Ferdinand the Bull is one of many bands I came across during my time employed at James Street Gastropub. Primarily composed of Nick Snyder and Bryce Rabideau, amongst other talented local musicians that pop in and out of shows and on recorded tracks, this band is one of my favorites in the city. Though heavily influenced by folk, indie, and bluegrass bands like The Avett Brothers, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Tallest Man on Earth, and Sufjan Stevens, the two like to refer to Ferdinand’s style as punk music with folk instruments. “We thrive on that punk-y energy, for sure,” Bryce said. When the band performs, most notably with Nick on acoustic guitar, Bryce on mandolin, and with newest member Kevin Lynch on percussion, they exude a very grassroots, campfire vibe that will either put you right in your feelings or have you dancing around the room.
Ferdinand the Bull was born when Nick began spending time a lot of time with a friend after his freshman year of college, eventually recording a 6-song EP with him. After playing a few house shows, they decided to make it into a band, and in joined Lucy Clabby, a member of Buffalo Rose alongside Bryce, to become a founding member of Ferdinand. Over the years, between school and life, members came and went, and Bryce has been a permanent leading member for 3 years now alongside Nick. With Nick doing much of the songwriting, Bryce puts work in on the arrangements.
Ferdinand the Bull recently finished a short tour where they had the chance to push their soon-to-be released album to an out-of-town audience. The tour began right after the release of their first single from the album, titled “4:30am,” which you can listen to at the end of this article. Two other singles have been released, accompanied by videos of local painters Laura Rosner, Ben Yockel, and Casey Worthing all painting over pictures, the act of which the album is named after. “The album is called Painting Over Pictures, and what we mean with that is we are taking something that is there, established, and painting over it, metaphorically. For the three singles, we made the videos and took a picture that was 3 ½ feet by 3 ½ feet, and had Pittsburgh painters paint over them,” Nick explains. “Those paintings then became the covers for the single releases. We wanted to release the singles in some format that was not just streaming. Being able to watch the painting unfold is a cool way to experience the song,” Bryce follows. The cover for the album is actually slightly different than the concept of the single art. It is a painting done by Nick’s aunt Joanne Miller Rafferty, with parts of a photo composed into it.
Painting Over Pictures is an album they have been writing and working on since April of 2017, which Nick and Bryce say is a big difference from previous works they’ve done, mentioning that before, they would rush to record the first 12 songs they had. “Last time it was literally all of us sitting in a room recording at the same time,” says Nick, with Bryce also explaining, “This time it was a lot of spreadsheets. We were bringing in horn players and violin players and stuff, so we had to coordinate [when to bring them in] and do four songs at a time.”
It’s clear the band has put extreme detail and effort into each song. Bryce notes that the album has a much different sound, which I noticed from the singles alone. “The word I would use is deliberate… everything is very deliberate,” he says. “I get really geeky about when you can hear the time someone put into music… I want people to be able to listen and notice, ‘Wow they were really paying attention to detail,’ or, ‘they really spent a lot of time on this sort of complex song with a simple message or melody.’ Appreciate the pieces of it, because that’s what I’m proud of.”
“I think most of it was getting out of our comfort zone,” Nick says, mentioning that they have a full drum set, horns, a full string quartet, even Bryce playing an organ on the album. They pushed themselves to be adventurous with techniques and experiment with strange sounds to put a special accent on the album.
An album release show is scheduled for August 10th at Club Café. Bindley Hardware Company, and a solo performance by Max Somerville of Wreck Loose will precede Ferdinand the Bull taking the stage. I can only imagine how cathartic it will be for Nick and Bryce to be surrounded by their friends to present a project they have worked so hard on, so be sure to get your tickets and experience one of the best upcoming shows of the summer!
Photos by John Apsey Photography and Triskel Creative, provided by Ferdinand the Bull