Over the past four years, indie-pysch-folk act Phantastic Ferniture have been slowly yet persistently piecing a record together while its band members focused on their soaring solo careers. Originally made up of Julia Jacklin, Elizabeth Hughes, Ryan K. Brennan, and Tom Stephens, Phantastic Ferniture was designed as an excuse for them to pick up a new instrument and get a little bit silly onstage.
And now, the presence of a tangible record has them feeling content. Finishing the thing has been nice. After all, you can work on a song forever: rewriting, rearranging, tweaking this and that. “I think it can feel like you never complete anything,” explains Jacklin.
Being able to hold the record in their hands feels like an acknowledgement of four years of hard work and jumping through hurdles – not to mention a sense of finality.
Watch the video for the Phantastic Ferniture song ‘Fuckin ‘n’ Rollin’ here:
Asked what acts influenced the record, they say it’s hard to pin down. “I think that’s probably what is so special for us about the project; we all have really different music tastes,” says Jacklin. “When we first came up with the name and we went in to jam, I don’t think any of us had any idea of what it was going to sound like. It honestly could have been anything. We could have been a folk band playing like Gillian Welch-style music.”
‘Dark Corner Dance Floor’ sees Jacklin’s breathy and weightless vocals swell alongside Hughes’ thrashier, distorted guitar playing and Brennan’s thrilling rhythms. Having played softer, sadder songs in their solo projects, Hughes and Jacklin have found release in being able to easily sense when an audience is having a good time.
“That’s what we loved about performing as Phantastic Ferniture: there was just this immediate reaction of joy, of unbridled joy. People aren’t overthinking the music as much as we were,” says Hughes.
Tom Stephens’ swirling, effortlessly fun basslines call for special attention on the record. “He was really into reggae at the time [of writing them],” laughs Hughes.
“I think still to this day when I listen to this record and the music we made, it doesn’t sound like any of us,” adds Jacklin. “This doesn’t sound like anything that we listen to.”
Watch the music video for the Phantastic Ferniture song ‘Bad Timing’ here:
Amid their love of goofy dancing and dorky puns, they’re also avid fans of leisurewear, repping vivid, intense colour palettes sourced from op shops.
“We went through this sport jersey phase,” says Hughes. “People would come up to us after the show and be like, ‘Yeah, love that team, love that game.’ And we’d be like, ‘No idea what you’re talking about.’
“It’s nice wearing stuff that we didn’t take seriously: just big baggy clothes that we could jump around in. It just wasn’t about looking good, it was about being in comfortable activewear that you can actually move in,” says Hughes.
Watch the music video for the Phantastic Ferniture song ‘Gap Year’ here:
Indeed, when the band played a show in Manly at Hotel Steyne, some of its punters expressed a few grievances with Jacklin’s dress sense. “I was wearing this giant Dallas Cowboys jersey. You know, no make up, gross pants, and sneakers, and having a great time on stage,” explains Jacklin.
“And then I got off stage and was surrounded by these really like, nice men who were obviously trying to do me a big solid and tell me some information. And they were like, ‘Oh listen, your band’s really good, but we just think if you dress sexier, people are gonna listen. You’re gonna get more of a crowd.’”
“And they punked on your top?” chimes in Hughes.
“They were like pulling my jersey, yeah,” says Jacklin. “They were like, ‘Don’t wear that, don’t wear that.’ And they were saying it in this way where they’re like, ‘Oh, aren’t we just a nice bunch of blokes helping this silly girl out who’s clearly not realised that she’s gotta look sexy on stage.’ And that was really reaffirming to be like, ‘Cool, I’m gonna keep doing that’.”
The band’s main objectives are to have a good time; to feel good. The project was an opportunity to learn, and to prove that passion is enough to produce something great, rather than simply being technically prolific. They even decided to make their own label, Makeout Records.
I think sometimes we’ve been mischaracterised because the name’s silly.
“Representing ourselves feels really good and opens up the doors to be able to do something with other bands in future,” explains Hughes.
“I think sometimes we’ve been mischaracterised because the name’s silly,” Jacklin adds. “And people just get really confused about, like, are we a kid’s band, or are we just a total joke? We know what we stand for and what we are, and it just makes you feel like you’ve got a little more control over that narrative.”
Named after Jacklin’s favourite album, Meet Me At Makeout Creek by Mitski, Makeout is a bold new musical venture. “You know, making out is fun and we hope that our music will encourage consensual making out sessions at home or at the show.”
Like the label name, it seems the band’s ethos is a fine-tuned balance between serious and not too serious: some of the lyrics were thrown together simply because they felt good.
And “Fuckin’ and rollin’ / Into the night” was a result of some rambling while showing them a riff. Jacklin says, “[Stephens] was just like, ‘I don’t know, something like, ‘Fuckin and rollin’ and I remember being like, ‘Well that’s not gonna stick because I’m not singing that, that sounds ridiculous.’
“And then I sung it anyway and never changed it. It’s fine.”