Spider Ferns: Electronic trip-rock

BY SCOT CASEY

The Spider Ferns create sonic landscapes of ethereal vocals wrought with sublime lyricism floated over solid ultra-cool beats and elegant guitar voicings. Add to this a wide range of subtle electronic textures and beautifully-odd acoustic elements. Their most recent release, Soon Enough, is 11 tracks of pure atmospheric joy that unfolds worlds inside your head.

The Spider Ferns are Kelly and Alton Fleek, a couple who have been making music together for 25 years. Kelly handles vocals, bass, acoustic guitar and keyboards. Alton covers the electric guitar, bass, keyboards, beats and some vocals.

“About six years ago,” Kelly said, “we were up in the middle of the night discussing the mutual desire to create music together. I was resistant and Alton wouldn’t let it go. We had a heated argument about how we used to argue. Then, Alton grabbed a guitar and we wrote a song on the spot…we called it “We Resolve.” It’s a sad-happy-jazzy little tune that we’ve never released, but it cemented our resolve to create together and The Spider Ferns were born.”

Both were active in the Seattle music scene of the late 80s and 90s, when Alton played in punk and funk-heavy metal bands and Kelly in alternative pop-bands and doing back-up vocals in side projects.

“We ground all of our music in organic-LoFi instrumentation so we can strip everything down for acoustic shows and because we want our music to maintain a grounded and organic feel.”

It is this “organic feel” that sets them apart. As strong as their music is in creating these rich sonic worlds, the human element is always at the center – at times in the warmth of Kelly’s voice, but also in the intimacy of the instrumentation.

“We love so many varied styles of music,” Kelly said. “We are steeped in punk, electronica, grunge, european classical, jazz… you name it. We both have a tremendous love of the freak-folk goddess, Karen Dalton. She was a contemporary and friend of Bob Dylan.”

Kelly added, “I don’t think we really create with influences in mind. Our work evolves very spontaneously. It is quite common for Alton to hit a chord on his guitar that just sends me. It’s often a fevered pitch of inspiration from that point on.”

The songs on Soon Enough cover a wide range of styles, from the sitar-esque Eastern notes in “Distant Meadows” to the ethereal tripped-out bossa nova jazz qualities of “Disorder.”

“We generalize ourselves as Electronic Trip-Rock. We often hear words such as psychedelic, dream pop, down-tempo associated with our work. We would agree with those descriptions. Our work is atmospheric and lyrically driven.”

The longest and title track on the album, “Soon Enough,” runs a rich gamut from spaghetti-western laced guitars to Siouxsie And The Banshees post-punk and back again.

“The unique aspects of our music come from the blending of our wide ranging influences. We have very eclectic tastes in music,” Kelly said. “We also participate in driving our melodies together… both bass and guitar together as melodic instruments. The poetic and story telling nature of our music also sets us apart. Ultimately, we make the music we want to hear.”

Performing primarily out of Seattle, the Spider Ferns have been playing often in Bellingham. “We’ve been excited by the airplay we’ve had on KEXP and in the U.K. We’ve recently had airplay on Hollow Earth and that just made our day!”

The duo are busy planning a U.S. tour followed by Europe later in the year, and are working on an EP of remixes and videos due out this summer. In early May, they are hosting the semi-public Sonic Fest, a themed event with 4-6 bands and interactive art-installation.

LIVE SHOW: The Spider Ferns will perform at The Shakedown on Feb. 27 with Real Don Music and VOX MOD. See www.thespiderferns.com.