Arrah and The Philly Ferns.
Arrah and the Ferns is not the same band it was six years ago. Not even close. That is all for the better, according to frontwoman Arrah Fisher.
“We’re definitely a rock band more than we are a folk band or a cute band,” she says. “We’re not cute. We’re ballsy.”
Fisher, who co-founded the band in 2005 while in Muncie, Indiana, moved from the Midwest to Philadelphia in 2008 with former bandmate Carl Stovner. The original lineup had disbanded earlier that year, just shy of completing what would eventually be their sophomore album All the Bad in One Place. Their first album, Evan is Vegan, was a folksy debut.
After their relocation to Philly, Fisher and Stovner played on and off under names such as Woodlands, or simply Arrah until the band’s former record label no longer had the rights to the name.
After a 2009 reunion tour with the original members, Stovner and Fisher released All the Bad in One Place and then put together the Philly Ferns, which produced the EP Solider Ghost. Stovner eventually left the group but Arrah continued with the new lineup, developing a heavier sound than the airy folk and alternative country sound of the their earlier work.
“The music definitely still has the potential to go that way,” says Ryan Belski, the band’s lead guitarist. “As a band, we’ve kind of started to float away from that. And it feels natural. It doesn’t feel forced which makes it interesting and cool.”
“All of the musicians come from different backgrounds, so it’s interesting to see how our different backgrounds meld to create music for Arrah’s songs,” says drummer Mike Harkness.
Fisher says it can be strange sometimes to play under the same name with a new band and new music. Sometimes, mostly on tour, fans want to hear the older songs.
“It’s weird but at the same time I think it’s good to see the transition over time,” she says.
Listening to a song like “Apple for Evan” on Evan is a Vegan and then a song like “Pumpkin” from Solider Ghost, the difference is clear. For one, Fisher traded in her acoustic guitar for an electric one, a change that alone prompts more headbanging than toe-tapping. Also, while Fisher’s lyrics have transitioned from youthful to more mature, they are always confessional and intimate.
Fisher says that she, Belski, Harkness and bass guitarist Buddy Szczesniak are committed to staying on their current track.
“I feel we’re at the best we’ve ever been,” she says. “We’ve had more than two years now to play together. The stuff we’re coming up with is, in my opinion, amazing. The goal is just to share it with people and hopefully people will enjoy and respect us. That’s all we can do.”