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There’s never enough instruments for the ‘Neverbeens’

By Meredith Deliso

When The Neverbeens play Pete’s Candy Store, the five-piece, multi-instrumental band will have to squeeze onto the venue’s small, intimate stage, especially as they pass off the guitar to play piano, or move from piano to play trumpet. “It takes a lot of discipline,” says Steve Ferrara, who plays lead guitar in the indie group, taking the stage on March 28. “You spend time almost like a football team – ‘You’re going to hand off this instrument.’ It is confusing and a nightmare to be our sound person.” While The Neverbeens live show is one thing, their recordings are also to behold. With Ferrara taking the helm as arranger, the trained musician, with a master’s degree in composition and arranging, brings all the strings and horns together seamlessly. In addition to Ferrara, who also plays mandolin, bass and the harmonica, as well as sings lead on a few songs, there’s Tali Hersh on lead vocals, guitar, piano and bass; Katie Fuller on drums; “The Reverend” Crawford Forbes on trumpet and piano; and Alejo on bass, piano and guitar. Though their lineup is fully realized now, in the beginning, The Neverbeens were just Ferrara and Hersh. While hosting an open mic night at Williamsburg’s Stain Bar once a month, Hersh, a solo artist at the time, came in to perform. In the songwriting jam that followed the event, Ferrara had the singer play on a song that he had no verse to, and that was that. Fuller heard the two were in need of a drummer and came aboard. Columbian native Alejo helped produce their record, last fall’s Straightline, playing bass on a few tracks, and “when something’s right you know it,” said Ferrara, and he came on board. Crawford, a self-ordained minister accomplished via the Internet (hence, “The Reverend”), a friend of Ferrara’s since middle school, just started jamming with the group on trumpet and piano, also playing on the record, and he soon rounded out the five. “I have to say that The Neverbeens is really everyone’s best project,” says Ferrara, who produced Regina Spektor’s first record. “A lot of us have been playing for a while, doing other things. This is really what felt best for all of us. We’re really excited about it.” The band’s name belies their excitement. Originally named the Bystanders, until they to their dismay they realized it was already taken. A friend of Hersh’s came up with The Neverbeens. “Basically, we’re all in our late 20s and early 30s. We had allusions of grandeur when we were in our teens and early 20s. It’s not like we’re has-beens. We just want to be independent,” says Ferrara. “The artists we admire aren’t these artists that are on the radio or VH1.” Those artists include Suzanne Vega, singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur, soul songstress Cat Power and indie rock stars Bright Eyes – artists who they also model their music after, as their intricately arranged instruments and Hersh’s lush, edgy voice combine for music that is immediate, catchy and meditative (check out the country-ish “Red Tape” as a perfect example of their fully realized harmonies and melodies). “I just love instruments,” says Ferrara, a Bushwick-based musician who has traveled the world, including India and Brazil, picking up instruments along the way. “There are tons of percussion instruments on the record. We all kind of collect whenever we travel.” After last fall’s Straightline, which they are currently supporting, the group is ready to get back in the studio to record their follow up. “I think the biggest thing is that it’s going to be a much more mature record,” says Ferrara. As a band, the group has perfected their live act, and their next album is going to be a live record. Rather than rush through and record like they did on their first album, the band plans on taking a different approach, taking it two or three songs at a time and really focusing on each one as they record at their studio in East Williamsburg. “I love Straightline and I think it’s a great record, but the way the band’s feeling now, and with the songwriting, I think this record is going to be great,” says Ferrara. For their upcoming show at the intimate space, expect a more sparse sound compared to what they’ve recorded, with more of a sentimental songwriter quality. Despite big ambitions, there are only so many instruments you can fit on one stage. The Neverbeens play Pete’s Candy Store (709 Lorimer Street) on March 28 at 9 p.m. For more information, call 718-302-3770 or go to www.petescandystore.com. For more on the band, go to www.myspace.com/theneverbeens or theneverbeens.com.

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