for a 2011 summer tour all over the Northwest and to large stages at national festivals including Musikfest (Bethlehem, PA) and Bumbershoot (Seattle).
"We've been very fortunate in a lot of regards," Anderson says. "Considering we started off at the Mukilteo farmers market, I think we're doing pretty well."
And, he says, it's a lot of fun. The band likes playing bars (though not exclusively), likes going on the road. The new album cover, an empty glass laying on its side atop a bar, tells you pretty much all you need to know about what to expect at a Massy Ferguson show.
"Above all, our live show is a lot of fun," Anderson says. "We're in it to have a good time. I think our songs have a certain amount of earnestness and depth, but we did that without sacrificing the fun."
That's important for a bar band, even one with aspirations.
"I don't have a problem with anybody saying we're a good bar band," Anderson says. "Some bands take that as a negative. I think of it as a positive thing."
Contributing Writers: Patrick Muir (Yakima Herald), Massy Ferguson
ARTISTS THEY'VE PLAYED WITH:
Mike Gordon of Phish, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Billy Kruetzmann of Grateful Dead, The Bottle Rockets, Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, Dusty 45s, Scott Kanneberg of Pavement, North Twin, Power of County, Scott Murawski of Max Creek, Mark Pickerel (Screaming Trees), Suicide Jack, Memphis Radio Kings, The Maldives, The Vagrants (Aus.), Atom Box (Neth.), The Bojitos (Germany).
CREDITS (among others):
2009 Artists to Watch -- Skope Magazine
2008 Featured Artist (Sept.) -- 78s Soundsystem (Germany)
Music for Troops -- Compilation CD
Seattle Weekly REVERBfest - 2008 slot
Noise for the Needy Festival -- 2008 slot
Choochokum Festival -- 2008 headlining slot
Barwon Club Hotel (Geelong, Australia) -- 2009 slot
QUOTESAlso known as "the People's Band," this roots Americana quartet combines steady, blue-collar alt-country with Southern rock and an everyman ethos that has helped it land gigs all over the world.
-- Shawn Telford, Seattle PI
You know only good things can come from a band that named itself after a farm-equipment company. But they're not as hayseed as you'd expect. Their songs are steeped in the classic Americana of the Blasters, the Jayhawks, and the Backsliders. Rich with imagery of highways, truck-stop coffee, whiskey, road-weariness, and bad motels, Massy Ferguson make cinematic music about the blue-collar aspects of our nation. This is what Jay Farrar might sound like without his thesaurus.
-- Brian J. Barr, The Seattle Weekly
Alt-rocker angst mixed with wry humor ... and some Seattle dive bar name-dropping.
-- Mike Lewis, Seattle PI
They’re also pretty funny guys who, when there’s no other booze in the house, will do shots of Bud Light.
-- Kim Nowacki, Yakima Blogs
Massy Ferguson have put together an excellent mix of rock and country twang on their very impressive debut record
-- John Richards
90.3FM KEXP Morning Show Host and
Associate Program Director
PRESS LINKSSeattle PI - Under the Needle
Seattle PI - Seattle Noise
Seattle Weekly - REVERBfest 2008
Seattle Times - SXSW 2009
YakimaBlogs SXSW 2009
Massy Ferguson Live Interview!