Sometime in the 1970s, a decade before frontman Patrick Ferris and bassist Jake Faulkner were born, their mothers met on a train to Woodstock. Patrick and Jake met as children, but lived in different cities and saw little of one another before they reconnected in high school. They got along immediately through their joy for busking (street performing), and pre-war American country and blues. Jake and Patrick spent a summer recording homeless street musicians with a mobile unit they lugged around the city, making copies of the recordings for the performers to sell.
Guitarist Zac Sokolow had dropped out of high school and was busking on the street and working construction in Los Angeles when Jake saw him playing guitar and convinced him to move in with them and start a band. They spent years digging through obscure records and arcane field recordings, teaching themselves banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, and slide guitar.
Patrick calls this long immersion a “purist” phase. “We were suspicious of modern rock music,” he says. “When we got together and formed a band, we had to make everything from scratch. We had no template. There was no band we wanted to be like. We were curious if we could create something brand new, summoning the spirit of old blues and country through what we’d learned firsthand, leaving nostalgia behind.”
The Americans’ debut album, I’ll Be Yours, seems to have achieved just that. “They’ve shape-shifted back into the modern-day rock and roll band,” writes Cara Gibney (No Depression), “writing contemporary music of their time, incorporating the kernel of their traditional roots, enhancing their rock and roll credentials with the emotional quality of music made generations earlier.” Greg Vandy (American Standard Time) calls it “distinctly American rock ‘n’ roll. Throaty, firin’ on all cylinders, road trip rock, charged with intense composition choices that call to mind the history of roots music, from Chuck Berry and Tom Waits to The War On Drugs.”
The band’s distinctive, powerful works have captured the attention of a number of stars. They’ve backed Nick Cave, Lucinda Williams, Ashley Monroe, and Devendra Banhart, twice joined Ryan Bingham on national tours, and recently opened for St. Paul and The Broken Bones in Europe. The band has also worked closely with Jack White and T Bone Burnett, joining Nas, Elton John, and Alabama Shakes in the PBS primetime series American Epic (airing summer 2017). Patrick went on to work on the film as an associate producer.
Their live show, honed over many hundreds of performances, is something to behold. Ron Wray (No Depression) writes, “They’re led by lead singer, guitarist Patrick Ferris, looking like James Dean but even better…. Jake Faulkner, with his dark black beard and jaunty hat, dances across stage, lifting his stand-up bass like a dancing partner.” Chris Griffy (AXS) calls them “straight up blue-collar rock and roll in the style of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp.” Steve Wildsmith (Daily Times, UK) admires their “anthemic guitar hooks and a heartland sense of urgency that’s tailor-made for road trips and late-night parties beneath a field of brilliant stars.”
The band is currently in the studio, writing and recording their second album.