Somewhere out in the vast universe of music categories there is a genre called “Freak Folk”. I personally never really cared for the term, it seemed like we were just shying away from calling it “Garage Folk” – after all it did follow on the heels of what The White Stripes and others were doing with “Garage Rock”. But even though I don’t care for the label, I like a lot of the artists thrown into the Freak Folk pool: Bowerbirds, CocoRosie, and Iron and Wine to name a few.
The Ferdy Mayne may or may not fit into that category – I suppose the three songs on the January 2014 EP Within The Silent End could fall into the Freak Folk description of primarily acoustic songs, with hints of the avant-garde – but these three tunes are sparse and moody and have more in common with Leonard Cohen than Devendra Banhart. Furthermore after listening to The Ferdy Mayne’s 2013 release – Brothers and Sisters, I’m not ready to attach the Freak Folk tag – there’s more of a Albert Hammond Jr. / Strokes thing happening there, particularly on the excellent She’s A Whole.
Whatever the case, The Ferdy Mayne is essentially a project of troubadour Shane O’Malley Firek, a singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, by way of Nashville, by way of Michigan. Firek folds each of these stops into The Ferdy Mayne’s sound – the Dylanesque folk of Detroit’s Rodriquez, the country-folk weirdness of Nashville’s Bobby Bare Jr. and the New York street punk poetry of Jim Carroll. The avant-garde comes in the form of Firek’s voice – which ranges from the energy of Kristian Matsson (Tallest Man on Earth) to the growl of present day Dylan, to the moodiness of Sea Change-era Beck. But to say that Firek sounds like any or all of these artists is a disservice – there’s a lot of originality and talent going on here.
The brand new single from The Ferdy Mayne – “Define My Name” – rolls and tumbles along with a Rhodes piano, tremolo effect guitar, and a hollow bass drum and eventually falls somewhere between Josh Ritter, Dylan and AA Bondy. This track was recorded live with the backing band of Diane Coffee (Shaun Fleming of Foxygen) in Bushwick, Brooklyn and features:
Jared Walker – Electric Guitar
Steve Okonski- Rhodes Piano
Emily Panic – Bass
Joey LeFitz – Drums
Shane O’Malley Firek – Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
Shane was kind enough to chat about the project and what’s coming up.
People say I sound like….
People generally say I sound like Townes Van Zandt, Dire Straits, with vocals I’ve heard Tom Waits, I’ve heard Kings Of Leon (which is hilarious/awesome) and Modest Mouse throughout the years.
I am originally from.
Originally I’m from Taylor, Michigan. It’s about ten minutes outside of Detroit. Those in the know call this beautiful place “Downriver”. We’re known for our class.
50third: How did you become The Ferdy Mayne and what is the story behind the name?
Great story. People always ask me this, and it’s actually the name of a German actor who was in a variety of fantasy/horror films. I’ve really only seen him in the second Conan movie with Schwarzenegger and Andre the Giant. When I was a Freshman in college I met my first drummer and main collaborator Aaron Diehl (of Lightning Love fame) and he had a digital 8 track and we ended up doing some tunes. I really went in not really knowing anything about songwriting, it was mainly stuff I just fiddled around with in my dorm room. When it came time to put it up on Myspace (heck yeah) I had to come up with a name or use my own. I found the words on Wikipedia, around the time when it first came into prominence. It stuck and works. This was 2006. Hoping not to get sued anytime soon, we’ll see.
50third: What music has had an influence on your sound?
Well originally I was writing Dylan songs when I had never really delved into his music at all. It was just naturally how I sang and wrote right off the bat. I think the main influence over the years has been Wilco and Ryan Adams as that was what really informed the original idea of Ferdy. New Skin For The Old Ceremony by Leonard Cohen really put me in my place recently in terms of lyrical content and odd arrangement. I like the idea of free styling and trying to spit lyrics off the top of my head, so I think the Kendrick and Drake I jam may help with that.
50third: Has a song ever brought you to tears? If so which one, if not which one was close?
Micheline by Sun Kil Moon is my most recent and seriously can’t even think of it without getting super emotional…. can we just stop talking about it?
50third: Tell us about the scenes in Brooklyn/Detroit/Nashville…
Let’s talk about scenes! I really feel like I haven’t gotten too deep in the “underground” here in Brooklyn. I’m in another project (still working on a name) that’s totally different, more punk, and I feel like Ferdy is always kind of on the cusp of something outside of the box, so I’ve never really been in “THE SCENE”. I’ve played plenty of shows solo in New York, there’s tons of venues, collectives, labels. It’s never ending and always interesting. Nashville was similar but it definitely had a small town feel for me. Also when in Nashville I had a problem with drinking (uh oh) that definitely hindered me experiencing enough there. I love the local acts, just never really got a foothold. Detroit is Detroit.
50third: How does a city (Detroit, Nashville, Brooklyn), or landscape influence your sound?
If we’re talking place like an author, I guess it definitely influences the lyrical content. As for sound, look at the city. Obviously I felt a bit more comfortable with my identity as a “singer-songwriter” or “folk rock” artist in Nashville. I felt the vibe. I’m not saying I don’t still have full faith in what I do or how I write, but in New York I want to be aggressive, I want dark undertones and maybe some chorus effect on my guitar, but I have to realize what Ferdy is, how the songs work together and the general creed and message of the project. The little things do seep in and there’s going to be a new tune on the record I like to consider my ode to Nick Cave.
50third: Tell us about your live show…
I try to be funny between songs, but I really like hammering through a set, you know?
50third: What influences you lyrically?
I like strange words, names of fruits, random poetry you find on the web.
50third: Your most memorable gig ever was….
When I was drinking a lot I had PLENTY of infamous incidents. I’d fight sound guys, other bands, my own band, it was getting super Anton Newcombe there for a second. Really the best show I ever played was at the Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan with the particular line up for the Brothers And Sister EP. Very professional setting for a group that was lucky enough to be booked by a friend. We totally didn’t fit there so it made it even better. Just a stark jewel in my mind.
50third: If you could pick any time to travel back to for music, where would you go and what year would it be….
Probably 1972 to a crappy dive somewhere in Oklahoma for a Tom Waits show. I wonder what he was driving…
50third: Growing up, at home I listened to….
My mom is into country music, like music row country stuff. Diamond Rio, Alabama, Keith Whitley, Garth Brooks. If my brother, sister and I were arguing in the car she’d threaten to put on a Merle Haggard greatest hits disc. That shut us up. She’d put it on anyway. My dad really listens to a ton of talk radio. I grew up with Rush Limbaugh on that end. Classic.
50third: What tunes are on heavy rotation for you…
Desert Raven – Jonathan Wilson
2013 – Sunflower Bean
Weeping Wall – David Bowie
Tonight – Iggy Pop
Field Commander Cohen – Leonard Cohen
50third: What are you reading….?
I’m well into two books right now: The Naked and The Dead by Norman Mailer and Against The Day by Thomas Pynchon. Both are friends I go back and forth with for now, depending on my mood. I like what Pynchon does and never gave him a chance, same with Mailer. I used to write a lot, thought that was going to be my life for a while and Pynchon is pretty much what I aspired to emulate in some way without knowing it. Mailer is a different breed with a different admiration.
50third: If you could open for any artist right now who would that be and why?
Realistically, I wouldn’t mind opening for someone like Father John Misty as I can visualize it all happening sooner than later, in a ballroom setting. Just makes sense to me. I wouldn’t mind opening for Kanye either because he’s still a big boss in my heart <3
50third: When you’re not playing and have some time off, where could we find you…
My life here is either work or music. If you don’t see me playing a show, at the rehearsal space or at my apartment working on tunes, you’ll see me running around like a maniac doing the real estate hustle. You need an apartment in Brooklyn?
50third: The one thing I want you to remember while you’re listening to my music….
I owe a lot to the people I play with and Ferdy is my baby and it’s all finally coming together kids.
50third: What’s up for 2015?
I’m really looking forward to going into the studio in March to cut a true debut album and shake some cages. Also getting myself on the road later this year. I see the small steps now instead of just playing shows and hoping something will magically happen. A lot of time and energy is being spent on tightening up my guitar playing, vocals, and writing. It’s also being spent sending emails, trying to meet at least one person a day and making some cool relationships happen.
Photos by Chris Adams Imagery