Eric Sferro is a product of the 80s, born towards the end of that most distinctive decade and he has he taken the spirit from that period and fired it through a neon collider to produce some of the finest synthwave, retro-electronica and futuresynth over the last 10 years or so. To find a unique sound amongst an overcrowded genre is no small trick and Sferro has managed to achieve this, producing distinctive 80s Italo-funk bangers packed full of bright-eyed optimism and glacial melodies.
Relatively little is known about this elusive producer/musician so it was a real honour that Sferro agreed to answer some questions and put together a playlist of favourite tracks and influences for us, giving us a rare insight into how he thinks and works (you can find his Spotify playlist at the beginning of the Q&A). I have also transferred the playlist into a handy mix at the top of the article.
Recording as Sferro since 2008, his sound is cloaked in a love of French house giving his music an upbeat, euphoric and danceable quality. Outpacing his contemporaries, Sferro continues to tweak and refine his sound, managing to avoid repetition while retaining his signature style.
A quick glide through his extensive discography opens up a wide vista of solo and collaborative work. Like much of the synthwave genre, Sferro’s music is very visual with a distinct aesthetic evoking the bright, optimistic glow of the 80s.
As well as being a prolific producer, Sferro also runs Girlfriend Records, created back at the beginning of the 2000s to showcase his own music as well as feature other prominent synthwave artists; notably a brilliant collaboration with fellow futuresynth magician Tommy ’86 on the Matters of the Heart EP.
Three albums and a whole stack of singles and EPs is quite an output. Ornaments, Sferro’s first album, released in 2015 on Lipstick Crush Records, is a heady burn through pulsating Italo-disco grooves, jacketed in 80s production flair with the cut and sheen of 21st century technology. Cuts like “These Messages”, “Blitz”, “Way of the Bomb”, and “Déjà vu Decade” are spun from the purest retro-disco swerves and synth-funk jams. Sferro keeps the listener engaged and captivated by varying the textures with tunes like “Basic Pleasure Model”, ballad-like “I wanted To See You” and the beautifully languid title track “Ornaments”.
Where Sferro has been most prolific is with EP and single releases. Often the singles have been huggable upbeat thumpers, designed to get you up and get you moving. Melodies are crystalline and sharp, imploring replays and deeper and deeper love with each spin. “People Pleaser” with its ticking beat, smooth, swept synths and staccato bass, does exactly what it says on the cover. “Girlfriend”, with French electronic producer Acidulé, is a pure euphoric, hands-in-the-air, bounce-up-and-down banger, while cut “Slice ‘em Up” features a killer guitar lead from Austrian shredwave legend Ultraboss streaking across the particle-lit vista of warm and dreamy synths.
One of Sferro’s most enduring and productive collaborations has been with Phono Ghosts, a fellow electronic producer, who shares much of the same quality, ethos and musical vision. Announcing their debut joint effort with the gorgeously smooth and soulful “Court of the Twelve Trees” in 2017, they conjured further deep funk bliss with the EP Alive In The Timeless Void (released on Fonolith), a beautiful and immersive trip of dream-infused synths, warm beats and driving bass. I dare you to play “Voyage to Agartha” or “Guided by Vega” and not be inspired to move, groove or be pulled to the moon.
So there is understandably huge excitement over their latest collaboration, Hyperlink Dream Sync (released on business casual Friday 21st January), a project that sees them both move their sound forwards into the emerging digital age of the 90s. Replete with optimism and futurology, the eponymous album takes us on a journey through the shiny corridors of lush, deep and textural easy electronica. Elements of jazz, kosmiche, digi-funk, and Italo disco rule over smart writing and pristine production. One half of the HDS, Neil Scrivin (Phono Ghosts) explains how this project is distinct from their previous collaborations:
“We both felt that this was a new project right from the start, with its own distinct persona. Aesthetically, it’s very much channelling that ’90s period of technological optimism laced with naivety. The name Hyperlink Dream Sync is a reference to this, and to our long-distance collaborative method. There is a nostalgia to it, but it’s totally naturally occurring in us. The sound developed very intuitively, and quickly. We finished the album in just a few months.”
There will be a buzz and clamour by fans to get their hands on an instantly collectable cassette issue of the album.
Sferro very kindly agreed to answer some questions for The Jupiter Room, giving us a fascinating insight into the man and his music.
Firstly, how has life been for you in Lockdown? Have you been more or less creative during this period?
Life’s been something. It’s been a bit of a mental struggle going out into the world every day for my day job with a pandemic going on. It’s especially challenging when something as simple as wearing a mask to protect people is considered very controversial where I live.
I can say without a doubt it’s been the least creative I’ve been in ages.
Tell us about yourself and a little about the ethos behind your musical persona Sferro.
I’m a 34 year old from farm country Ohio. I have a love for skateboarding, video games and my cat. Sferro started out as a fun way to practice my new production abilities once I finished taking classes from Berklee College of Music. Very programmed, lush heavy and chord driven music with a big nod to the 80s synth sound.
I started in 2008 and would post stuff to Myspace on a regular basis.
What inspired you to establish Girlfriend Records, a label you set up a few years back?
GFR has actually been a thing since 2003. I started it with a friend during High School and we made French House and BoC inspired jams in my parents basement. Funny enough back then was when I had the most complex setup. I keep things fairly simple now.
My friend started getting really into guitar music and our tastes started changing, so we sort of went our separate ways creatively but are still friends to this day.
I loved the idea of the label and never wanted to give up on it, so once I started the Sferro project I decided to reboot it officially with some friends I’ve met throughout the years online that had similar tastes to me.
The label ran exclusively through a blog and all of our releases were free. There were many releases put out and if you look hard enough on the internet you can find these free releases still.
In 2012 I rebooted the label once again with a focus on proper releases though digital stores. It stayed this way until around 2016, where I shut things down mostly but still self-release through it.
The visual aesthetics for Sferro and Girlfriend Records are very striking and distinctive, what are the ideas behind these visual styles and are they your own designs?
There have been a few visual identities for GFR, but it’s all done by my collab partner Neil Scrivin at this point. I love his work. He’s amazing at everything he does and I admire him greatly. The process for our art is pretty collaborative. I send him an image that has inspired me and he shoots me back some ideas.
Nostalgia plays a large part in your music. What is your earliest musical memory?
I can’t really pinpoint a specific artist or song but I do remember my parents putting over the ear headphones on me as a baby a lot. I’ve had music injected into me since I was literally an infant.
What have you been listening to recently, any recommendations?
I’ve been listening to that new Avalanches album which is pretty great. Also, I’ve taken a trip down memory lane recently and been listening to Crydamoure presents Waves. If you dig French House from the late 90s/early 2000’s it’s about peak listening.
Describe your music in three words.
Lush, Dreamy, Programmed
Tell us about your studio setup. Do you use hardware (digital/analogue), soft synths, DAW or a combination?
Have a pretty strict digital setup and while I don’t want to give too much of the mystery away, I use Logic as my weapon of choice.
Tell us about the playlist you’ve put together for The Jupiter Room.
The tracks I’ve compiled are tracks that have inspired the Sferro sound and/or just mean a lot to me.
What’s next for Sferro? Any collaborations or new releases on the horizon?
What good timing! Phono Ghosts and I started a new project titled Hyperlink Dream Sync and our first album came out Friday January 21st. We’re both super stoked on it and hope people will give it a listen.
Many thanks Eric.
Hyperlink Dream Sync is out now on business casual as both a digital download and limited edition cassette.
Find Sferro online: