Reporting Scott T. Sterling
In the late ’90s, Save Ferris was riding high.
At the forefront of what’s considered ska’s “third wave” of popularity alongside such acts as No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Save Ferris produced MTV hits with songs like “The World is Now” and a cover of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ 1982 single, “Come On Eileen,” both taken from the band’s debut full-length, 1997’s It Means Everything.
Save Ferris would appear as the high school prom band in 1999 teen movie 10 Things I Hate About You, starring the late Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles, with the group moving towards more pop-oriented sounds on their second full-length, Modified, in 1999.
Going through a number of line-up changes heading into the new millennium, the band would eventually call it a day in 2002, with band members branching out into myriad bands and projects, including Starpool, which boasts a multitude of ex-Save Ferris musicians alongside Alan Meade, who’d been part of an early incarnation of No Doubt.
For lead singer Monique Powell, the happy memories of singing with Save Ferris were put in stark relief due to an unexpected health diagnosis.
“In November of last year, I was diagnosed with a congenital disorder that at one point almost forced me to make a choice between being able to walk and being able to sing, because of the nature of the surgery,” Powell revealed during an exclusive phone interview with Radio.com. “The doctors would have had to go through the front of my neck, and I would have lost my ability to sing, but if I didn’t have the surgery, there was a chance I’d no longer be able to walk after a few years.”
“It was a really scary time, and it forced me to reflect on my life and my abilities,” Powell continued. “All of the joy that Save Ferris brought me over the years and the fact that this is my 10-year anniversary of my last show with Save Ferris…I just decided I was going to find a doctor, we’re going to do this right, I’m going to have the surgery and then I’m going to play a Save Ferris show again.”
Powell scheduled the procedure, and came through with a renewed determination to bring Save Ferris back to life.
“January 27 was the surgery. I was hospitalized for about a week. I’ve been in physical therapy for three to five days a week in preparation for this show,” she explained. “It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made, because the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and it’s also given me something to get well for. It’s been an incredible time for me.”
Powell wasted no time in reviving Save Ferris, reaching out to her old bandmates in hopes of starting rehearsals for a July 27 show at the Pacific Amphitheater on the grounds of the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, CA. Opening acts include the English Beat and the Originalites.
Instead of a reunion, Powell says her former band-mates responded by releasing an online statement debunking the July 27 show.
“We feel it is important that fans of the band Save Ferris know that this is NOT a reunion show and the show will NOT include any original or former band member other than Monique Powell,” reads the statement. “We have not authorized Monique Powell to perform under the name Save Ferris and the original and former band members regret any confusion to our fans that may be caused as a result of any misleading statements or marketing materials disseminated by Ms. Powell or any other parties connected to this concert engagement.”
“It’s really a bummer,” Powell mused when asked about the statement. “It was bad, because we made efforts to ask most of the ex-members to play this show, and they didn’t get back to us about it. They just posted this statement. The lies are blatant in it. Them saying they were never asked is obviously not true. They were definitely asked to play the show, and they know it.
“It was sad, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting anything. The response on social media has been overwhelmingly positive,” the singer added. “The tickets are selling really well for the show. Nobody seems to be really caring about any of that. They’re just happy to be able to go to a Save Ferris show, have a great time, relive their youth, bring their kids and show them what all the hype was about. Our fans are grown up now.”
What’s the experience been like singing the old songs again?
Pretty crazy! I wrote or at least co-wrote most of the songs, but haven’t sung them in over ten years. First of all, I was dealing with a physical health issue. The entire structure of my neck has changed, so I had to kind of relearn how to sing again. That was definitely interesting. Then I started singing, and it just feels completely different than it used to feel. Then I had to go back to my notes and relearn some of the lyrics. Fortunately, I remembered more than I thought I would. It’s been really fun to play in this capacity again.
Can you talk about your new band members in Save Ferris?
All of them love the music and are great fans. They’re just amazing musicians and I feel really lucky that we’re playing together. I think the girls are going to go mad for them. They’re so cute. They’re a fabulous, fun bunch and I love them. I couldn’t and wouldn’t have chosen any less.
What can fans expect from the Save Ferris show at the Pacific Amphitheater on July 27?
It’s gonna be fun. We’re going to do a lot of reminiscing together. This show is for the fans, and we’re going to give them what they want, and then some. There will be some surprises, too. Hopefully, a lot of funnel cake will be involved. It can be kind of difficult to handle, but it’s all worth it once you get a bite in your mouth, even the powdered sugar all over my face and down the front of my shirt. Totally worth it.
What’s been your personal highlight of being in Save Ferris over the years?
I think selling out our first show was really exciting. It was at the Barn at University of California Riverside. That was our first sold out show, and when I realized that this music has an incredible effect on people and they want to hear these songs. That was the day I realized all of the hard work and sacrifice was worth it, and I never looked back.
What are your memories of being on the set of the movie 10 Things I Hate About You?
That was great. I remember there was so much buzz around Heath Ledger at the time, and I remember him being a really nice person. It was one of his first American films.
What does the future hold for Save Ferris after the show on July 27?
I’m definitely open to all of it. I didn’t expect the response to this show to be as positive as it’s been. It’s caused me to go back and sort of reevaluate what the future is going to hold. I think there are going to be more Save Ferris shows and definitely new music, which I’m working on as we speak.
Considering everything that’s happened, could you ever let bygones be bygones and play with your former Save Ferris band-mates again?
[Long pause] I never say never, but the damage has been so great on their part, on the part of a lot of ex-members. It was a revolving door through the years. There are a lot of former members of Save Ferris. I can’t say all of them are involved in the controversy, but I do know it’s hurtful not only to me, but to the fans. They don’t care about it and they don’t want to hear about it. But they also don’t appreciate being misled, and I believe that was the attempt of some of the ex-members. For us to ever play together again, there would have to be a certain amount of reparations made to the fans. They’re who I’m most concerned about.