A chat with not-so-serious band Phantastic Ferniture

Words by Nicole La Ruffa

Rolling on.

Phantastic Ferniture, a not-so-serious Sydney band, exudes a refreshing ‘don’t overthink it’ attitude. It’s the garage-pop project of Julia Jacklin, Elizabeth Hughes and Ryan K Brennan, who first got together back in 2014 at a bar.

Their recently-released debut self-titled album is packed with clever plant puns and breezy, rock ‘n’ roll beats. If the group name alone isn’t already inviting, song titles like ‘Fuckin ‘N’ Rollin’ – the first single off the LP – might encourage a few listens.

As they gear up to tour Aus in a few weeks, Liz and Julia set aside some time to have a little chat with us.

First off, congrats on the debut album! Is it a nice escape to venture from your solo projects and work on something more spontaneous?

Julia: Absolutely, it’s been a real joy for us to be able to play to dancing crowds for once.

Liz: It’s just nice to be part of a project that isn’t under your own name. It feels like you have less responsibility, less pressure.

Other than feel-good jams and plant puns, what can listeners expect from the LP?

J: I think it’s a pretty varied album, some nonsensical lyrics and some heavy numbers which might appeal to those put off by our joyful singles.

L: Listeners want more than just plant puns? That’s news to me. They’ll get plant puns laced with jangly pop and streaks of psych rock. I reckon some people who don’t like us will after they hear the rest of the record, and hopefully not vice versa, because let’s be honest, if you’ve embraced the names ‘Phantastic Ferniture’ and ‘Fuckin ‘N’ Rollin’ enough to listen to the album, you’re probably up for anything.

In terms of playing instruments, you guys mentioned you wanted “a low level of expertise because a lot of good music comes from people whose passion exceeds their skill.” How did that idea add to the record?

J: I think it makes the record! It is the record. We have skills, of course, but our passions far outweighed them in this whole process and made the band and record what it is.

L: I think we’ve all just been trying to keep up with whatever Phan Fern is. That started out as us playing instruments we weren’t totally experts on, and it became us playing shows we didn’t totally feel cut out for. Now, we’re releasing our album in a pretty touch and go kind of way. I didn’t even get an opportunity to listen to the final mixes before they went to mastering. I know that sounds kind of messed up and neglectful but I was holed up recording my debut album in New Zealand at the time, away from the internet, and we had deadlines to meet. I guess we’ve always had this weird thing with deadlines. Like, just book the deadline and hustle and make do with whatever you’ve got once you’re there.

Do your ideas ever clash during the writing process?

J: A couple of times, of course, as in any collaborative project. Mainly it was a pretty relaxed creative process. None of us had a clear vision of what we wanted it to sound like, so everyone was pretty flexible.

L: It’s so important for people to be able to bring any idea to a rehearsal space, no matter how ridiculous. If you think it’s the moment for a ukulele-sized banjo, pipe up. If you want to test out your fiddle playing in an indie rock number, give it a shot. But be prepared to get shut down and be open to just letting it go and moving on, and not take it personally.

This breezy, ‘don’t overthink it’, attitude seems to be the core of your band. Do you guys try to integrate this in your everyday lives?

J: Definitely, this band has helped me to relax in other areas of my life – creative and otherwise. I’ve realised that usually no one is ready for anything, so you might as well just have a go and see what happens. Obviously if you’re a doctor or something, being fully prepared is probably pretty important.

L: Yeah, it’s a good reminder for me. I’m a bit of a worrier, a bit of a stress head at times. When I remember that one of the best things I’ve done is make a band out of a furniture store name with a ‘ph’ at the front, I’m reminded that taking life less seriously can be fruitful.

For each of you, can you pinpoint what came first – your love of song writing, or your love of performing? Or do you and the two go hand-in-hand?

J: I think performing definitely came first. I didn’t start songwriting until I was in my late teens but I was singing and dancing and irritating my parents for years before that. And now I have a deep and unwavering love of both.

L: Um… how far back are we willing to go here? I recall trying to stage a play at primary school assembly that I’d not written by the time the performance came around. I think I just really wanted a way to show o my new tutu.

What’s in store for those heading along to your tour this month?

J: Lots of dancing, a bit of jumping, and sometimes screaming. They are really fun shows.

L: Dancing, puns, great merch, fuckin ‘n’ rollin.

Phantastic Ferniture’s debut self-titled album is out now via Caroline Australia. Catch the group on its headline tour this month.


This article was originally published in Fashion Journal 182. You can read it here.

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