San Fermin may have just announced their first Philly show in several years, November 23rd at Union Transfer, but lead vocalist Allen Tate will be making a far more intimate appearance in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection this Saturday, June 22nd, at Boot & Saddle. Last month Tate (who hails from Philadelphia, but moved to NYC for college and decided to stay) released In The Waves, his second solo album, courtesy of Sleep Well Records. Last week I got a chance to chat with Tate, who tells me that his solo work is quite a different experience than working with San Fermin, which is led by Ellis Ludwig-Leone, but also that In The Waves had a profound impact on his take on recording.
“With San Fermin, Ellis and I had known each other for years and he had just graduated from college and was just like, ‘I’m gonna write an album and I want you to sing on it.’ And after one show we got a record deal [laughs]. But in San Fermin I do more lyrical editing more so than songwriting; that’s Ellis’ thing… This is my second solo record, but there was a big gap in-between… We were going at breakneck speed and getting more understanding of what studio work is like. We were working with [producer/engineer] John Agnello, who’s worked with Sonic Youth and Kurt Vile and Dinosaur Jr. and all these great bands, but it was also so funny to be in his studio and see the plaque for ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,’ which he also worked on [laughs]. But San Fermin’s so intricate and has a classical feel and everything’s basically been decided before you get to the studio and John’s the complete opposite. Working with him, I started to think, ‘Maybe I do enjoy the studio a lot. After recording In The Waves I’ve been producing for other people. I’ve been doing that for like a year now. This album was just the biggest process in learning to record.”
When I ask Tate what he has planned for the future, in addition to San Fermin’s next chapter, he tells me that he’s hoping to do some writing of his own and have new EP out by next year, but that he’s also currently producing a number of artists. And when we discuss In The Waves, which is far more aggressive and rocking than his debut, he admits that the album definitely had louder influences, and when he appears at Boot & Saddle this weekend we can expect something quite a bit different from his last area appearance, which had him playing for a dinner theater crowd at World Café Live.
“For Sleepwalker I was so isolated and so alone. I spent a month alone in Copenhagen in a country where I didn’t know anyone and I started thinking things like, ‘When did I stop being cool at parties?’ I was approaching 30 at the time – and I just turned 30 over the weekend – and I just feel like I’m at a different place in life. Before this one I was listening to a lot of rock bands or guitar sounds, like Smashing Pumpkins and The Strokes. I was listening to this Gary Clark Jr. live album and I was like, ‘That guitar sounds like an amp about to blow up and I need to do that [laughs].’ I mean, I’m not nearly as good as Gary Clark Jr., but still, it’s something to aim for. But I was also thinking about things like, ‘What am I talking to my friends about these days?’ and the fact that there are reasons why commiserating with other people feels good and finding through lines in discomfort and ‘Why can I not hang at a party, but you totally understand that, too.’… The show is a lot louder. The last record seemed more subdued, where this one is like, ‘What if I just go lose my mind? What if my amp explodes [laughs]?’ It feels like a rock show now.”