San Fermin Allen Tate


My fellow Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Allen Tate has been around the world and back again as the lead vocalist of lauded baroque chamber-pop band San Fermin. Due to release their much-awaited third album Belong and start an international tour, we saw San Fermin take the SXSW stage at the Lustre Pearl.

The packed, sweaty crowd ceased its background talk to sway along and smile as the band performed, its energy (particularly manifested through Tate’s awesome dance moves) clearly contagious. The show was simply fun–for both the crowd and San Fermin itself, evidenced by their collaborative, harmonious stage presence. It makes sense, then, that Tate’s solo album Sleepwalker, released back in December, was produced by San Fermin mastermind Ellis Ludwig-Leone. We caught up with Tate after the show to talk about his performances, concerts as both spectator and musician, and more.

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ALLI (HIGHLARK): Let’s go back to the beginning–what was the first song you learned how to play? 

ALLEN TATE (LEAD VOCALIST // SAN FERMIN): Probably a Nirvana song. “Lithium” or something like that, on guitar.

ALLI: Hardcore. What was the first concert you attended?

ALLEN: It’s really embarrassing. I saw O.A.R. in the 7th grade. It was at the–well, it used to be called the Tweeter Center–it’s the BB&T Pavillion now, in Camden, New Jersey. It was not memorable. Don’t tell O.A.R. I said that though.

ALLI: We won’t say anything! And what was your first show with San Fermin like?

ALLEN: The first time we ever played was December 2012. We’d made the [first record, titled San Fermin] already, and we thought, “Well, we should try and do this, ’cause why not.” We just played one show, at Pianos in New York City. It holds about 100 people, and we begged all of our friends to come. It was just them and maybe ten record label people who had heard one of the songs. Then there were thirteen of us on the stage and it was probably more crowded than the show we just played [at SXSW, which HIGHLARK can attest was extremely crowded]. And none of us knew what we were doing, I’m pretty sure I wore a tucked-in shirt and tie; one of my friends told me I looked like a bible salesman. Not a good look. We’ve come a long way.

ALLI: Literally–you guys have toured internationally too. Any memorable shows?

ALLEN: We did Latvia over the summer. We were there for 24 hours, and it was surreal. The flights were miserable but once we were there it was awesome. We played this cleared-out field surrounded by pine trees, but if you walked through the trees you were on the beach.  It was our drummer’s 30th birthday and our flight was the next morning, so we stayed up all night and went to this hole-in-the-wall bar. It was Noam Chomsky themed. We had a good time. We found alcohol–that’s all you gotta do.

ALLI: What’s your favorite song to play live?

ALLEN: “Parasites.” it’s one we’ve been playing for a while and people seem to like it. It’s got a big saxophone solo at the end, which is great. And then we have a new song called “Dead,” where my guitar part doesn’t have a ton of notes, I’m just making noise. And I don’t have to sing so I just kinda stand in the back and step on all my pedals and do weird stuff, and I can do whatever I want every time we play it. I’m just grabbing the guitar neck and making mad noises. It’s fun.

ALLI: And what’s your favorite song to cover?

ALLEN: Up until recently we were doing a cover of “Heart in a Cage” by The Strokes, which is just a ripper of a song. We closed the shows with it. We put all the guitar lines on the sax so it was cool.

ALLI: Speaking of covering–if you could play any other instrument, what would it be?

ALLEN: I can’t play drums to save my life. But if I could, I’d wanna play drums. It looks really cool. But I’m terrible so I definitely shouldn’t switch.

ALLI: Finally, if you could duet with any other SXSW act, who would it be?

ALLEN: Jay Som is killer. I found her totally by accident, but I tweeted at her, “Your record’s amazing.” So I actually hope we’ll do something together.


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Live Photos © Brad Tucker. All Rights Reserved. // Featured Image © Sonic Highlark. All Rights Reserved.

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