While attending UC Berkeley, Aptos native Kelsey Ferrell—who releases music under the name Feral—wrote a song about a guy she was casually dating. He heard about it and immediately assumed she was head over heels for him. And he made sure that anyone he talked to knew that she was obsessed with him.
She was not obsessed with him. He’d been more of a literary device for the song than anything else. In fact, Ferrell hadn’t been impressed with most of the guys she dated in college. After ending a long-term high school relationship, she felt excited about being single again. Her friends told her how much fun she was going to have.
“I was like, so unbelievably disappointed by the kind of guys I was seeing. And it was just astounding to me that the bar was that low, and I had bought into this branch of feminism that promoted a ‘sex-positive culture,’ which I think started with good intentions, but ultimately is a naive take,” Ferrell says.
But that one guy in particular got under her skin, and she thought about what she would say to him if she ever confronted him. A refrain circled in her head: “You don’t matter that much/You’re not the only loser that I fucked.” This inspired “Loser,” a full-on rebuttal song to this guy, and all the other guys too arrogant to see what poor dating options they were.
“It’s like the perfect thing I would say if I had to talk to him again,” Ferrell says.
“Loser” is a feel-good, snarky rock ’n’ roll song in the vein of early Liz Phair. Ferrell released it at the beginning of the year, and dropped its follow-up, “Native Speaker,” on Valentine’s Day. She’ll release a third single, “Church,” on March 26.
Aside from a batch of “quarantine demos” she released in the early portion of the pandemic out of sheer boredom, these are the first Feral releases since her Trauma Portfolio LP back in 2018.
In March, at the beginning of lockdown, she moved back to her parents’ house in Aptos and finished her schooling online. She recorded these three new songs with Jim Greer at the Rondo House studio in Berkeley in November. They are some of her strongest and best-produced songs to date, a mix between rock, folk, and alternative, performed with a bit of grit.
“Loser” is also one of her funniest tracks, with such lines as, “Telling me Joe Rogan’s genius doesn’t make me wanna suck your penis.” These kinds of punchlines aren’t new; her music always had had a sense of humor mixed with blunt vulnerability. She likes to tell people her genre is “TMI,” and that, “I’m not just an open book, I’m an open wound.”
Ferrell started playing music at a young age, but when she began college, she dove headfirst into songwriting, dealing with her recent heartbreak by joining a songwriting club.
“I just needed to express myself somehow,” she says.
During a semester at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, in early 2019, she tried her hand at stand-up comedy and loved it.
“I was nervous because it seems like much higher stakes. At least with music you can hide behind your guitar. But stand-up comedy, if you don’t make them laugh, you’re a total failure,” Ferrell says. “I figured, ‘If this goes badly, I can just leave the country.’”
Her new songs are her funniest yet. When she started to work with Greer on “Loser,” he suggested she write more jokes into it. She agreed.
As of now, Feral is a one-woman project, though that could change at some point if she could find her perfect riot grrl band to back her. But for now, she’s going to continue to dig her soul for honest, vulnerable, funny and perhaps inappropriate songs.
“I do want to give credit to Liz Phair and Alanis Morissette for setting the pathway for women to be able to sing about these topics,” Ferrel says. “I just want to give them credit for paving the way so that I can, you know, even feel comfortable writing these kinds of songs.”
For more information, check out Ferrell on Spotify or at 2feral.bandcamp.com.