Arch City

Taking the Bull by the Horn

Native son and indie-pop band San Fermin make their Columbus debut

From the February 2014 edition

After graduating from Capital University, Columbus native and trumpeter John Brandon was accepted into Yale’s School of Music. That’s where he met Ellis Ludwig-Leone, a classically trained composer in Yale’s undergraduate program. The two worked together on several musical projects, so when Ludwig-Leone formed San Fermin and wrote the score for the instrumental pop band’s debut album after graduating in 2011, Brandon was a natural fit. Brandon, a Northland High School grad who now lives in Brooklyn, is returning to Columbus for the first time with San Fermin to perform at the Wexner Center for the Arts on Feb. 19.

Although San Fermin, which is named after the running of the bulls in Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” is an eight-piece band (one male and two female vocalists; guitar, trumpet, sax and violin players; and a drummer), 22 musicians are featured on the band’s self-titled album, which was released last September.

“We’re all classically trained players, so it’s a lot heavier than a lot of pop music in the harmonies and the musical ideals that are presented,” Brandon says. “The album is like a conversation between the male and female singers—it’s like a guy and a girl talking through their feelings in their 20s.” Ludwig-Leone calls out Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Paul Simon, Dirty Projectors and tUnE-yArDs as influences.

Concertgoers at the Wex show will hear songs from San Fermin’s debut album as well as a few sneak peeks of the band’s follow-up record, which is still in the works. Meanwhile, Brandon is excited to perform in his hometown. Says Brandon: “When you grow up in a city, you’re excited to show it off to your bandmates.”