daveit ferris ~ a year in the life... ~ an encore ni exclusive interview part 1

In the early 2000's Daveit Ferris' life was very different. As frontman of the post hardcore band 'Mascara Story', his lyrics and broken poetry came to soundtrack the hardships of growing up for a generation of teenagers, both local and not so local. Songs like 'Cue the Violins', 'Safety Pin' and the awesome 'This Is Not A Bruise' caught the emo movement at it's peak, as the band came to represent everything modern pop music didn't. It was raw, exciting and when Mascara Story won Kerrang Magazine's unsigned band of the year, no one was really surprised. After touring with established acts such as 'Fighting With Wire' and playing a slot at 'Download Festival' they eventually broke up. Since then Daveit has been making and releasing an astonishing amount of music, culminating in his '365 Sparks' project, which saw him write a song a day, every day of 2014; he is now in the process of releasing every last one of those songs. Taylor Johnson caught up with him to discuss this project, time machines and everything in between...

Hi Daveit! Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. How you been?
Yo Taylor! I’m pretty sweet and pretty exhausted but i’m not complaining as i can almost see the finish line of 365 Sparks after a two-year+ marathon .. can i get a hallelujah?
Hallelujah indeed! These last two years have been incredibly significant for you, what inspired you to undertake your 365 project?
These last two years have been the most enjoyable but also the most stressful of my entire life by far - but doing this has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I toyed with the idea of 365 songs in a year since probably 2009 and even attempted it for a few weeks in 2010 - but ultimately life got in the way as it tends to do and i had to abandon the plan that year - but it has always stayed on ice. Ultimately it was a life event that made me decide i have to push everything aside and do this. In October 2013, over the course of one day, i went from being out for a nice walk to being in a hospital bed unable to speak or drink with something i’d later find out was supraglottitis. In simple terms: a ball was forming at the base of my throat at an alarming rate and had i have not rushed to hospital - i wouldn’t be talking to you right now. Dramatic sounding i know, but that’s because it was very dramatic. Being told by specialists you were very close to dying puts a lot of things in perspective, you know? I’m a pretty creative person, but in the past i tended to dabble with no clear focus - this event made me realise that all of those 50%/25% completed projects I've worked on for years could have just vanished with me. I decided on that hospital bed to fulfill that 365 goal with absolute clarity and focus - and that’s what I've been doing every single day since.
It's something that's not really been attempted by anyone before, certainly not at a local level. Did you have any nightmares along the way?
It’s been done by a few folks for sure, and you know what? Knowing this fact gave me confidence that I could do it too. That competitive side of me was screaming ‘if they can do it, so can you!’. I’m not meaning to sound arrogant, but in researching prior to my project starting, the one commonality those other projects have is that they have ‘songs’ under a minute long, instrumentals and sometimes even just talking over static or beats; I think this is the first time 365 ‘songs’ have been recorded in this way! I really wanted all my music to sound like it could naturally fit on an album and live comfortably in that environment … that’s my story and i’m sticking to it!

Being told by specialists you were very close to dying puts a lot of things in perspective...

Did you feel the discipline of writing so much helped to improve your songwriting?
Without a doubt. I’ve grown so much as a writer, musician, producer and even as a person throughout this process. I feel like I fast-tracked every facet of my being in doing so much creative work. Most musicians will record a few times a year in a studio and take that experience with them - but when it’s a constant in your life, those little tips and tricks and insight start to permanently stitch themselves to your brain for good. One element I enjoyed was the competition with myself...I’d try and make that days vocals better than the previous one or that days mix sound fuller than the previous one. It just gave me something to constantly shoot for.

You're a pretty emotional guy and in the past this has really helped people connect with your songs. Was it difficult finding inspiration, or is it always there?
I think emotion is a positive trait to have. I’ve definitely never been one to shy away from that admission.You know, a lot of people used to throw daggers at me when i was 20 and in Mascara Story about following that ‘emo’ trend - but what people didn’t realise was … that was just how I always was up to that point. My older friends can vouch for the songs I was writing at 15 years old before that craze even was a thing!

My life and the genre-of-the-year just happened to coincide. I mean, nearly 10 years later and i’m still writing within the same genre of rock music and singing about the same kind of things, because they’re honest and an expression of myself and my life - it was never a fad for me. In having 365 little musical beds to fill, i had a lot of lyrical subject matter to consider. When recording an album or EP there’s always an invisible thread or theme whether intended or not and that’s why you won’t see a holy worship album end with a song called ‘see u in the club YOLO’, you know? I remember writing down hundreds of song titles before I even started about things I wanted to sing about: animal liberation / my own funeral / my mother / cancer / alcohol abstinence / my estranged father / religion / depression etc. My goal was to be more honest than ever before. I didn’t want to dress my words up with over-clever buzz words to almost hide their meaning. I wanted them to read like stories and I never shied away from any subject at all. This was new ground for me, but i really enjoyed leaving the sugarcoat at home. If that honest emotion allows people to connect to the music … then i’m over the moon about that.

Teenage hero's...Mascara Story
You've been making music under your own name for a while now (with the exception of your 'Sugar Veins' side project), do you feel any greater connection to this newer material?
These recordings are the best I've ever made, period. In terms of the writing and the production side i think they’re many levels above my previous albums and ep’s. Lyrically, as we just talked about, they’re the most diverse and honest set of scribbles i’ve ever compiled. I look at all the music with immense pride because it’s so real to me. I’m not going to lie: being the only person involved also gives me huge satisfaction too. Every musician wants their own studio to make awesome recordings in, so it was cool to be stationed in my own place throughout these years. I’m so comfortable there and it’s set-up completely for my specific workflow. I can only see my recordings progressing as i still have so, so much to learn - and that’s incredibly exciting. I definitely feel more connected to my own music than ever and the translation from head to tape is getting closer all the time.

It's hard to avoid the topic of your first band, so we hope you don't mind a trip down memory lane! A lot of time has passed since then, are you still friends with the guys? (Drummer Jay Dickson & Bassist Sean Keddy)
It’s kind-of scary to know we’ll have ended 10 years ago next month. I mean, Jesus! I’m still friends with both of those guys for sure. I have a lot of respect for both their creative lives since the band broke up.Sean’s an incredibly gifted artist/graphic designer and Jay is the best drummer in the world. Life has taken us three all down different paths, but the respect is still very much alive and kicking amongst us.

Mascara Story 
If, for some as yet undetermined reason, you could go back in time, what advice would you give to that young kid fronting Mascara Story?
Who told you about my patented time machine?! God, I would tell him many, many things. I would tell him to deflate any ego because 3-minute rock songs are hardly rocket science. I would tell him to communicate with his bandmates in person and not over email. I would tell him that criticism isn’t the end of the world. I would tell him to trust others and stop being such a control freak in a collective creative endeavor. Finally, I’d tell him to take time to enjoy things instead of constantly trying to reach the next level as quickly as possible. Oh, and i’d tell him to buy lots and lots of shares in Apple and Facebook.

Sometimes life's various chapters can close for good; Morrissey has said numerous times he will never reform The Smiths, Paul Weller similarly so with The Jam ~ would you ever consider reforming, even for a one off anniversary show?
Not many people know this, but we actually were in the beginning stages of reforming as a band in 2009. So much so, we even recorded a handful of demos and began to make plans - but it just didn’t work over time. There was no fistfights, bad blood or anything dramatic, it just didn’t seem designed to be. I think there are moments where all three of us have that nostalgia burst and consider putting out feelers for a reformation, but it wouldn’t make sense at this point for any of us. It would sound like a totally different band now due to our evolved musical tastes and i’m totally not in love with the 3-piece sound these days at all. An anniversary show is a different beast altogether - that would be an easy few rehearsals, show and then back to our lives. I wouldn’t say no to that, especially if it had a charity angle.

Part two of our exclusive interview with Daveit Ferris is out tomorrow!

& catch all of his new music from the 365 Sparks project here!

Taylor Johnson

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