Built to Fill: Matt Ferrel of The Cups on Making Music and the Family Business


Freeform strings with room to breathe is the hallmark sound of The Cups. Concise. Conceptual. Completely inviting.

Born in 2005, The Cups is the creation of brothers Matt and Ian Ferrel. Unencumbered by the formalities of mainstream musical expectations, the vision of The Cups is to create, “a kind of free space for our songs that didn’t fit or were too artsy or whatever for the ‘professional’ bands we were engaging with at the time.” Undeniably, a free space it certainly is. Style ranging from rough cut, extended acoustic jams to loud electric to gentle surf rock with overlaying keyboard and synthesizer beats, this evolution of style is irrefutable on the journey from “Sketchbook” to “Treasure.”

As the name implies, their debut album “Sketchbook” is an auditory exploration- a collection of sights and sounds that eloquently capture the culture of its creation with a touch of anything goes. Recorded at home above a pizza shop in Jamaica Plain on a well-loved four track Tascam, “Sketchbook” blends delicate acoustics with breezy lyrics. Matt and Ian immersed themselves in collaborations with the Proto-Whitehaus Crew at the Treehaus Hoots, “a talented, open-hearted, vociferous and prolific group of creators and a really fun audience.”  This style of singing and songwriting spills over into follow up albums “Great,”“Prize,” and “Singles and Demos.” All said, this collection is a creation of sounds to settle into.

Alternatively, “Treasure” is different. This album departs from the trademark guitar solos into more keyboard and synthesized overlays that lend themselves to a noisier- yet clearly ordered- atmosphere. Interlocking tones, “sort of use the pleasant aspects of the music to invite the listener to enjoy the chaotic noisy elements that we love so much.”  Recorded in various locations, “Treasure” embodies the liberation that comes with being able to leverage the benefits of moving around to create a more dynamic variation in sound and mood.

Growing up, Ian and Matt were enveloped in the music scene from the start. Their father Frank Ferrel- an acclaimed fiddler, musicologist, and instrument dealer- instilled in them a deep appreciation for singing, songwriting, and performing. While Ian began his venture into music as a child- playing the fiddle and composing music on the piano- Matt picked up the passion later on down the road, inspired by the sense of freedom and abandon in rock and roll. Strung throughout all of the Ferrel Family work is a shared value that music is undeniably a full body experience.

Family is at the very core of The Cups and it has been a driving force in their personal and professional evolution. Presently residing in Portland ME, Matt is raising his family and is passing the love of music down to his own children. Ian and his family split their time between camping and wintering in the Bahamas. Regardless of where they are, music is always around the corner. “Family has changed me. Children are so great and they change everything. Getting older is pretty fantastic. The pieces come together. Thinking gets more connected and richer.”


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