TT with HD: Arrah and the Ferns (Arrah Fisher, Carl Stovner, Dave Segedy)
[Ed. note: Arrah and the Ferns
(say Air-uh) will be appearing at the WIUX Culture Shock Music Festival in Bloomington, Indiana
on 14 April at 12:45pm. If you zoom in close on the Culture Shock Venue,
you can see some ferns already growing. More tour dates, plus sound samples, on the Arrah and the Ferns MySpace page or
the Arrah and the Ferns website.
If you cannot travel to Bloomington, you might want to purchase their CD,
Evan is a Vegan. The question of whether the CD title is
an homage to Indiana's Senator Bayh is not covered in the conversation below. You'll have to ask Arrah yourself.]
CS: Cell phones off?
AF: Cell phone on vibrate!
CS: Vibrate is not 'off'.
AF: I don't turn my cell phone off ever. For anyone!
CS: For no one, even if I'm at a funeral!
AF: I don't answer my phone ...
HD: ... alright, let's do this thing!
CS: Arrah, you can get in the middle.
AF: The middle?
HD: You guys are going to need to come as far forward as possible, just so ...
CS: ... we should probably do it by height?
AF: I'm short! So I won't be able to see.
HD: So shortest in front.
DS: Actually [inaudible] ...
AF: ... [to DS] you don't want to be close to Carl?
DS: No, it's like the heaviest weight should be [inaudible] ...
AF: What? I'm short, though, I won't be able to see.
CS: [to DS] Because you have to see.
HD: I think it'll work.
AF: I can come up closer.
CS: Should I take my hat off?
HD: No, the hat's good. Actually when I cut the background out, hats are very good, because they eliminate hair. Okay why don't you lean this way ...
AF: ... this way?
HD: Yeah, as far as possible.
CS: And me this way?
HD: That'll work, I think. Dave, in the middle, oh this is going to be just fabulous. That'll work. [Ed. note: Photography ensues. HD's lovely bride is helping to provide the counterbalance to the weight of the Ferns.]
Okay, let's see if we can actually get some up-and-down motion going. Watch your knees!
AF: Sorry, Carl!
HD: Are you okay?
AF: I'm good.
AF: There we go!
HD: Wow, this is precarious! I can hear the board creaking. Alright, let's not try to do anything more ambitious than this. [laugh]
CS: Yeah, this is great.
HD: Hey, welcome to the teeter totter!
AF: Hey, thanks for having us!
CS: Thanks for having us on the teeter totter.
HD: How was the show last night in South Bend?
AF: It was awesome.
HD: Well received?
AF: Yeah, we played two sort of shows.
HD: So one right after the other with different crowds?
AF: Well, some of the same crowd trickled over. We played at a coffee house first and then we went to a bar for Open Mic night.
HD: So you played as an Open Mic act?
AF: Yeah! We played as four acts actually! We played as Arrah and the Ferns, we played as Dave's side project, Whoa Bro Awesome, then we played as Woodland, which is my side thing, and we played as Council Idaho, which is Carl's!
HD: And they had no problem basically just letting you dominate the Open Mic?
CS: The other band did the same thing. They played a set and then one of their members did a solo set that he played as well.
AF: So between us, there were six acts.
CS: And a bunch of local musicians just came up and played with us ...
AF: ... yeah, when I played my set, I had random people playing on stage with me. It was fun.
HD: They just came up out of the crowd??
AF: I told them, If anyone wants to come up and play anything, just come on up! So I had a lead guitar, and I had violin, and bass and drums ...
HD: ... so people just show up to this Open Mic with instruments?
AF: Well, at least last night, I don't know if it's a normal thing, or like ...
DS: ... it was mostly like a house band, ...
AF: ... yeah, there were house bands that were playing. It was a strange night, but it was fun.
DS: Yeah, it was a blast.
AF: A lot of drunk people there, you know? This one old guy played after us, his name was Mr. Don, Sir. That's what they call him.
HD: Mr. Daunsur?
AF: Mr. Don, Sir. Look him up, you need to interview him.
HD: Okay, how do you spell that?
AF: Well, his name's Don Fout, D-O-N F-O-U-T and ...
CS: ... it's like if someone said, Are you Mr. Don? and he'd say, Actually, it's Mr. Don, Sir.
HD: Oh. Got it.
AF: Yeah. And anyways, he's an old dirty man that sings some folk songs.
HD: Now when you say, 'old dirty man', that's different from a dirty old man, so ...
AF: No, he's a dirty old man, sorry!
CS: He's a dirty old man!
HD: I thought maybe you meant like he needed a bath.
CS: No, he's well-bathed, but his sense of humor wasn't.
AF: No, he's a dirty old man. He's well-bathed, but he has a dirty mind.
HD: So this is your first time in Ann Arbor?
AF: As a band, yeah.
HD: Oh, you've been here as ...
AF: ... as a person.
DS: My dad went to U of M. Yeah, he got his doctorate. Or something.
HD: Or something? In what field?
DS: Urban planning. My dad, he's at Ball State now.
HD: Wow, that's kind of cool. You know Brandon Zwagerman, you know who he is, right? He's an urban planner.
CS: Yeah, he's the one who set this show up at the Blind Pig.
HD: So did you all go to Ball State?
AF: I went to Ball State, I'm the only one. I went for three years. I haven't finished.
HD: That suggests to me that you're planning on finishing?
AF: Yeah, I have a year left, I might as well finish. But my degree is going to be in creative writing, so it's not like I'm ready to get out there and use my degree in the real world. I'm sort of using it now in the band.
HD: So Carl, this is your very first time in Ann Arbor?
CS: Yes, I've been to Lansing, and I've been to Houghton, and Jackson. This is my first time in Ann Arbor.
HD: So, Houghton /hoe-ton/, that's how you pronounce the name of the town where the Keweenawesomefest was?
CS: Yeah, that's really how this all started.
HD: Wait up, are you sure that's it's /hoe-ton/? I woulda said /how-ton/.
AF: It's /hoe-ton/. I thought it was /how-ton/, too.
CS: It's /hoe-ton/. And it's /pay-sties/--no, /p@-sties/ not /pay-sties/, I got in trouble for that.
HD: Okay, well the reason I wanted to ask, is just a quick true-false quiz.
HD: Ann Arbor has a river.
CS: I'm going to say, False, I haven't seen one, yet.
HD: Did you know that, or are you just guessing?
DS: Seems like a river town!
AF: Is it a river town?
HD: Yeah, we've got a river. It's not highlighted. A lot of people manage to visit the town and leave without realizing we've got one. But we've got one. It goes right through town. But the town's not constructed in a way that shows it off appropriately
CS: Neither is Muncie, really.
HD: Muncie's got a river?
CS: It has a river as well. It kind of divides the north side from the south side.
AF: The ghetto from the non-ghetto, well, not the 'ghetto', there's no real ghetto in Muncie!
HD: There's sides to the town, though?
AF: The south side of the river is not necessarily a high real estate area.
HD: Well, I wanted to talk about your music at least a little bit.
AF: Okay, we're talking about random things!
HD: So what exactly is a banjolin?
CS: It's an instrument--it's just a mandolin with a banjo body,
HD: So its tuning is?
CS: G, D, A, E. With eight strings, which is standard mandolin tuning. So if you could play a mandolin, you could play the banjolin.
HD: So you play it with a flat pick, as opposed to banjo picks that you put your fingertips?
CS: Right, I do a little finger picking sometimes, but not much in the band. It's just easier to play with a flat pick, yeah.
HD: So you say that it's a fair characterization that that kind of sound is crucial to what defines your sound as a band? That sort of plucky, I dunno, folky, ...
CS: ... I think it has it has to do with it, but wouldn't say it really defines us. It's definitely a different sound ...
AF: ... we have a different collection of things ...
CS: ... it fits better than mandolin would. We're just three people with different approaches to everything and when our powers combine, we're Arrah and the Ferns!
AF: Half of our songs, he doesn't even use the banjolin. We have two sides to our sets. I have a Wurlitzer keyboard and he plays electric guitar, so the first half of our sets are always more rockin, and we're more piano-driven. Then we switch to acoustic and I go to acoustic guitar and he gets the banjolin out. So we have two different sounds. Some people say that they like our electric better. That's why you can't really define the banjolin as ... but if we played only banjolin and acoustic guitar that'd be one thing, but ...
CS: ... I think between the Wurlitzer and the banjolin, we do have some unique instruments that not everybody carries around.
AF: We have recorders, too
CS: Yeah we have recorders. Dave plays recorders, and you don't see too many of those around any more!
AF: Double recorders!
HD: I read that. And to me from the description, it sounded to me like you're actually playing two recorders at the same time, you have two recorders in your mouth at the same time?
AF: While playing drums!
CS: Yeah, while playing drums!
DS: Well, it sounds crazy, but I just use my feet and I just hold the recorders with my hands. That's the drums with just my feet.
HD: But you're actually doing fingerings on each recorder separately and blowing air through them separately?
DS: I'm not--I don't know how to play recorder, but ...
HD: So you're going to do that tonight?
AF: Yeah, we'll do that one.
HD: I would say that'd probably be worth the price of admission, right there, to see you play two recorders simultaneously with the drums.
DS: Thank you!
CS: It gets a good cheer from the ladies.
HD: Oh yeah?
AF: Or the men, too.
HD: So lyric-wise--you're working on a degree in creative writing, so you take responsibility for most of the lyrics, or is that a collaborative effort?
AF: Yeah, most of them are mine.
HD: Has anyone ever observed to you that there seems to be religious themes
AF: ... yeah ...
HD: ... that run through a lot of it?
AF: Not every song, but there are a few songs. I try not to dominate a song with ...
CS: ... there's undertone ...
AF: ... undertone, yeah. There's a lot of death undertones in the songs, too. But yes, they're there.
HD: Is that a function of your upbringing, or your current faith, or?
AF: Not necessarily upbringing, but I would say current faith, probably. We're all Christians, so. But we don't like to say, we write 'Christian music' or whatever. But it is definitely part of my head, and my mind, and what I'm writing, so it's there. But I don't like to saturate it too much.
HD: Before I forget, one thing I definitely meant to ask you: Can I see your ring?
AF: Oh, of course!
HD: Wow. Pretty cool.
AF: It was my grandmother's ring.
HD: Now wait up, it's your grandmother's ring?
AF: It was hers, she gave it to me, before she died.
HD: Ahh. I thought it was your engagement ring.
AF: It is my engagement ring! But my grandmother, it's her wedding ring. She was going to give it to me and I knew that, so I told Joe, my finance, You know--like whenever we'd been talking about it and stuff--don't buy me an engagement ring, because I want to wear my grandmother's ring! I want to get it resized and fixed up. I want to get my own wedding band and stuff, but I really wanted to wear her ring. So we got engaged on October 3rd and my grandmother passed away on the 28th, so she got to see me wear the ring and everything. It was really special.
HD: Well, that's quite touching.
AF: Yeah, it's not only the love of my life on my finger, but my grandmother, too and her love, and the legacy and all that.
HD: Well, that's pretty cool.
AF: It's good for him [Joe], too, he only paid 40 bucks!
HD: [laugh] What did he have to pay 40 bucks for, to get it resized?
AF: He got it resized and then shined and polished up. Because it's kind of scratched, so it made it look new. And I'm friends with the jeweler, so it was probably a lot cheaper.
HD: So you got a deal.
AF: Yeah, my mom used to work for the jeweler, so I mean, we're getting deals left and right, this man is! That's why he's marrying me!
HD: Well, listen you've got a show coming up in less than an hour! So I want thank you for coming to ride the teeter totter just before your show.
AF: Oh, this is awesome. This is great way to start our time in Ann Arbor.
HD: Well, maybe it gave you a little sense of tempo, here with the up-and-down motion.
CS: It's a good tempo, I like it.
AF: You have any more questions?
HD: Just one: do you have anything else on your mind that you'd like to talk about?
CS: We love Michigan.
HD: Do you really? You're not just saying that to be polite?
CS: No, really. This'll be the third time we've played in Michigan. The first time was Keweenawesomefest in Houghton and it's pretty much the best show we've ever played. That's how we got this [Blind Pig] show is, we met Brandon ...
AF: ... we met Brandon in Brooklyn, before Keween, but I talked to him once ...
HD: ... you met him in Brooklyn??
AF: Yeah, he came to our show in Brooklyn.
CS: When he was out there he came there, and he said, I'll see you guys in Houghton! And then he was in Houghton, all the connections we made there and him, that helped us get this show.
HD: From what I've read, he's going to show up tonight in the middle of it, because his flight's not going to be landing until ...
CS: ... he's always flying places. He probably should get frequent flyer miles.
HD: So you're playing Bloomington [Indiana] in what--a week or so?
AF: Yeah, at the Culture Shock Festival.
HD: That's going to be an outdoor venue!
AF: I believe so, right, Dave [Segedy]?
HD: No, see, I'm tellin ya, I'm not askin [laugh], it's definitely outdoors! Right across from Assembly Hall. The basketball palace?
AF: Oh, yeah!
HD: It looks like a nice venue, a nice field. I looked at it with the satellite imagery on the web, so it looks like a nice place, if the weather is decent.
CS: Yeah, hopefully this all passes and we're not freezing. We played a show once in an un-insulated garage with no heating.
AF: On the coldest day of winter.
CS: Four degrees?
AF: Outside, yeah. And inside it was eighteen degrees and we played a show.
CS: That was pretty cold.
AF: That was a bad night.
HD: Sounds awful.
AF: Couldn't play piano very well or anything really.
CS: It gets a lot colder up here, but that's pretty cold for Indiana.
AF: So what part of Indiana did you grow up in?
HD: You ever heard of Columbus?
AF: Uh huh!
AF: Did you go to school up here, or?
HD: I'm sorry, Dave, you said?
DS: I said there's a good skate park in Columbus.
HD: There is??
DS: Yeah, I don't skate, but that's what I've heard.
HD: They must have built it after I left.
AF: Columbus, Indiana, that's an architectural gem, isn't it?
HD: Oh, indeed. We're awfully proud of our pretty buildings.
AF: Yeah, I know, I used to work in the architectural slide library at Ball State.
DS: Where my dad works!
AF: Where his dad works, yeah! His dad would come in sometimes, or I'd see him in the hallway and, Hi Mr. Segedy!
DS: We're really trying to advertise my dad!
AF: I had to quit that job when I dropped out of school.
HD: Now, are you officially 'dropped out'?
AF: No! But, I'm indefinitely not in school, because I was going to go back in the fall, but that might not happen.
DS: Arrah and I were both going to school, we're both taking a semester off. Carl already went to school.
HD: And where are you attending school?
DS: Well, I'm taking a semester off--I went to Ivy Tech.
HD: Yeah, okay, I'm familiar with that. Let's see, um, Ball State made me think of Dave Letterman and your efforts to have Dave Letterman book you guys. How's that working out so far?
AF: It's not. We haven't heard from him.
HD: Well, you haven't heard, No!, right?
HD: So that's encouraging.
CS: The guy--one of our friends just decided, I'm going to get you guys on the Letterman Show, and so we did a show ...
AF: ... we didn't have anything to do with it really. We just showed up and played.
CS: So, but that guy is in the Sudan right, now ...
AF: ... on a missions trip ...
CS: ... working with--what group is he working with?
AF: Samaritan's Purse.
CS: Samaritan's Purse, yeah. So he's in Sudan.
HD: So he has different priorities right now.
CS: Yeah. Which is fine. He said that his contact at the Letterman Show stopped calling him back.
AF: We don't even know if Letterman saw it. Probably just 'his people'.
DS: I wrote Conan a letter, but I haven't sent it.
AF: Yeah, Conan. My friend just got a job at NBC Studios working for Carson Daily this summer, so we might ...
HD: ... so maybe you can work that connection.
AF: She's like, Don't worry, I'll get you on the show!
HD: I would say, as long as you don't hear back, No, I would say there's still a chance.
AF: There's still a chance.
CS: We're working on it.
HD: It could be that once the teeter tottering interview hits the web, that'll be the thing that sends you over the top! Letterman will say, Well, now I've got to have them on--they rode the teeter totter! Well, listen, you guys got a show to prepare. I just want to thank you so much for coming by!
AF: Thank you for having us!
CS: Thanks for having us.
AF: Yeah, thanks for sharing your teeter totter.