Big Fresh
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Big Fresh


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"Big Fresh, Not Frozen"

It was one of those nights when The Icehouse couldn't help but live up to its name.

Outside, the late-January temperature held steady at 16 degrees, which might not have been a big problem had the Cross Street performance space been equipped with heat. But inside, The Icehouse had something that gave off a greater glow than any furnace.

It had Big Fresh.

As seasonal pick-me-ups go, few sounds are guaranteed to keep Old Man Winter at bay better than the bright charge of Lexington's Big Fresh. For more than a decade, the band has mixed summery soul, pop, dance grooves and more into a bright sound all its own.

This night, though, was special. The band's new album, B.F.F. (Big Fresh Forever), had surfaced. Within its grooves, you can hear the '80s synth-bop of WTO, the electronica soul of International Dateline (which sounds like Isaac Hayes with a looped groove) and the neo-New Wave raver Entertainment. Put all that together and you almost sense a spring thaw is at hand.

"We're all big music nerds," said Big Fresh guitarist-vocalist John Ferguson, who spent much of the past year on the road as a member of The Apples in Stereo. "We listen to anything and everything. We just love music, all genres of it, so much that the music we make comes out as a hodgepodge. There's a lot of pop in there. A lot of soundtrack, Ennio Morricone-type stuff in there. We all like jazz as well. We love all the '70s R&B stuff."

For Ferguson, B.F.F. comes at a time when life in and out of the band has evolved. After Big Fresh released its last recording more than six years ago, Ferguson became, in essence, a one-man publicity firm.

"We put the last album out ourselves," he said. "That whole process was kind of taxing. Printing the copies up, paying for them, finding distribution, trying to find college radio that would play them. ... I pretty much took it upon myself to do all of that. Afterward, I agreed I would never do anything like that again."

Enter Garden Gate Records, a new Lexington-based indie label that is issuing and promoting B.F.F. as its inaugural release. Garden Gate Records is spearheaded by Marcie Schneider. She's the wife of Ferguson's Apples in Stereo mate, Robert Schneider, who helped with the mastering of B.F.F.

"They've been working on these songs for years," Robert Schneider said. "So it's great to finally hear them on the record. John's incredible. He's one of the best singers I've ever heard. Hearing the record again, I can't get these songs out of my head. I've had dreams about them."

Ferguson said B.F.F. will be sent to national indie labels to gauge interest in larger-scale distribution. "We're open and willing for anyone to listen to it," he said. "But we're also super excited anyone would want to listen to it."

The mood at The Icehouse more than warmed things up (well, some high-powered space heaters helped). Schneider served as combination opening act and doorman while several Big Fresh alumni (vocalist Bryan Gore, keyboardist Daniel Coy) and auxiliary members (Austin, Texas, flugelhorn player Kullen Fuchs and guitarist Ben Phelan) beefed up the basic Big Fresh quartet (Ferguson, drummer Dave Farris, keyboardist Ben Fulton and bassist Jeremy Midkiff) into an eight-member performance carnival. And mingling throughout the crowd was one especially eager fan, Ferguson's 2-year-old daughter, Violet.

That brings up another change. Ferguson has become a father since the last Big Fresh album.

"Life happens," he said. "That's when the band gets put on the back burner. We would try to play a few times a year and maybe record new music a couple of times a month. So it took us a while to make this record.

"Violet loves the music, though. I use her as a litmus test not just for our music but for all music. If I play something and she starts boogieing down, then I know it's a hit."

The Icehouse crowd was full of longtime friends and fans, but Big Fresh will play largely to the unfamiliar on Saturday, as one of several acts at WUKY-91.3 FM's annual Heard It Through the Grapevine fund-raiser.

"We might actually wear suits for that show," Ferguson said. "And maybe play some cocktail jazz. It depends."

Playing to different and perhaps more discerning crowds is nothing new to Ferguson. He already has presented his pop-soul tunes to one of the toughest audiences in the country: his family.

"I actually played for my family one time at a house party my uncle put on. My grandparents were there. So were my aunts and uncles. At first, I was like, 'How can I do this?' But I managed."

And their verdict?

"They kind of smiled and nodded for the first song. By the third, the room pretty much was cleared." - Lexington Herald Leader

"Big Fresh Forever"

Big Fresh is Lexington, Kentucky’s eclectic pop outfit led by John Ferguson (The Apples in Stereo, Ulysses) and Jeremy Midkiff. They’ve released three albums so far, and their fourth, B.F.F., due for release January 24th, will be the first release on Garden Gate Records, a label started by members of Ideal Free Distribution. B.F.F. plays like a great lost prog-rock album, as though Brian Wilson had tried to revisit Smile in the 70’s with help from ELO. Standouts include “WLUV,” a semi-ironic Summer of Love anthem which nonetheless is catchy as hell, and “WTO,” an acidic piece of politics set to a churning beat. Joined by Ben Fulton (Ulysses), Daniel Coy, and Dave Farris, Big Fresh has matured into a pretty amazing band. Their album was mastered by Robert Schneider, and will be released next Thursday, with a record release party at The Icehouse in Lexington. You can listen to their music at the band’s MySpace page, and “WLUV” has been added to the newly-updated Optical Atlas streaming jukebox.

1. Secret Public
3. Janius
4. WTO
5. Joybomb #1
6. Large Crowds
7. Losing Friends to War
8. Entertainment
9. International Dateline
10. Joybomb #2
11. Satan, No
12. Jean Jammin’
13. Heat Death of the Universe

- Optical Atlas


Yes, Nice, Please, Thanks.; 2001

B.F.F. (Big Fresh Forever); 2008



Big Fresh is an indie-pop collective from Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.A. who have been performing and recording together for ten years. Members of the group also play in The Apples in Stereo, Ulysses, and Deek Hoi.

Equally acclaimed for ambitous studio productions, and for hyperactive live shows incorporating elements of absurdist performance art, the members of Big Fresh appear together in various combinations. From garagey new wave rockers, to electronic experimentalists, to an eight-piece orchestra with dense vocal and instrumental arrangements reminiscent of Smile-era Beach Boys, one never knows what to expect when Big Fresh take the stage.

The group's brand new record "B.F.F.: Big Fresh Forever" (Garden Gate Records, 2008) was seven years in the making: time well-spent, apparent in the wild splashes of color and infinite number of pop hooks.

Lexington Herald-Leader: "For more than a decade, the band has mixed summery soul, pop, dance grooves and more into a bright sound all its own."

Optical Atlas:"B.F.F. plays like a great lost prog-rock album, as though Brian Wilson had tried to revisit Smile in the 70's with help from ELO."