Robert Plant loves them. So does Joe Bonamassa: Meet Ferris & Sylvester, the award-winning folk-blues rock'n'rollers with a psychedelic soul

Ferris & Sylvester press shot
(Image credit: Archtop Records.)

Considering they have a young, excitable son, Lucky, married duo Issy Ferris and Archie Sylvester are bright-eyed for our morning chat, brimming with cheer when asked about their success at the UK Americana Awards, where they were nominated in three categories, and won Best Album for their 2022 debut Superhuman

They’re also excited about their new album Otherness. Comprising 14 tracks of what Ferris terms “folk-blues rock’n’roll”, it’s the result of “years of writing what’s best for the song, and also what holds an audience’s attention when they might be chatting”. 

The pair met in 2016 through playing at respective live music nights at the (sadly now defunct) Spiritual Bar in north London. London-based Sylvester was rocking out at the blues night, while Midlands-born Ferris played the midweek folk spot. Pairing up romantically and musically has led to a stunning line in Led Zep-ish guitar whoopee tempered by elements of Joni Mitchell and Laura Marling. 

They caught the ear of Robert Plant, who they played with in 2018. Among other supporters including ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris and Joe Bonamassa, a more left-field champion from early on has been Martin Glover, aka Youth, Killing Joke bassist turned producer and label owner/publisher.

“I was invited to play some songs to him,” says Sylvester. “I was very nervous, and he told me they were terrible [laughs]. But he sent me away with constructive criticism."

 “Then Issy and I met and started to write together,” Sylvester continues. “I told Youth: ‘It’s like Johnny Cash and June Carter, with balls.’ When he heard what we’d done, he loved it. He signed us and recorded our first EP, The Yellow Line.” 

The duo now have their own label, Archtop, and have relocated from London to live in Wiltshire, where Otherness was rehearsed (at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios) and recorded (at home). 

“When we started writing, we realised that the songs were about being outsiders, being ‘othered’,” Ferris says. “But the title track is a love song – having ‘otherness’ with another human.” 

As new parents, the track Mother is significant. Lucky was born two months prematurely while the couple were on a US tour, and Ferris says the experience was “scary and life-changing”. The track is a sublime slice of psychedelic soul with sweeping string touches. 

“It’s about a child dreaming of a better life; looking through other families’ windows, watching other kids in safe, happy homes,” Ferris says of Mother. “We realised this was also about us, after the last eighteen months. We’d been treading a difficult path and we needed to belong again. Back at home with Lucky we’re getting there."

Otherness is out on now via Archtop Records

Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.