Ferren Gipson can’t remember how many schools she’s attended. She’s never been fussed enough to count. Thanks to her father’s position in the military, the 25-year-old lived in Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Wyoming before stopping in Denver for four years to go to university. Post-college you might imagine she’d be keen to stay put, but Ferren had other ideas. “I wanted to leave the country and experience something else and I thought the easiest way to do it was to study for my master's in the UK,” she explains. A fortuitous move, because it was at the School of Oriental and African Studies (part of University of London) that she met Tom Lloyd (27, half-Malaysian, makes a mean beef rendang). It was in a tiny dorm room where they recorded their debut EP, 2011’s Eyes On You. Given that the duo didn’t even own a mic stand—the mic picked up their tunes from its perch dangling over the wardrobe door—their EP is relatively polished for a DIY collection. And eclectic too. “Little Bit” could be Sleigh Bells at their most mellow, while "Shinin" is digi-beat-blasted, cut-and-paste, R&B-inflected pop.
Read my interview with Pandr Eyez below and check out this FADER exclusive—the debut of their upcoming single, “Physical Education” (out on Double Denim on November 26). An attitudinal slice of ’80s pop with sugary soul girl refrains and an unhurried, laconic sing-speak verse, this song is definitely not about P.E.
Stream: Pandr Eyez, "Physical Education"
Do you remember the moment you met? FERREN GIPSON: I think I was complaining to a friend about a boy I was seeing in a kitchen at a party. I was going, 'He’s crazy, he’s going to kill me,' and Tom was all, 'Probably.' I was like, Thanks! Who’s this guy! Tom’s a bit cheeky. TOM LLOYD: She must be crazy if she’s talking about a guy wanting to kill her! Crazy begets crazy! GIPSON: I didn’t really think he was going to kill me. Ha! I just thought he wasn’t all there and I was right.
Was music a big part of your household as a child? GIPSON: I feel like what we listened to growing up really affected what we do, not that it sounds like what we do, but you take that into your consciousness. My dad listened to a lot of jazz, Earth Wind and Fire, Sade and Maze, but then my step-mom was big into old school hip hop. LLOYD: My dad had a huge record collection. I wasn’t really allowed to use the record player, though. You know when your friends come round and you change it to 45RPM and it goes really fast and you’re all laughing—I think that’s why I eventually ended up becoming a DJ.
Have either of you ever studied music or are you self-taught? LLOYD: I did study trombone at one point.
How old were you? LLOYD: Trombone still exists! It’s not that antiquated! I was like 10. GIPSON: “My trombone has really helped me in terms of my mixing!” LLOYD: Alright, that has nothing to do with it, but it is an instrument I learned and I had to read music! It’s a really unpopular instrument though, bit of a bad choice. It’s not very cool and it sounds a bit whack so I don’t know why I did it. I was in a jazz band but I should have learnt piano.
You released “Again and Again” for free last month, but what will you never tire of doing repeatedly? GIPSON: Eating. I love French fries, wine and travelling. These are all things I like to do again and again. And making music. LLOYD: Making a new song is the most exciting thing. GIPSON: Each song is hard won, there are so many ideas.
You both have a master's degree. My mom would approve. GIPSON: I wanted to be an art history professor. LLOYD: Before I did my master's I was like, anyone who does one is a sucker because you’re basically paying a lot of money for a degree that doesn’t mean much. But like an idiot, after a few years of work I was like, I’m bored, what can I do, and then there was the recession and there weren’t any jobs. I was like fuck it, I’ll do a master's and hopefully by the time I’ve finished that it’ll be better and I can get a slightly better job. That was my rationale.
Are there any other artists around right now who you feel a kinship with, or are you an island? GIPSON: We’ve played with THEEsatisfaction a couple of times, they’re nice girls, but they’re bigger in the States. Sometimes I think we’re an island. LLOYD: Do you think we’re an island?
A sort of island. An island with a drawbridge? LLOYD: Island-esque. I don’t feel like I know any people who are making music that’s quite like ours. GIPSON: Sometimes it freaks me out. We’ll be making something and I’ll be like, 'Shit, Tom, this doesn’t sound like anything else going on right now. Is that good or bad?' We don’t have a wave to ride. We don’t want to get lost in a movement, but we also don’t want to be an island. LLOYD: We want to be different, but you can’t always go against the grain. Although I think there are currents in what we do that relates to stuff going on now, but not exactly within a certain “hot” genre.
Right, because you were surprised when people felt you had an R&B vibe… GIPSON: Why do you know that? LLOYD: You know a lot of stuff. FERREN: Just like Nardwuar!
At last! GIPSON: R&B wasn’t in our sphere. LLOYD: It took me totally by surprise. “Little Bit” was the first thing to blow up and people kept mentioning the burgeoning “indie-R&B movement” and I was like, well shit, I’ve never heard that term! It’s weird to be tagged onto something we didn’t try and be part of. GIPSON: We don’t always fit perfectly into that distinct sound. Some of our stuff maybe, like, “Eyes On You”. But I wouldn’t say “Again and Again” is indie-R&B that’s just pop.