A pastiche of post-rock, chamber-pop and contemporary classical composition, San Fermin is the work of Brooklyn composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone. His self-titled debut album is strongly influenced by his unique background in classical music, which includes a job assisting composer/arranger Nico Muhly.
San Fermin pulls some of its inspiration from Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel The Sun Also Rises. “I was interested in the idea of living your life ‘all the way up,’” explains Ludwig-Leone. “Like Hemingwayʼs characters, the male voice in San Fermin is so desperate to feel something that he’s hoping to find it anywhere, even if that’s in an unconvinced and rather jaded woman.”
After finishing his musical studies at Yale, Ludwig-Leone wrote the album in six weeks while holed up in a studio on the mountainous border between Alberta and British Columbia. He focused on lifeʼs top-shelf issues – youth, nostalgia, anxiety, unrequited love – and tied these vast themes to different characters through vocal contributions from longtime friend Allen Tate, as well as Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius.
San Fermin is not an album of singles but rather a sweeping, full-bodied listen with multiple distinct peaks and ambitious thematic connections. Ludwig-Leone composed all of the album’s arrangements and lyrics in full prior to collaborating and recording, noting that “writing for a large group of unknown musicians infused the writing process with a kind of operatic scope.”
The first track released from the album, “Sonsick,” tackles many of these larger themes head-on. “I was near the end of a relationship and, not coincidentally, the song contains a direct confrontation between opposing views on the subject,” he says. “I realized that the most intense moments are the ones in which conflicting emotional worlds exist inside you, equally, at once.”
San Fermin will be available on CD, vinyl and digital outlets via Downtown Records this fall.