The Felice Brothers at The Echo
TIX on sale Wed. 6/22 @ 7 AM: bit.ly/FeliceEcho
Monday, October 10th, 2016
The Echo - 8:30 pm
The Felice Brothers:
The Felice Brothers' new album Life in the Dark, OUT NOW on Yep Roc, is classic American music. At once plainspoken and deeply literate, the band's latest features nine new songs that capture the hopes and fears, the yearning and resignation, of a rootless, restless nation at a time of change.
Life in the Dark also coincides with The Felice Brothers' 10th anniversary as a band. Hailed by the AV Club for a sound at once timeless, yet tossed-off, they've released plenty of music over the past decade, often on their own without a record label, but the new album is the fullest realization yet of the band's DIY tendencies. Self-produced by the musicians and engineered by James Felice (who also contributed accordion, keyboards and vocals), the Felice Brothers made Life in the Dark themselves in a garage on a farm in upstate New York, observed only by audience of poultry.
The recording is definitely rough around the edges and cheap, James Felice says, laughing. It was liberating and really cool to do. It allowed us to untether ourselves from anything and just make music.
Because of makeshift studio set-up, the music they made emphasizes acoustic instruments and spacious arrangements on songs that showcase the sound of a band playing together live, with echoes in the music of Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and rural blues.
We tried to make it as simple and folk-based as possible, because we were working with limited resources, singer and guitarist Ian Felice says. We wanted to take all the frills out and make it just meat and potatoes.
Still, there are hints of seasoning: among the folk and blues touchstones, the band took a certain inspiration from Neil Young and the Meat Puppets, too. Ian Felice says he was trying to channel the spirit of Meat Puppets II on opener Aerosol Ball — They played kind of weird, freaky folk music, so there's a connection there, he says — while James Felice says listening to Neil Young's Tonight's the Night was like getting permission to make Life in the Dark.
We listened to that to know that what we were doing was legal and had precedent. If Neil Young could make a record that sounds like that, we can make a record that sounds like this.
He's referring to the wild, whirling accordion and big, loose rhythm on Aerosol Ball, mournful glimmers of electric guitar and fiddle on Triumph '73 and the ramshackle, blues-rock feel of Plunder, full of grainy lead guitars, blasts of organ and a shout-along chorus inspired by the rhythm of Shakespeare's Double, double toil and trouble incantation in Macbeth. Though The Felice Brothers often share songwriting duties, the band gravitated toward Ian Felice's songs for Life in the Dark.
The band, also including Josh Rawson on bass and Greg Farley on fiddle, with drums by David Estabrook, spent about a month recording Life in the Dark in the late winter of 2015. James Felice learned engineering on the fly — I literally had a book, like, 'Where do you put the mic? How do you mic the kick drum?' he says — and the band managed to nail most of the tunes within a few takes.
There wasn't too much agonizing, just the joy of playing music, James Felice says. We had an audience of chickens, and an audience of each other, and we were just really enjoying making it.
The resulting album is more than just classic American music — it's a parable for modern America.