Ellis Ludwig-Leone, founder of San Fermin, talks Skirball ballet, CMJ

By E.R. Pulgar

Via E.R. Pulgar for WSN
Via E.R. Pulgar for WSN

Ellis Ludwig-Leone, San Fermin’s founder and keyboardist, sat down with WSN before his band’s show at Webster Hall to talk about his anxieties, his new ballet at the Skirball Center, the band’s new lead singer, and being a part of CMJ.

WSN: How does it feel to be a part of the CMJ Music Marathon?

ELL: It’s cool! I have actually never been to a CMJ show until this year. Everyone has always talked about it, but I have never been part of it and it’s pretty crazy. Last night, we did, like, a surprise thing at Brooklyn Bowl and it was an electric atmosphere.

WSN: How did you get your start in music?

ELL: I played the piano when I was a kid. And I had a band with Allen [Tate], who’s our lead singer and an NYU alum.

WSN: Really? What school?

ELL: He was general arts and sciences, I think? Yes! That’s what he was in! He was on the basketball team for all four years of college. We had a bunch of bands during college that were all pretty whack, and then started this band afterwards. I studied classical music at Yale, he was doing philosophy at NYU and we were on separate paths until we got back on track after we graduated.

WSN: Can you talk to us about Rae Cassidy?

ELL: We recorded with the girls from Lucius but couldn’t tour with them once we got signed. We had to find a lead singer; Rae toured with us for about eight months and then she moved to Milwaukee to pursue her own music and we introduced Charlene Kay.

WSN: How is she adjusting?

ELL: We love her! She’s been like a fish in water, a really easy transition where it feels like she understands what the music is about and wants to be a part of it. As someone who is writing, that’s all you can ask for.

WSN: What does it feel like being onstage and hearing the crowd scream back lyrics you wrote?

ELL: It’s very cool. You’re very aware of how the crowd is feeling, but you’re also aware of how people on stage seem to be feeling. When I really have the most fun is when everyone onstage is just locked in together and we all have the same mindset. You feel like you’re part of a team, which is something I haven’t felt since I played sports as a kid, so it’s kind of a cool thing.

WSN: Are you working on any new stuff?

ELL: I actually have three ballets going up at the Skirball Center in a week with this group called BalletCollective, called “All That We See.”

WSN: On the subject of new stuff, what are your biggest inspirations?

ELL: I think anxieties. For me, you write because you find yourself obsessing on certain things. I also like listening to other music; I feel like when I hear something really cool, I always want to try to do something that’s as cool. Hearing another band you just want to get out there and do something yourself. You’re part of that dialogue, I guess.

WSN: Do you have any closing remarks for our readers?

ELL: Come to the ballets! It’ll be fun. At the Skirball Center, on the 29th and 30th. And Allen Tate, I’m sure if he was here, he would say go Violets! That’s what you guys are right?

WSN: Yeah, the Violets.

ELL: Go Violets!

E.R. Pulgar is a staff writer. Email him at music@nyunews.com

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