Michael Ferrier found the right singing partner but perhaps the wrong time to cover Lou Reed in his elegant and eerie folk-pop group.
On paper, it looks as if Fathom Lane couldn’t have picked a better time to release its elegant new version of Lou Reed’s “A Perfect Day” as a single. And that’s exactly what scares the group’s frontman, Michael Ferrier.
Issued online last month just before Reed’s Oct. 27 death, the track showcases the warm boy/girl duet vocals, edgy strings and ambient guitar work at the heart of Fathom Lane. It has since been put into rotation on 89.3 the Current and is listed as a “feature”cut in a sticker emblazoned on Fathom Lane’s new self-titled CD/LP — all things in the works for months.
“Beyond the obvious sadness of his death, I was kind of horrified, actually,” Ferrier said of the coincidental timing. “I didn’t want it to look like I was trying to cash in on Lou in any way.”
With a self-effacing bluntness that Reed himself might have offered, Ferrier added, “I thought about it, though, and decided: Well, I’ve been trying to cash in on my love for Lou Reed for years. So have a lot of other people, and more power to us. We should all be singing these songs for years to come. They deserve to live on.”
Known from the experimental ’00s electronic-jazz act Electropolis, in which he played saxophone, Ferrier started Fathom Lane two years ago as a more straightforward singer/songwriter vehicle and something of a quieter, roomier counterpart to the freakier band. He formed it with bassist Brian Roessler and guitarist Ben Glaros, both longtime friends. A gifted singer/songwriter in his own right, Glaros was actually the one who turned Ferrier on to Reed’s Velvet Underground back when the two were classmates at Mounds View High School (Glaros had the cool job at the Record Shop in Roseville).
Around the 2012 release of its first album, Fathom Lane evolved with the addition of the Laurels String Quartet and especially the vocals of Ashleigh Still. Also a soloist around town, Still “really became the catalyst for what Fathom Lane turned into,” said Ferrier, who first heard his co-vocalist’s talent in a video she posted on Facebook.
“At least one good thing to come of Facebook,” he quipped. “We sang one song together to try it out, and it was a pretty instantaneous connection. Now, I always write with her in mind, and she has become a muse for the songwriting as well as being a gifted singer.”
One highlight of the new album, the slow, organ- and violin-laced song “The Nightshade,” grew out of a comment Still made to Ferrier about “never dating another musician”; it keenly carries a disaffected kiss-off tone. Other tracks on the eponymous record range from the ’70s-dazed, afternoon-delightful funk-pop of “Lazy” to the bittersweet, Iron & Wine-like neo-twang of “Sugardown” to the haunting psychedelica of “Dream Her Name” — and those are just the first three tracks. As for “A Perfect Day,” the band put its own spin on the classic cover by turning it into a coed duet and adding Shane Akers’ steel-guitar work.
“We wanted to show off more sonic territory on this record,” said Ferrier, noting Reed’s influence on the entire album. “Those Velvet Underground records were all over the place and had such a broad range. Just knowing they got away with so much is inspiring.”
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The uncanny (and seemingly unlikely) hybrid of Jelloslave cellist Jacqueline Ultan, guitar wiz Mike Michel and beat-box maestro Carnage, Saltee plays an all-too-rare gig for the late-night series Friday at the Dakota (11 p.m., $5). … While the Artists’ Quarter is still expected to shut its doors that week, the Dakota once again will be wide open for the Bad Plus’ usual four-night, eight-show post-Christmas stretch, Dec. 26-29. The final night will feature their interpretation of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” So much for a light and jazzy “White Christmas.”
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