From natural selection to sex-crazed lizard demons: Meet Refestramus, the Chicago proggers who leave no topic off the table

(Image credit: Press)

High-brow concepts are so often the backbone of great prog music, but they can also be too serious for their own good. Thankfully, Chicago’s Refestramus weave both heavy topics and bizarre, comedic turns into their second and well-balanced album, Intouríst

While its narrative is coloured by deep-thinking moments that explore emotional depth and resilience, as well as casting glances at the supernatural, it doesn’t forget to have a little fun along the way. That’s why you’ll find songs that charter love, tragedy, and natural selection, as well as sex-crazed lizards and love struck zombies. No topic is off limits. 

Spearheaded by drummer, lyricist and chief composer, Derek Ferguson, and named after a word his mother made up to mean rearrange, Refestramus are serious progheads and playful songwriters all the same. They decorate their art rock foundation with progressive and jazz-lacquered histrionics, alongside elements of neoclassical, melodic and psychedelic rock for a diverse palette. 

The album has been christened by Ferguson as a “prog rock prayer made manifest” and its cocktail of ‘70s prog influences makes it feel instantly familiar and friendly. Flashes of the unexpected, though, ensure that Intouríst is no mere tribute act.   

Ferguson had started the project in 2020 as a way of entertaining himself during the pandemic. He whiled away the hours by patch working his love for various big name and obscure prog bands with his own compositions. 

He then tapped up Colouratura producer, Ian Beabout, to give his debut album – 2021's Decoupage – an extra dose of dynamism. In doing so, the pair hit upon a winning formula. The record was well received critically and skilfully catapulted the band into the contemporary prog scene.

Now, Refestramus have evolved into a band proper. On Intouríst, Ferguson (drums) is joined by another Colouratura member, Derek Pavlic (guitars, mellotron, and vocoder) as well as keyboardist Rogelio Souza, bassist Jerry King (Moon X, Cloud over Jupiter), and a rich cast of vocalists. Those vocalists include Craig Cairns, NIDA, and Vedrana Lina, who all help galvanise the record’s serious-but-silly storytelling. 


(Image credit: Press)

Perhaps the fact the Lakeview neighbourhood of Chicago welcomes weirdness with such open arms has helped the band dive further into their strange side on Intouríst

“We love being based in Lakeview,” says Ferguson. “I was on the street dressed as Gandalf for this photo shoot on a Tuesday at 11am and no one was shocked – in fact, just about everyone passing by commented on how cool it was…one person even asked me to put a spell on someone!”

The push and pull between the philosophical and the preposterous is paramount to Refestramus’ charm. For every probing story, like The Red Apple's retelling of Maxim Gorky's fatal love story that brings themes of rejection and longing to the fore, there are songs so off-the-wall that only a prog band could tell them. 

The stupidly stupendous Agent M vs. the Sex Lizard, which takes its cues from the scandalous televangelist, Sharon Gilbert, is one such example. Back in 2021, Gilbert claimed that her husband was once impersonated by a sex-crazed lizard demon, and that it tried to coax her into the bedroom. Understandably, this X-rated tale raised plenty of eyebrows and garnered plenty of media attention.

Lyrics like 'Sheets went flying like a dacron blizzard, then I saw this was one horny lizard' aren't likely to make it onto an Emerson, Lake and Palmer album, but that's exactly the point. Underscored by a big band-styled pomp, the band's tongue remains firmly in its collective cheek throughout the short but sweet track.  

Uniquely, the band has gained something of a cult status in Paraguay. Despite being some 5,000 miles away from their Chicago base, their music has been played on national radio, and with Asunción – named after the capital city – they pay tribute to their South American fanbase. 

Sunshine practically oozes from its asado-tinged undercurrent, with its lyrics referencing some of the band's favourite Paraguayan spots. There’s even a Spanish-language version available as a bonus track. 

The Devil Returns, deemed by Ferguson as the record’s proggiest track, is also their most cinematic. Its vast, synth-propelled intro gives way for a Mikhail Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita) flavoured song that sees its devilish protagonist reflecting on an evolving world while “I stay the same.”

In one sense, the track is light-years away from its sex-lizard track counterpart and the hip-swinging Mr Darwin, which Ferguson calls “a light-hearted take on human survival and natural selection”, yet the trio of songs all find their home on a diverse and well-paced record. 

Elsewhere, Side Hustle tips its hat to one of Ferguson's favourite prog bands, Jethro Tull, while the 11+ minute Intouríst Suite – which includes the horny lizard anthem – blends classical compositions with everything from electronica to funk as complex and oddball moments intertwine with panache.  

Indeed, two of these tracks were previously released on 2022 EP, From the Sublime to the Ridiculous, but with Intouríst the band has dialled up both extremities of the their sound. It makes for a kaleidoscopic affair that manages to pay homage to prog rock majesty whilst simultaneously blowing raspberries at it. It’s a wonderful dichotomy.   


(Image credit: Melodic Revolution Records)

The band will celebrate the record's long-awaited release with an online listening party via their Bandcamp page on April 27, 18:00 GMT (12:00 CST). The event will include a play through of Intouríst in its entirety, as well as insights and commentary around its creation from the musicians behind it. Ferguson and co. will regale behind-the-scenes stories and interact with viewing fans, answering their questions and sparking a vibrant conversation covering all things progressive and Refestramus. 

Intouríst celebrates its official release on May 4, when it becomes available in CD and digital formats.

For more information about the listening party and to order a copy of Intouríst, head to 


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