The Sophistifunk World of The Ferenjis
If you were to ask “the kids” what styles of music they are feeling these days, you’re likely to get a number of responses. EDM, Hip Hop, Trap. What you might not expect to hear is “jazz fusion.” Still, the young bucks in local quartet, the Ferenjis have taken to the streets with their own brand of soulful, modern jazz-rock. While self described as “Garage funk,” the Ferenjis’s synthesizer licks and streamlined grooves bring to mind futuristic urban skylines more than gritty, beer soaked basements.
The band consists of Andrew Norman on Synths; Trevor Fischer on guitar; with Jason Pluemke and Peter Ellis splitting up drum, bass and additional guitar duties. “Andrew, Peter, and Jason originally got together as Cooper Wellington in 2011,” says the band. “Our original goal was to pursue a jazz/funk project with the use of electronic components, but got heavily sidetracked with the rise of dubstep and electro house. Andrew and Jason were writing more material aligned with that original jazz/funk influence, and actually had a record loosely put together, but got to a point where it didn’t click as well trying to perform live with backing tracks.”
As is quickly evident when seeing the band perform, The Ferenjis are no technical slouches. The band’s chops are well honed from their academic endeavors in local colleges Corban and Western Oregon University, as well as their deep interest in the artists that paved the way for them. “We absolutely love the old stuff: Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, George Clinton, Maceo Parker, Miles Davis, all that good stuff. There are a bunch of contemporary groups reviving these sounds though: Snarky Puppy, Vulfpeck, The Fearless Flyers, Hiatus Kaiyote, and Forq, to name a few. All of us grew up listening to and appreciating such a wide variety of music, from Classical to EDM to Punk.”
As a lifelong Star Trek fanatic, I had to ask the band if their name was inspired by the smarmy, capitalist aliens featured for years on the TV show, The Ferengi. Turns out that the meaning behind the name goes much further back than that. “Ferenji is an Amharic word that means white person/foreigner. Ethiopians refer to people who are non-native as a Ferenji. We liked the sound of and concept behind the name, and liked that there was an additional sci-fi association.
The band plans to start touring out of the region soon, as well as beginning work on their first full length album. If you’d like to take ride on the mothership, you can delve into the world of the Ferenjis at theferenjis.com, or see them perform Friday, October 12th at The Space Concert Club along with Chromatic Colors, Marshall House Project and Sove. 8pm.