Formed by three of Sydney’s rising folk stars after a boozy night on the town, and expressing a playful, scuzzy, don’t-give-a-f**k cool, perhaps the most amazing thing about Phantastic Ferniture and their self-titled album is the fact that they haven’t been picked up by the mainstream music press. Most reviews of this excellent debut have been featured on small blogs. (Or, oddly enough, in the pages of the Financial Times).
This is a shame, as Phantastic Ferniture is a very solid album, whose easy sense of fun belies its members’ sheer talent. On that night in Sydney in 2014, ten friends promised to form a band. When the next morning rolled around, only four of them remembered. Three of those went on to form Phantastic Ferniture – Julia Jacklin on vocals and guitar, Elizabeth Hughes on guitars and Ryan K. Brennan on drums. Each is successful in their own right, but all wanted to do something outside the confines of folk music. In Jacklin’s words, they wanted to ‘make people dance’.
Unfortunately, busy schedules and Phantastic Ferniture’s nature as essentially a side-project meant this album took a while to come together. Happily, it never sounds belaboured – in fact, quite the opposite. It’s enormously tight. Only two of its nine tracks run over five minutes long, and the rest are all under four minutes.
This tightness of focus extends to the music as well. What initially reads as garage rock tossed off without a care in the world is, on closer inspection, incredibly well constructed. It takes a lot of effort to make something sound this lackadaisical. Lead single ‘F***in ‘n’ Rollin‘ is a perfect example of what this album does best, with a great bass-line underpinning solid vocal work from Jacklin and an easy, summery take on small-room rock ‘n’ roll. It also has a fun music video.
All in all, Phantastic Ferniture is a concise, solid album from some clearly very talented musicians. I hope they get the chance to work together more in the future, and ideally to tour quite widely. ‘The Ferns’, as some fans are beginning to call them, seem destined to develop an incredibly affectionate, unified fanbase – along the lines of those who always called The Replacements ‘The Mats‘.
On the strength of this record, I’d love to share a live gig with some of those fans.