Acclaimed Los Angeles-based band The Americans have recently released their intricate new EP, Strays, pushing the boundaries of their genre.
Strays is an impressive demonstration of the band’s ability to reinvent rock & roll through the prism of early folk and blues. Patrick Ferris (vocals/guitar), Zac Sokolow (guitar), and Jake Faulkner (bass) deliver an album that lands somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Nathaniel Rateliff.
The Americans’ last two releases, Stand True (2022) and I’ll Be Yours (2017), helped catapult the band into the spotlight. Revered producer T Bone Burnett called them “genius twenty-first century musicians that are reinventing American heritage music for this century. And it sounds even better this century.” Acclaimed music journalist Greil Marcus (Pitchfork) writes, “From the first rolling guitar notes, carrying sadness and defiance like dust, this sweeps me up: I want to know everything about where that feeling came from, and where it’s going.”
We had the chance to sit down with frontman Patrick Ferris to discuss the new EP, and what’s to come next for the band.
The Americans have been praised for their ability to combine multiple influences while remaining relatable. How do you manage to maintain this balance and keep your music accessible to a wide audience?
I don’t think we’ve ever considered how accessible a song is. We just try our best and hope someone likes it too.
The EP “Strays” introduces innovative arrangements and textures. Could you delve into how you approached experimenting with your sound while staying true to your Americana roots?
I think each album gets us a step closer to what we sound like. Strays is still heavily influenced by the music we care deeply about—a lot of that is pre-war blues and folk music—but it’s maybe a little more contemporary.
“Strays” explores new poetic avenues while building upon your previous work. How do you see this release contributing to the evolution of your songwriting and storytelling?
Our songwriting tends to orbit the same themes, but with different interpretations. A lot of Strays, like our previous releases, is about devolution and solitude.
“Land of the Free” carries themes of hope and solidarity. How do you envision your music’s role in inspiring listeners to reflect on societal issues and their personal connections?
There’s a lot of callousness and lack of compassion directed toward the homeless. Some people are afraid to see themselves in their faces. Others probably don’t want to think about the problem at all. Hopefully Land of the Free contributes some humanity.
Your band members have collaborated with notable artists and been part of prominent TV series and films. How have these experiences influenced your growth as musicians and performers?
It’s just been really encouraging to have our work recognized by people we admire.
The Americans’ live performances are known for their energy and engagement. How do you prepare to translate your studio recordings into captivating live shows?
A lot of the subtlety of the studio is lost in a live performance—the tones aren’t perfect, the mix isn’t perfect—but it’s replaced by energy and volume, which is exciting in a different way.
Patrick had mentioned a “purist” phase and a desire to create something new while invoking the spirit of old blues and country. How do you see this philosophy reflected in your approach to songwriting and genre-blending?
So much of what we do is informed by pre-war American music—our erratic approach to arrangement, our suspicion of modern drum parts, the way we play our guitars, Jake on upright bass…. Strays has plenty of those elements, but is maybe more modern than our previous records.
Your band’s history involves recording street musicians and embracing pre-war American music. How do you find inspiration from the past while creating music that resonates with modern audiences?
That’s the challenge. The key is to take the right lessons from the past. It doesn’t need to have a banjo or fiddle or a slide guitar. We try to write music that makes us feel something close to what the old music does for us.
The Americans’ sound has been compared to artists like Bruce Springsteen and Nathaniel Rateliff. How do you honor these comparisons while maintaining your distinct identity as a band?
That’s what they are—an honor! But we don’t have that much of a say in what we sound like. We just do our best and see what comes of it.