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We originally ran this in October 2014. San Fermin returns to the D.C. area this Friday, January 30 at The Barns at Wolf Trap. -ed.

By Jose Lopez-Sanchez of Dead Curious.

San Fermin has been touring in support of its eponymous album for the better part of the last year, gaining critical acclaim and a slew of fervent fans with each passing week and performance. With their big, bold orchestral sound, the Brooklyn-based band scored its first hit last year with “Sonsick”, a glowing, upbeat, and complex track with that layers warm horns over multi-part vocal harmonies.

The Baroque-pop outfit might be considered Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s brainchild, but the band’s grand, ornate sound would be impossible without the talented group of musicians that perform and record as San Fermin. While the core of the band met at Berklee College of Music in Boston, they are truly from all over the United States, and BYT recently had an opportunity to gain some insights as to where “home” is for each musician. We asked all of San Fermin’s members to pick a song that best reminds them of where they grew up, and to share a few words and reasons as to why.


Ellis Ludwig-Leone

Instrument: Composer; keys

Song: “Concord Sonata” (1947)

Artist: Charles Ives

It written about Concord, Massachusetts, which is about forty minutes north of where I grew up in Berkley.  The Alcotts movement is about a couple that lived there in the mid-19th century.  There’s something domestic about it, but it gets reall

y wild in parts, like a crazy family that’s settled in a very beautiful, country setting.  Which basically describes the house I grew up in.


Michael Hanf

Instrument: Drums

Song: “To Old Friend and New” (2010)

Artist: Titus Andronicus

To me, this song perfectly puts into words and music the feeling of having friends and not being alone, but still feeling that way. But it takes a turn at the phrase, “the reasons for living are seldom and few / when you see one, you better stick to it like glue.”

I grew up in Bergen County, but moved away when I was 10 or 11, and I remember every time I went back, I would feel a back-against-the-wind rebellion against a lot of social, cultural, and economic restraints that were there in the late nineties and early aughts. That feeling of “I’m going to be the same fucking person I want to be no matter what life or people throw at me,” really made an impact.

Feeling loved takes work. Feeling like you have a home takes work. And I think this song makes this struggle seem surmountable.


Stephen Chen

Instrument: Saxophone

Song: “Wide Eyes” (2009)

Artist: Local Natives

I grew up in Long Island, and used to drive over the Williamsburg Bridge to play shows in the [Lower East Side] with my high school band. For a long time, it was the only part of the city I was familiar with.

When I first moved to Brooklyn, my apartment was just a couple blocks from the feet of the bridge, and I’d take breaks during work by running to Manhattan and back listening to Gorilla Manor.  “Wide Eyes” is the first track, and it’d always kick on as I closed the front door of my apartment, breathed in the chilly air, and took in the skyline as I crested the bridge.


Charlene Kaye

Instrument: Lead vocals

Song: “Bleed American” (2001)

Artist: Jimmy Eat World

I was fanatically obsessed with Jimmy Eat World (and this record) in high school. They’re from Arizona, like me – they were the first concert I ever went to when I was 15, and they were so raw and nasty and punk. I went by myself, crowd surfed for the first time and moshed like a crazy person.

To me, this song symbolizes driving through the desert (badly, because I was still learning how to drive), getting lost, and thinking about how much I wanted to play music for a living.


Allen Tate

Instrument: Lead vocals

Song: “In Love with the Mic” (2007)

Artist: The Roots

I grew up outside of Philadelphia, and The Roots were the center of my musical universe when I was growing up. I think I saw them play ten times before I graduated from high school, and those are still some of the best live shows I have ever seen – all with minimal production.

I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite song, but “In Love with the Mic” is a lesser known cut on The Tipping Point that actually features the one and only Dave Chappelle. How do you beat that?


Rebekah Durham

Instrument: Violins; vocals

Song: “Big Country” (1997)

Artist: Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, and Mike Marshall

I grew up in both Texas and Colorado, and though there are many songs about both those places that I love, the song that ties it all together for me is “Big Country” by Bela Fleck. It instantly reminds me of the expansive Southwestern skies that cover everything from the West Texas desert to the Colorado peaks.


John Brandon

Instrument: Trumpet

Song: “Autumn in New York” (1957)

Artist: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

My song is “Autumn in New York” because I’m from New York. The lyrics really speak to me: It’s the combination of feelings everyone experiences when the weather gets cold and the leaves change, but personalized for the unique metropolis we call home. It transforms the big, beautiful dreams we all have into something beautiful but also melancholic, like autumn can be.

Tyler McDiarmid

Instrument: Guitar

Song: “Didn’t Leave Me No Ladder” (1995)

Artist: Paul Cebar and the Milwaukeeans

I would have to pick “Didn’t Leave Me No Ladder” by Paul Cebar and the Milwaukeeans. Paul is a hometown hero and has been performing with his band for decades. I have fond memories of watching his incredible live shows at Summerfest as a kid. Definitely an inspiration.