One genre Virginia Beach is not widely known for is its local indie rock scene; however, FERAL CONSERVATIVES are definitely making a name for it. In February 2013, the band was formed by Rashie Rosenfarb, who sings and plays the mandolin and bass guitar, and Matt Francis, who plays drums, electric guitar, and the organ. The dual nature of FERAL CONSERVATIVES is unmistakable between Francis’s brash, angsty bravado, and Rosenfarb’s wispy and melodic mandolin and vocals, which can simultaneously turn up the noise with the appropriate amount of distortion and energy they bring to the stage. We spoke with Rosenfarb and Francis regarding their band’s dualities in terms of their latest EP, which is simply titled A D, and we explored with them their thoughts on equality and lack thereof and how the Virginia music scene has been affected by it. Rashie Rosenfarb: throat, mandolin, bass guitar

According to your band’s biography, your music has “an aggressive edge and a soft bottom”. What do you mean by that?

Matt: When we perform live, we are a mandolin, drums duo, but on our records we branch out more instrumentally. We originally started as a side project of a power trio. We love the “rootsy”, folk aspect of it, but we also like turning up the aggression. We have been able to get a lot of cool sounds out of the mandolin by channeling it through a variety of pedals. Some people tell us we sound like MUMFORD AND SONS, but we think our sound is more Americana with roots in punk and garage.

Rashie: It does have a lot of the aggressive edge of punk, but we are also influenced by different types of music like SIMON AND GARFUNKEL and old 60’s music.

Your band is also described by Abitha Palett of Jolt Magazine as a “cocktail of dualities”, and I find that ironic due to the stark duality of your album art for A D. Can you tell us about why you chose to go with this concept?

Rashie: I have always been drawn to imagery of the dark meeting the innocent young girl, as illustrated on the cover art. The two songs on A D have sadder lyrics, but the music is very high energy. So it shows the two sides that way.

How do you and Matt split up the songwriting process?

Rashie: It’s usually 50-50. We both bring well-structured songs to each other, and then we go from there. None of our songs come to completion until we play them together.

Why did you choose to play a mandolin as your primary instrument for this band?

Rashie: I have always loved it. Everyone in my family plays an instrument, and a lot of them play guitar. I was just more drawn to the mandolin, and it turned into my main instrument. I love how shimmery it sounds, and I love using different effects pedals with it.

What are some of your favorite pedals to use?

Rashie: I love using the Big Box Distortion Pedal, and I also have an Octave Pedal I like to use that allows me to play on the low and high end to help fill out our live sound. I just like playing around with the knobs, and I have even been able to get it to resemble the sound of an organ.


Why did you decide to name your band FERAL CONSERVATIVES?

Rashie: We were originally called FUCKING CONSERVATIVES, but we got a lot of negative reviews on that name so we decided to tone it down. The name is mostly a joke, but we don’t consider ourselves a “political band”.

At the end of your band biography, I noticed the disclaimer “We 100% equality and diversity through our lives, music, and applicable legislation.” What are some ways you have supported those causes through your music?

Matt: Mostly through our lyrical content. It’s something that weighs on us, and we don’t want to be tagged with the negative connotation of “conservatives”. Our music is more relational than political. We try to speak from a universal place that is not specific to any gender, race, or nationality. We write from the heart to convey love in its purest form. We don’t want our music to cut anyone out, and maybe we can do a better job at that. We want to make a humanitarian statement in our lives, and hopefully we can take it a step further. Personally, I love being in a female-fronted band, and it bothers me that it’s even looked at as its own genre. I think Rashie is the best front-person we could ever have.

I saw on your website that in addition to music, you both create art in other mediums, including acrylics and pencil, painting, 35mm photography, and digital filmmaking. Do you feel like these other creative outlets are helpful for your band?

Matt: I see our band as a giant art project. Rashie is super talented just as a painter and how she expresses herself on canvas. I think it’s one thing to have your art on display on an art show, but it’s even cooler to create a visual representation for your music. It gives an elevated sense to it. I also do graphic design, and I love doing the flyers for us. We have a joke between us on who gets to do the cover art for each release, and there is no shortage of ideas between us. It’s just fun to keep it “in house” to do our own videos, our own cover art, and it has been very rewarding so far.

What are your thoughts on the Virginia music scene?

Matt: I think being on the coast makes things difficult for bands in a beach town that aren’t a BEACH BOYS or JIMMY BUFFETT cover band. We live in Virginia Beach, and I have heard that the population doubles in size during the summer because of all the tourists that come here. We go to DC to branch out when we can, and we have started to play more house shows in the ODU college scene. The music scene feels more alive there.

Rashie: It’s very closed off, but there are people trying to build a more open, welcoming community. It’s funny because it’s easier for us to book a show in Philly than it is for us to book a show in our hometown. House shows are more of our scene, and we are trying to go to different cities and make new connections. That part of it has been fun.

Matt: We were also recently featured on YourMusicShow.com, which is a podcast featuring local bands one or two nights per week. It’s basically a rite of passage for bands in the Hampton Roads music scene, and you have to cram all your stuff into their kitchen and perform, which worked out well for us since there are only two of us. I can only imagine what it would be like for a full band.

Are there any bands or musicians in particular from Virginia that deserve more recognition?

Matt: We recently played a show at The Iguana, which used to be 37th and Zen, and there was a really cool band called I FIGHT VAMPIRES. It was a guy’s solo project. He plays with a plugged in electric guitar and a drum machine. It’s a post-hardcore thing, which I thought was really cool. Also, we really like BLACK BOOK, which is a really cool alternative 80’S type band. They were like PIXIES meets guitar rock influences.

Are you currently working on another EP or a full-length album?

Matt: Basically we already have another full-length written. For our first record, we recorded with Mark Padgett, who is the former bassist of MAE. We wanted to see how we got along with him, and as soon as we finished, we scheduled time with him again to do another single and B-side in May, with an early June release. We will be getting married at the end of June, and then after our honeymoon, we will get back into it. We really enjoy focusing on two songs and letting them live and breathe. Maybe in the fall we will do six songs as a bigger EP or just keep things fresh with two songs every two months.

I didn’t know you guys were engaged! That’s so awesome! Congratulations.

Matt: Thank you! I couldn’t resist a beautiful girl playing the mandolin.

Do you have any shows coming up that you would like to announce?

Matt: We actually just found out that the show we were supposed to play this weekend has been cancelled so our schedule is kinda dry at the moment, but we hope to do an east coast tour. We want to get out on the road again in the fall.

For more updates on FERAL CONSERVATIVES, be sure to visit their website, “like their Facebook page, follow them on Tumblr, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and be sure to check out their music, including their new two-song EP A D, on Soundcloud and Bandcamp.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Fairfax, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with his girlfriend Alex.

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