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Fern Mayo - "Hex Signs" | Album Review

by June Amelia Rose (@flowerhousewife)

If you’ve never been fortunate enough to witness Fern Mayo’s haphazardly bedazzled brand of power indie rock at a live show, you’ve been missing out. Where other bands might preach modesty, Fern Mayo insist on being loud and unapologetic, flashy and tacky, and most of all, jealousy inducing. Their sets beat with loud and reckless abandon, blistering across by keeping their delivery fresh.

Katie Capri’s high-pitched catchy bellow drives Fern Mayo’s tracks with total confidence and command as she fluctuates between notes with ease, at a pace that’s sometimes hard to keep up with. It’s the star player in a three piece that tends to play like a four piece, with bassist Nicholas Cummins and drummer Brian Orante doing more to support her than nearly any other rhythm section around.

In the opening track “Pinesol”, dissonance becomes catchy as the band finds common ground between harsh and pop. With a few opening lines that foreshadow a straightforward pop song, the song quickly turns sour as Capri’s emotion goes with it: “needles fall and prick my feet / but they don't feel a thing.” The breaks interspersed throughout the song are erratic gems that bring the band to new heights, only to be cut in by raw emotion as Capri’s “ooh’s” and screams drown out the song into clarity— “what would you do different/ if you knew you wouldn't get/ everything they promised?” as the question becomes, how sweet can something artificial be?

As the EP moves on to “New Ketamine,” the track that steals the show, the band showcases what makes them one of the most energized live acts around. Cummins’ bass pounds like a heartbeat waiting to break free, the crest and trough giving the song drug addled adrenaline. Capri’s guitars blaze forth across the skyline like fireworks as she grins through her lines. “New Ketamine”’s dissonant pop is in many ways reminiscent of Sonic Youth at their most mainstream, but perhaps with a bit more direction. The track is definitely a highlight of any Fern Mayo show.

The closing track, “Moonshine Kingdom” —a title that can’t help but make you crack a smile—is the most “straightforward” song on Hex Signs, with a more standard upbeat drive due to it’s lightning drumming by Orante. Throughout the song, Fern Mayo ascends as they float above and question the ascension of another: “sitting on the edge of your throne / you looked up to me.” The band’s bittersweet home-brew of indie rock turns to ash among the lies as they come face to face with futility: “in a kingdom run on moonshine and grapevines / tell yourself what you must to get by.”

On Hex Signs, Fern Mayo has carved out a unique place in indie rock with their ability to break down in a song as it descends, then bounce back with ease. Always keeping the audience on their toes for what happens next, it’s hard to look away, or to suppress the welling anticipation for a future full length. Good things come to those who wait.