Tera Ferna: 'There's Always Fresh And Fertile Ground For Us To Create'
In an era where anyone can with a Macbook can produce music, Tera Ferna shows us the importance of an honest-to-goodness, flesh-and-blood band. With their “soul rock” style and brotherly bonds, the band merges four highly distinctly individuals into one fresh and smooth-running musical machine.
Originating in 2011 by lead singer and guitarist Matthew Charles, Tera Ferna was a solo project until Brandon Kent and James Perez, the bassist and guitarist for the band, came along, followed by drummer Anthony Washington in 2012. After discovering a small street near Charles’ family home here in San Antonio with the name “Tera Ferna,” the group decided on their name made it official.
“That name just stuck out to us,” says Charles. “We’ve never heard anything like that before. We ended up looking up what it meant and saw that it had some Latin and Native American roots. Tera is 'ground' and 'ferna' is furnace, like when a volcano erupts and creates new ground. So to us, the whole name means new ground. Each one of us in the group is so diverse with different musical backgrounds. Whenever we get together, I like to say that there’s always a fresh and fertile ground for us to create on, no matter when we do it or how we do it.”
“Musically we are all over the place,” explains Washington. But that diversity is exactly what has helped Tera Ferna develop a unique sound, coming up with different stories and styles for each album that they produce.
Some of the members are old souls that had to combine their passion for classic rock with the emerging electronic sounds of the millennium. However, each member discovered a way to find a modern groove. For Perez, adding a synth to his guitar playing gave him a fresh sound. For Kent, it was listening to hip hop. “I grew up with an old style of music,” he explains. “Playing blues and jazz. All the way up until junior year in high school I didn’t want to listen to anything past 1979. It’s a struggle to be able to produce and make and write new music that has that familiar sound to it, but also something you’ve never heard of. In order to do that you need to constantly be listening for new things.”
'People still want to connect with musicians on stage.' --Anthony Washington, drummer
Having a unique sound is what gives Tera Ferna their backbone, allowing them to always grow as musicians and have an organic approach to music playing. “Each of our different projects have a theme,” says Kent. “Our first EP was very natural sounding, but it was rock band type of sound. The next album we released features a very talented piano player named Richard Castillo, so it has a very classical, virtuoso sound. The new album features a synth, so we’re evolving and using new methods in order to not get left behind and become just a band.”
Another component of the art of a musical band is the connection to the audience, an aspect which Tera Ferna takes very seriously. “I feel like people still want to connect with the musicians on stage. You can’t always replace that with electronics. You want to feel the drums and feel the guitar players and the singer,” says Washington. Perez adds: “It’s nice to be able to connect with fans and to hear what our music makes them feel. They restore that sense of having a band. If we do what we do to the best of our ability then people will really appreciate it and like it. That can’t be replaced by the push of a button.”
Having that connection with listeners is the key to keeping their musical business afloat in the diverse San Antonio market. “You can’t make money off of your recorded music alone,” says Perez. “Expecting a venue or promoter to pay you a lot is unrealistic. Merch is where you see the money. People buy the CDs and they like for us to sign [them]. They’ll listen to it on their phone but they’ll keep it as a keepsake.” Charles recognizes that not everyone likes the old fashion style of a CD, and has come up with a new way to reach modern listeners. “Some bands are selling their album on a flash drive. You can plug one into your car, since a lot of newer vehicles don’t even have CD players. On the other hand, there is a classic appreciation for vinyl. The music listener of today is so different from the music listener of the past.”
Looking down the road, maybe five years from now, Tera Ferna hopes to keep the art of the band alive and well. “Every album that we put out will always be something fresh,” says Charles. “We are not trying to be a genre specific band, so that will help us expand in our career. I’d like to continue to grow our sound and collaborate with hip hop, dance, and techno artist. To make Tera Ferna an entity that always grows on fresh, fertile grounds.”