Sound & Vision: The Black Ferns on Their Dark New Album, Devices

Local Music, Sound and Vision
Owen Murphy
photo by Owen Murphy

The Black Ferns are a shoegaze/goth/rock Seattle duo whose new album Devices just came out via Vancouver's Northern Lights Records. Singer/guitarist Zoran Macesic and bass player/multi-instrumentalist Chris Jordan were kind enough to stop by the KEXP studios to talk to Morning Show producer and Sound and Vision contributer Owen Murphy about this dark, powerful release. Check them out live at their album release party Saturday, November 2nd with Fotoform, Black Nite Crash, and Charlatan at The Central Saloon in Seattle, WA.

KEXP: How did the band form?

Chris Jordan: Well, Zoran and I have known each other for quite a while and I've always kind of run around in the same musical scenes with him. Zoran was putting together some songs. Kind of ran them by me. We talked about recording them with Riley (Geare), who has a studio (Green House Studio) down in Portland. We essentially just went down with no real rehearsal prior to this and we just jammed the songs out to some degree with tape rolling. So like, really the first record that we created in 2015 was like the first of anything and was all created in that studio. So, all of the songs took shape in a way that maybe were surprising... just naturally went in one direction. So that's how the band essentially was formed. Our record was done before we ever played live. So pretty much, it all happened in real time while tape was rolling. 

How did you get involved with the record label? 

Jordan: After we finished Devices to the point of mixing was done, we started shopping the record around to labels that we were interested in. Northern Light Records was the first of five labels we sent it to and we worked our way down. Labels just didn't get back to us and it took a little while, and we hadn't heard from Northern Lights... yet. They got back to me, though, a ways down the way and they were under the assumption that we had probably already signed with another label. We had not. So it worked out. The reason why we were reaching out to them was I had, at that point, recently gotten into a band called Rev Rev Rev and Northern Lights was what label this band was on and saw that they were on the same label as Actors, at the time. And that really was like the bridge to the discography of Northern Light Records. It got me into The City Gates, which if you haven't heard them, I bet you would like them a lot. Just really, really, really talented acts. I could tell was heavily curated. No U.S. bands on that label either. It's a Canadian label based in Vancouver. We were talking with them and we saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things and we're thrilled to be working with them. 

For those who don't know about you guys, describe what you're going for with this music. 

Jordan: Overall, kingly, dark, cold, rhythmic. If that's an aesthetic. Our live shows definitely represent the atmosphere that we try to project with our music. Dark and kind of pulsating. 

Zoran Macesic: There's a little romance to it, too, with lyrics and sort of a sense of loneliness, like people... people going through things in life like depression. (laughs). It's not meant to be all gloomy and doomy, but that's usually what I write about.  

Any themes reveal themselves to you once you came up with this collection of songs together? 

Jordan: Thematically, I would say there's characters that occur within the songs that seem like they're lost or have no identity. That seems to be a recurring theme throughout the record. 

Macesic: It's a lot of relationship stuff, it's a lot of broken hearts and... there's a lot of romantic things in there, but that stuff can be really dark sometimes, relationship stuff. So. 

Jordan: Or a theme of loss of control, whether it be something that's within oneself or something that's kind of brought by another person. 

Macesic: Yeah. And I think that's what Devices actually is more about. It's these things that you don't have complete control over all the time, like your emotions. You make decisions which take you to a place. You look back, you're like, how did I even get there? It's kind of weird. Happens to me all the time. 

Tell me about the first single, "This Illusion."  

Macesic: It's just about a person who's lost and trying to find herself, just trying to fit in the world like, you know, she's an artist and just kind of feels like an outcast. It is trying to find your way as we get older, wondering where you're gonna fit in the world. 

Jordan: Yes. Going against the grain sometimes can catch up to you as you get older. 

Macesic: You know, you have to find some place in the world for yourself, otherwise, you'd get really isolated to a point where you kind of don't relate to anything anymore. And that can be dangerous. A lot of people kind of lose their minds doing that, you know, seems romantic at the time and stuff. Then you get older and it's just doesn't work. It's also hard if you are an artist or a musician, and you're struggling for a long time. So, I think a lot of people get out of that world because they just can't deal with it anymore. I've had many friends who stop playing music because of that. It's just too hard. 

Tell me about the song "Empty Lips."

Macesic: It's just about desire for somebody that you're never going to have. You're never gonna get him or her... it's never gonna happen no matter how bad you want it to happen. It's absolutely a song about longing and loneliness, you know? 

KEXP's Sound & Vision airs every Saturday morning from 7-9 AM PT, featuring interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. You can also hear more stories in the new Sound & Vision Podcast. New episodes are out every Tuesday. Subscribe now.

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