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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


I always thought "Lord Of The Flies" author William Golding's combination of characters Sam and Eric into one reference, Samanderic, was a clever trick, given the two boys' close relationship and parallel personalities.

And so, having interviewed Keith Ferguson and Parker Hutchinson of World Leader Pretend at the same time, over the phone, with little or no way to tell which of the verbose musicians was saying what, within this story they shall be collectively referred to as KeithandParker. These two founding members of World Leader Pretend have been playing together for years and also work together to write, arrange, produce and mix the band's music, so I figure it's OK for our purposes here.

The New Orleans-based band has been gaining popularity over the past year, following the release of its first album, "Fit For Faded," and its subsequent radio play on college stations across the country (including Northwest Arkansas' KXUA.) Filled with melancholy lyrics and gadgetry that surround an organic core, "Fit For Faded" is a clear reflection of the band's obsession with British power pop of the late 1990s, bands like The Verve and Radiohead. Sonically interesting and hard to define or classify, the work was declared one of New Orleans' "Albums of The Year" by Offbeat Magazine.

As an indication of where the band is today, however, "I wouldn't take that album too seriously," KeithandParker reveal. "We've gotten all that out of our systems, and we're trying to escape the '90s." With new influences that include Motown, early Nico and old Dusty Springfield albums, World Leader Pretend's music is "less mathematical," KeithandParker say, and more heartfelt. "It's all over the place," according to the twosome. "It's more fun that way."

The band has already begun writing for its next album and will return to the recording studio later this summer. "It's going to be sexy," KeithandParker say with a laugh. "We'll give you that much." Until then, however, World Leader Pretend will be touring the Midwest, adding to the large fanbase it already has at home. "It's going to be strange to see how people outside New Orleans react," KeithandParker say of the band's first tour, which kicks off tonight with a show at the Copper Bar in Fayetteville.

Translating their sound to a live show is easy, KeithandParker agree. "We're trying to make everything noisy and energetic. Things usually take on a life of their own on stage anyway."

Ellipsis, another New Orleans-based band , will open for World Leader Pretend . - Amy M. Cotham


When starting out -- in music and all other dabblings -- it's best to go with what you know. World Leader Pretend is evidently familiar with this practice; which is good, as long as the band equally understands the importance of progression.

The New Orleans quartet recently released its debut LP, Fit for Faded, which is an exquisite piece of indie-rock. It's especially good because it's WLP's first time up to the plate. It isn't pretentious rubbish, but it isn't groundbreaking either. And it probably sounds awfully familiar, which is the album's attraction. The 11 tracks are essentially Travis and Radiohead b-sides, circa 1997.

The first three tracks on the album (hopefully a sign of things to come) give the impression that the album's sound is fresh. But they are the lone signs of novel creativity on Fit for Faded.

"Panic Button" is a wash of cowbells and keyboards flowing lazily into a dreamy guitar riff, which gives way to the song's vocal/ percussion/ guitar tornado of a chorus. "The Driving Rain" is a lethargic acoustic ditty equipped with spooky keyboards, while "Your Tax Dollars at Work" and its sonic, white-man rap leads into a U2-style chorus break.

The rest of the tunes on the record showcase the battle of main artistic themes in the band; whether they should play like Radiohead or Travis.

WLP's penchant for Travis pops up on "A Small Thought" and "Fire with Fire." The strummy guitars and balladeer vocals (I'm starting to like bad films 'cause they remind me of/ my life and all the over-rated screenplay loves) make for bashfully bliss sentiments that are no stranger to the Travis catalog.

After listening to this album, one thing is overwhelmingly true. Lead singer Keith Ferguson tends to sound exactly like Thom Yorke. And with a voice like that, your band will never go unnoticed.

On the title track "Fit for Faded" and "Headlights," Ferguson's voice is the centerpiece of broody, dream-rock reminiscent of OK Computer. His falsetto, whether building to crescendo or writhing with desire, is the setting for the embrace of instrumental soundscapes.

The finale of Fit for Faded is another Radiohead-esque tune, "Theme." The song is one of the best examples of WLP using their musical influences as a springboard for it's own sound -- not quite unique, but the band may be getting there. The epic song includes brass and piano solos melding with spirited guitar work, and the tune winds down with an inspiring sing-along over instrumental amalgamation.

If WLP sounds like one of the greatest bands of our time on it's debut record, the band is not far-off base musically. WLP made a great record, and might be poised to become a great band -- as long as these guys don't drown in the sea of their own influences.
- Nick Margiasso





“4 stars.” “Intelligent, oblique and though-provoking pop.”
-All Music Guide


“Ferguson, bassist Parker Hutchinson and drummer Arthur Mintz, World Leader Pretend's three core members, may be poised as the next rock band to break out of New Orleans.”
-Times Picayune (New Orleans, LA), August 29, 2003
written by Keith Spera


“Barely in their 20s, these kids have the youth, beauty, and urgency to blow up with self-effacing post-rock.”
-Gambit Weekly (New Orleans, LA), October 28, 2003
written by Christina Dittenger


“There’s nothing imaginary about World Leader Pretend’s future. If it’s not paved with gold records and Brit magazine covers, something’s wrong.”
-City View (Des Moines, IA), June 11, 2003
written by Justin Kendall


“they further amaze me with their staggering debut, Fit for Faded…a powerhouse of a debut that will surely hold a spot on my year-end list of favorites.”
-Free Times (Columbia, S.C.), August 13, 2003
written by Kevin Foster Langston


“World Leader Pretend is promoting its debut album, Fit For Faded, and electronically laced rock album bursting with lovely vocals and keyboard/bass/guitar interplay.”
-College Music Journal, August 4, 2003
written by Antonia Santangelo


“Everything on Fit for Faded gels to a level of near perfection.”
-Hitch Magazine, Summer 2003


“Sonically interesting and hard to define or classify, the work (Fit for Faded) declared one of ‘Albums of the Year.’”
-The Morning News (Fayetteville, AR), June 5, 2003
written by Amy M. Cotham


“currently rocking my world... feeding my ears candy while simultaneously sending chills up and down my spine.”
-IGN.com, April 25, 2003
written by Spence D.


“‘All good things mesh together’, Ferguson sings—and on this track, and many others on this fine debut, he is absolutely right.”
-Splendid, June 16, 2003
written by Jennifer Kelly


“These boys are also impressive for producing and mixing their debut… It’s solid work from a promising group.”
-Modern Fix, July 2003
written by Skruck


“stands out as one of the most unique releases from the city of new Orleans.”
-The Arcade (Tulane University), April 25, 2003
written by Spencer Tracy


“(World Leader Pretend) recently released its debut LP, Fit for Faded, which is an exquisite piece of indie-rock…World Leader Pretend made a great record, and might be poised to become a great band.”
-The Oracle (University of South Florida), May 20, 2003
written by Nick Margiasso


“If you like college rock radio, check out Fit for Faded and get ready for the band’s follow-up, which they will spend the latter part of this summer recording.”
-Slug Magazine, June 2003
written by Fat Tony


“amazingly mature music from such a young band.”
-BabySue.com, May 2003


“The debut release by this New Orleans-based quartet is a daring piece of soft-pop originality… Check out these very young and very talented artists.”
-Skratch Magazine, July 2003
written by Dug


“It’s hard to find such verve and vivacity in lads who are not yet old enough to buy alcohol outside of their own state.”
-Free Weekly (Columbia, S.C.), August 13, 2003
written by Kevin Foster Langdon


“The most pleasant music in the world. Yet the most ominous as well.”
-Rocktober (Chicago, IL), Issue # 36
written by Waymon Timbsdale


“We absolutely love the sound that World Leader Pretend is striving for.”
-CMJ New Music Report, May 19, 2003
written by Brad Maybe


“their music is finely executed and has a unique texture.”
-Impact Press, July 2003


“kids are gonna need you to be buying their albums and loving them in their entirety.”
-Tastes Like Chicken, August 2003
written by Vinnie Baggadonuts


“If this were England, they’d be The Next Big Thing …We’d be seeing them under big light shows, and the press would write about them and show pictures of them that would make record executives on both coasts consider rearranging their release schedules to make them a priority.”
-Offbeat Magazine (New Orleans, LA), October 2002
written by Alex Rawls


“Making quite an impact on college radio and on the road, World Leader Pretend has the makings of being a great rock band.”
-GuerillaOne.com, May 19, 2003


“somebody besides me sees a band people should be able to make money by backing."
-Offbeat Magazine (New Orleans, LA), November 2002
written by Alex Rawls


“Even though Fit for Faded takes some cues from Oxford’s finest, it’s also the birthing of a young band’s own sound.”
-College Music Journal (CMJ)
written by Brad Maybe, October 13, 2003 - multiple


World Leader Pretend's influences are striking on their debut album, Fit for Faded. The sound is a combination of early '90s grunge and alternative British rock bands such as Badly Drawn Boy, the Beta Band and Radiohead. The latter comparison is the most notable because of the stark resemblance of lead singer Keith Ferguson's voice to the whiny vocals of Radiohead's Thom Yorke. Though not a unique sound, the New Orleans-based quartet has the chops to stand on its own, as long as they continue to explore new sounds as they have on Fit for Faded.

Most of the tracks are slow and extremely melodic, containing an underlying melancholy. But the band's ability to experiment with different genres adds to the variation within the album. The first track, "Panic Button," wonderfully blends experimental percussion and harsher grunge guitars. The same ability is evident in the more Radiohead-esque "Fish" and the punkish, rage-filled "Shape-Shifter," which contains screaming vocals and hard-rock-guitar.

"Your Tax Dollars At Work" has interesting synthesizer beats and blends different voices in a spoken rap-like theme. The title track calls to mind the instrumentals of Ben Lee and uses a single synthesized tone to indicate the inherent loneliness.

Fit for Faded ends with "Theme," a blues and jazz-oriented track that shows the influence of World Leader Pretend's hometown. It fades out with several brass instruments playing random and dissonant notes. With all the sad undertones in the song and the album as a whole, it still ends on a positive, hopeful note. - Tami Shaloum


Obviously, I was a Radiohead fanatic," says Keith Ferguson, World Leader Pretend's vocalist, guitarist and songwriter. "When I was 16, I thought 'OK Computer' was the greatest album ever made. My craft is rooted in 'OK Computer.'"

Other audio influences affected Ferguson in his formative years as well, The Pixies and Talking Heads among them. But even a casual listen to "Fit For Faded," World Leader Pretend's debut CD, confirms that Radiohead loomed especially large.

The dynamics of several cuts recall Radiohead circa "The Bends" and "OK Computer": Crisp acoustic guitar strumming punctuated by jackhammer drums. Otherworldly keyboard chimes. A delicate voice that ascends into falsetto range. An inherent sense of melancholy. In the song "A Small Thought," Ferguson essentially channels Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke, so close are their tones.

Ferguson wrote much of "Fit For Faded" while still a student at Vandebilt Catholic High School in Houma, before he even had a band. Now 21 and a senior at Loyola, his Radiohead ardor has cooled, and he is eager to record World Leader Pretend's next album, which he promises will sound much different.

But "Fit For Faded" still has not run its course. Regardless of the Radiohead factor -- and what young songwriter does not ape his influences before finding his own voice? -- "Fit For Faded" is a striking debut, laden with poise and compelling, carefully scripted arrangements.

The album was first released independently by the band, then the local firm Renaissance Records remastered it, revamped the artwork and re-released it this spring. Favorable notices from the tastemakers at the College Music Journal and college radio stations around the country followed.

As World Leader Pretend prepares to headline a free show Saturday at Tipitina's, it is the local buzz band of the moment. Summer tours of the Midwest and East Coast left audiences, critics and music industry insiders talking. Ferguson, bassist Parker Hutchinson and drummer Arthur Mintz, World Leader Pretend's three core members, may be poised as the next rock band to break out of New Orleans.

Growing up in Houma, Ferguson taught himself guitar by age 12, then piano at 15. He had never written a complete song when, encouraged by his high school friend Hutchinson, he started on the 11 that became "Fit For Faded."

"I just wrote a bunch of songs that had absolutely nothing to do with each other," Ferguson said. "People liked them, so we made an album."

Not immediately. It wasn't until after Ferguson and Hutchinson enrolled at Loyola and Tulane, respectively, that the album came about. They didn't even have a band name until fellow Loyola students made a video for the Ferguson composition "Fire With Fire." The night before its debut on Loyola's closed-circuit television network, Ferguson and Hutchinson flipped through a pile of albums and came across the song "World Leader Pretend," from R.E.M.'s "Green."

World Leader Pretend recorded "Fit For Faded" in a friend's Nashville Street basement. To Ferguson and Mintz -- who drummed on several songs, even though he wasn't yet an official member of the band -- the recording is crude, falling far short of their ambitions.

"You can't just go mike a drum set and record a drum track and expect it to have character," Ferguson said. "That's what we did on 'Fit For Faded.' You have to create architecture and space and character, and it doesn't have that at all. It's the way you record, it's how you mike the room, it's how you mix, it's where you put reverbs. We need a good engineer who has a capacity to translate our ideas onto tape."

They found a business partner in Renaissance Records. Co-founder Robert LeBlanc graduated from Vandebilt High and enrolled at Loyola several years before Ferguson. He and Eric Delgado created Renaissance to promote Mental Metropolis and Bionik Brown, hip-hop acts fronted by fellow Loyola students.

Positive hip-hop was not destined to be a commercial force in New Orleans, so LeBlanc and Delgado retooled Renaissance to produce special events and product launches. But LeBlanc kept tabs on Ferguson's progression as a songwriter.

Convinced of Ferguson's talent, LeBlanc plunged Renaissance back into music with World Leader Pretend. Renaissance reissued "Fit For Faded" and fashioned a national marketing plan, and also manages the band.

The addition of Mintz on drums completed the puzzle. As a student at Isidore Newman School, he also attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He studied drumming with Astral Project's Johnny Vidacovich and gigged with keyboardist Davell Crawford, the funk group Kipori Funk and blues guitarist Kipori Woods.

Side trips to earn a film degree from Columbia College in New York and work for a San Francisco animation company took him away from the drums. He eventually returned to New Orleans to write and perform in musicals, including a puppet production of "Amadeus." His - Keith Spera - Music Writer


June 18, 2003 -

The debut album from New Orleans' World Leader Pretend starts out with a bang, thanks to the quiet intensity of "Panic Button," a gem of a song that crashes, collides with subdued minimalism and kinetic brashness. Beginning with nothing more than cow bell rhythmic interlays that shift from channel to channel, warm keyboard and bass churgles, and plinkingly melodic guitar as frontman Keith Ferguson quietly croons in a waifish wail before dipping into the repeated refrain of "pickin' up fire on the radio wire..." Which is exactly where the song turns from low-key mesmerization into almost chaotic flurry, guitars skirling and skidding to and fro before returning to the serenity that laid the way. The track is simply brilliant and heralds the listener into what could easily be a milestone in modern independent rock.

From these contrasting beginnings the band slips into the ambiently dystopian "The Driving Rain," a haunting, neo-musical lament in which Ferguson yelps and gallops his vocal chords, at times sounding like a gruff, sleep deprived Beck, and other times sounding like a cat whose paw has been stepped on by a pair of Doc Martins. The chorus, however, is beguilingly hypnotic, presenting a dreamy melody that flanges to and fro before dipping into a quasi-acoustic passage. As with the lead in track, this song shifts and swirls in a haze of moody effervescence.

By the time the band hits the third track, "Your Tax Dollars At Work," it's blatantly obvious that this Big Easy based quartet is walking a path far removed from the brass band and swamp jazz theatrics of their home base. And weird amalgamation of electronic tinkering, brash, guitar surges, and constrained vocalistics, it's merely the crowning slot in what is easily the strongest 3-song opening of any indie rock album in a long, long, long time. The way the song begins with happy industrial electronic thrusts and sci-fi induced whirs and garrushes and vocoder enhanced robotic vocals leads one to believe that the band is about to embark on some Gary Numanesque tomfoolery. However, as with their two previous tracks, the band breaks out on the chorus, exposing a wholly different sonic slant, especially when Ferguson's voice breaks through the computerized blurble and crackles with raw emotion over ragged guitar riffage.

Alas, World Leader Pretends innovative originality takes a side trip on "A Small Thought," a song that could easily be mistaken for a Radiohead B-side. Ferguson affects a completely dead-on Thom Yorke vocal aesthetic for the opening passage of the song. The loping keyboard bits and gently strummed acoustic guitars don't deter from the Radiohead comparisons, either. And when the track bleeds off into ether space for the final minute, the similarity between the two bands is only further strengthened.

The sonic similarities continue on the title track, gentle keyboards and a staggered rhythm track shuffling underneath Ferguson's quietly subdued vocals, which once again bring to mind Thom Yorke, at least during the verses. This isn't to say that this is a bad song; it just lacks the creative originality of the first three songs, which were so obviously distinctive as to be nothing other than World Leader Pretend compositions.

"Fire With Fire" tosses some minor country twang into the mix on the guitar side of things, but Ferguson's falsetto and the underlying electronic lushness of the track continue to conjure up images of Oxford's favorite musical sons. "Flow" breaks the bends, so to speak, unleashing a nice, gritty musical backdrop as Ferguson shifts up his vocal stylings just enough to end the Thom Yorke comparisons for the meantime. This track is the closest that the band comes breaking down a classic blues tune. The band's voice once again succumbs to the Radiohead curse they seem unable to crawl out from under on "Headlights." Once again Ferguson affects a floating falsetto over minimal musical backing, making the track sound like an outtake from either Kid A or Amnesiac Hey, it's one thing to have influences, but to wear them so glaringly on your sleeve almost gets to be too much.

Thankfully the next track, "Shape-Shifter" does a complete back flip, coming off like some bugged out Oingo Boingo (minus the big band blast) inflected punk bash-out. The chicka-chicka roiling of the guitars create a supple rhythm groove over which Ferguson rants and raves, the band kicking out the jams with unbridled frenzy. At the minute thirty five mark, the track slows down to an almost lounge slink, Ferguson's wail being tamed to a raspy wisp before the guitars kick in and he begins scream therapy verbal ejaculation again. A nice twist after the band's excursion into lush Brit Pop mimicry.

"Fish" straddles the line between sounding like World Leader Pretend doing themselves and World Leader Pretend doing Radiohead, Ferguson's voice flitting between nice, warm growling and falsetto as the band shi - Spence D.


Discography

Fit for Faded - 2002

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

“It’s like waking up to your alarm clock and Fear of a Black Planet is blaring in the speakers…. then you listen to a lot of Neil Diamond, and you’re alright.” Unsettled, confused, frightened- we’ve all been there---the thought, “What the hell do we do now?” resonates through young minds---World Leader Pretend’s solution is to purge their fears through music.

World Leader Pretend’s debut release, Fit for Faded (May 2003), is the ultimate remedy for angst, and an expression of pent-up determination. The album features many lush sonic layers of organic strings, jagged and unnerving guitar riffs, dreamy basslines, and eerie keyboard parts blended together over powerful drum tracks, all pulled together by the melancholy voice of lead singer Keith Ferguson.

The band’s drive, ambition, and creative force stem from its founders, Ferguson and Parker Hutchinson. Ferguson, who also plays guitar, writes and arranges the majority of the music. He and keyboardist Hutchinson share the duty of writing lyrics. With offerings of rock, pop, and electronica, they create the band’s catchy and organically melodious sound. Drummer Arthur Mintz is the backbone of the band. His over-the-top attitude combined with his ability to play sharply and with reckless abandonment simultaneously set the tone for World Leader Pretend’s incredible live shows. For almost a year, the barely twenty-one year-old members have maintained the status of one of New Orleans’s best kept secrets until now. In a town of mostly jam-band fans, World Leader Pretend has carved out its own audience with its self-effacing rock style, and many bands and fans in New Orleans are now beginning to follow suit.

Fit for Faded received rave reviews from local and national music critics. Offbeat Magazine declared it one of New Orleans’ “Albums of the Year,” and All Music Guide gave it a four-star rating. The release also managed to reach number 121 on the CMJ charts, having made significant inroads for the band at college radio. The album did particularly well along the East Coast, throughout the Southeast, and all through the Midwest. In order to capitalize on the radio and media exposure, World Leader Pretend embarked on a summer tour that brought them up the East Coast and throughout the Midwest, making a significant impact in major markets such as Chicago and New York City. So as the finish their final semester of college, the band dedicated most of fall to taking short road trips throughout the Southeast and to writing all of the material for World Leader Pretend’s sophomore follow-up, Punches. The highlight of World Leader Pretend’s fall performance schedule saw the band take the main stage with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and The White Stripes at this year’s Voodoo Music Experience. Additionally, the band was chosen as one of seven finalists selected from over 400 bands in the Memphis chapter of The Recording Academy’s songwriting competition, and the band will compete with other finalists in a live performance to be given in mid-November.

In December, World Leader Pretend will be taking their act to the Mercada studios in New York City to record their follow-up album, Punches. Upon completion of the mixing and mastering process in early January, World Leader Pretend will embark on a four month tour throughout the Eastern portion of the country to reinforce its growing fan-base before Punches is released in late spring.

With all of these accomplishments from a band that has been together just under a year and with an average age of just 21, it would be no stretch to consider World Leader Pretend the absolute convergence of youth, vision, talent, and energy in American music today, and a band from which great things will inevitably come.