The Lovely Feathers: kinetic songsters
Some years ago I picked up a CD from the sale bin at Reckless. That CD led to a fascination with an energetic band that wound up touring through. Their live set was among the best I’ve seen and the men that make-up the musical outfit were very kind and apt at taking the audience on am excursion into the foray of elicit sound.
The Lovely Feathers, a class act who’ve regrouped to release Fantasy of the Lot, come to us via the burgeoning Montreal music scene, a scene that’s produced many bands of note. They are gentleman callers, soul thieves and slaves to their art form. Thankfully, that art form is music that I can digest for days without feeling queasy.
Within the confines of Fantasy of the Lot, humble meets a body of work that coerces even the meager set to dive wholeheartedly into the mixture of sweet rock and punk pop. Even their ballads are upbeat and upscale, like a little Dexy’s Midnight Runners playing background to a table tennis match where rolling romps upstage droning beats. Filthy rock they aren’t but the potential is there amidst ample drudgery.
Finding a day job when nights haunt you is tiresome but it allows for utter chaos which often presents itself in tonal brilliance. The sound is grassroots rock and roll, pop infused, like my favorite whiskey. It’s heated on a crisp fall night. I’ve no furnace so I enjoy being kept warm with blazing guitar solos and writhing vocal styling. The dissonance is lent feverishly by the bands drummer, Ted Suss, who was ever so kind as to take away from his otherwise eventful day to have a chat via telephone lines. I’m ever grateful and here are the lines as typed from said phone conversation, dyslexia aside, I feel I’ve composed them as honestly as one can.
When you all came together create the band what led you to find one another, were you already friends? It takes a lot to coop up in a house somewhere and hammer out a record unless you were fairly solid band-mates to start.
Most of us went to high school together, I’m the little brother of the band so I knew them all growing up.
You were the only one entrenched in the music industry at the time of formation, playing in hardcore bands. Did your relationship with the bands you played in help spawn shows for the new project?
I played in small things here and there. It takes a certain skill to play in a band, you have to be patient. Problem solving, that experience helps prepare you. I’ve always played music.
Who does the songwriting, is it a collaboration or simply men in a room with a sketch book and some caffeine
It’s generally a very organic process. Mark, our lead singer, is a creative force. He’s very impulsive generally and when it comes to music. He gets into this trance where things just come out of him, a stream of consciousness not on your everyday level. We often just jam and he spews out some words that come to him. I know him well enough to know where he’s coming from. We record ourselves just jamming and see what we can do with the good parts. Different songs come about in different ways.
Was it hard to break into the music scene? What was the local climate? Were other bands supportive of you?
It’s not easy if you don’t work hard or don’t have anything to offer. We were playing shows around Montreal, lots of shows. Every two weeks we were playing different venues. Friends and friends of friends would come out to see us and in a matter of months we had people coming out because we were playing so often. We were going nuts on stage, the music didn’t matter because they were entertained, it was a good time. We’ve refined our sound a bit, which always helps.
It depends bigger bands weren’t supportive but smaller bands were very supportive. I guess that’s natural in a certain sense. A lot of other bands don’t like us so much, people are pretty pretentious in the Montreal music scene. They’re all so serious, they don’t like our quirkiness and that’s not what art is about, that’s not how you have a good time and we get some slack, we don’t mind. In general, we have enough people who come to shows it doesn’t slow us down, doesn’t speed us up either…but it doesn’t slow us down.
Touring has got to be a blast are there times when you’ve had enough? Or, are you endlessly enthralled by meeting new faces?
I think different people react differently. Personally, I love touring. We had a month long cross-Canada tour and I wasn’t ready to come home. I love meeting new people, I love the nomadic lifestyle. Even though you’re in a van six hours a day you always feel like you’re being productive. The rest of the band enjoys touring too, they really get into it. After two months or so it gets a little tiring and you appreciate being home more but we love meeting people and the random experiences. I love playing shows every night. When we have a day off I wish I was playing a show.
When you began to garner rave reviews did that effect what type of music you wanted to produce as a band? Similarly, do you feel it easy for a band to be pigeonholed into one type of sound once they’ve made a hit record out of it?
I don’t think so. We definitely,when the album came out, were anxious to see the reviews. We might enjoy it but you never know what your band sounds like. When reviews come out and we didn’t get one on a five scale it’s great. The biggest criticism we get in reviews is on our lyrics. We analyze certain lyrics and try to figure out how people are going to react to them but we eventually use them anyway. We’re working on a new album now, preparing material, if anything it’s more weird and out there. I think its going to be a little departure but very interesting, that’s for sure. I have no idea how reviewers will react to it but it doesn’t push us more into mainstream or trying to mold a pop song. I think we do what feels good to us. We get bored if it’s some simple cheesy song.
Do you feel as though success and fame go hand in hand? Is it something you strive for or are you content playing to the fans you’ve already acquired?
In terms of a fan base it’d be nice if we had 50 people come out to every show we played in North America. Once we played in front of ten people in Omaha, Nebraska. They were wasted, we were wasted but we played one of the hardest shows we’ve ever played. It was one of our best shows. In Calgary when we opened for Metric, there were 1500 people. It was a good show but you can’t connect with the crowd as much. As far as money, we’re not opposed to being rich off the band but our more immediate goal is treating it like a day job, to make a modest income from it and be able to focus on music rather than a nine to five. Musicianship would greatly increase, being involved with it. Not so great for our liver or our body, but it’d be great.
What are some fellow Montreal bands you see breaking through in the near future?
There are two bands that I’m enjoying these days. One is Parlovr, they’re really good. It’s three guys and they just rock it. Also,Golden Isles, who are very entertaining to watch, their lead singer doesn’t play an instrument so he kinda flails around on stage and goes crazy.
Every band has a crazy tour story (or several) can you recall your favorite moment on a certain tour?
We had a GPS on our last tour that began in Toronto. We had to travel to Thunder Bay, which is usually an 18 hour drive. We had one day to do it. The GPS brings us to a route where we thought there’d be a bridge in our naive first day on the road mindset, that state of mind, “we’ll get to a bridge and cross it.” The next direction from the GPS was to take the ferry, we pull up to the ferry harbor and the last ferry had left at nine, it was nine-thirty. We either risked taking a ferry that might be already booked
or drive all the way back to Toronto. We drove all night, 27 hours total, and showed up an hour before the show. We played like good little musicians in front of two people. It was a good experience, we learned not to trust the GPS.
Another time dealt with our bassist and former manager. We went on a hike outside of Phoenix and he decided to break off and found a group that was climbing the mountain with no gear or cords. All of a sudden we see his red shorts far up this high cliff and we had to go and he couldn’t get down, it was very dangerous. We left him because he said he’d figure a way down, we’re yelling, hearing echoes. We go to the show and right before we go on to play he shows up with the fire Marshall, they had to helicopter him off the mountain. It was hilarious.
Your video for Lowiza has a great style. Do you have a say as a band into what is produced on screen? Do you throw your own concepts out there or does management take you in a certain direction?
We spoke to the director and he pitched us his idea, we liked it a lot and he sort of told us what directors he was influenced by and it sounded great. We’re happy with the video but the characters were supposed to be 55. What would sell better would be hot 25 year olds and that’s what they did. But it was too late. In general we didn’t like some cuts. We don’t have full control but we have some say.
In years to come, if the band blows up, off the charts famous, how do you cope with the likes of fame? Will you ever be that band that refuses to play their old songs to a sold out venue?
I’d buy a nice secluded mansion out in the forest. We’re all relatively level headed and feel like there’s more to life than fame. Fame
doesn’t nourish the soul and for many people it definitely makes things worse. I think we’d be humbled by it, enjoy it at times and at times it’d be frustrating. I’d enjoy the opportunity of being able to play a lot of music.
Would we ever refuse to play our hits? Not at all. Because from experience we’d be playing a show and someone would yell “Rod
Stewart” and we hadn’t played it in a year in a half. We’d look at each other and Mark reminds everyone the chords. On one song he didn’t know the chords and asked the person in the audience. It’s a bad idea to wing a song after not playing for a year and a half, we’ve done it on many occasions . But after not playing them for awhile it’s fun, there are certain songs you play every show that you get tired of.
Is there a group you’d like to work with?
Yeah, but not necessarily live, it’s a little impediment. Personally, Crazy horse and Neil Young. Especially his stuff with Crazy Horse, I love the drumming on that. Recent bands, I don’t know. I love playing with my band we’re good friends I love spending time with them and we connect musically. When we do jam with other people its not the same. I know what to expect with
my band we’re familiar with each others jamming styles and that creates an organic jam, that takes time to develop with other people. At the moment, my band is the group i enjoy the most.
In this age of technology and enlightenment, is it simple to get your music to the masses? I still live iPOD
free but as an invention, its a nifty gadget.
I think it’s harder to get attention but if you do get the attention its easier to spread it. On Myspace we get all these bands dropping
comments about checking out their new tracks. Being part of the machine definitely helps in terms of knowing media outlets will get viewers. Having bloggers write about you is a total plus. If you already have some sort of background, if you’re not just some high school band who plays in their parents garage, you have a chance. I think its great when you’re already part of the machine, as they say. Some have music scouts that scope pages to see what sounds good but playing shows and touring, thats still required to get you to the point that the Internet will be a very useful resource to you.
Do you have a brand you won’t stray from?
There are some drummers who only buy Sybian. I have a bunch of different cymbals and they’re all different brands. If a company wants to sponsor me and give me free stuff that’d be an internal debate. I got a good deal on my drum set. I have an old school 1967 Ludwig snare drum which is so versatile. Depending on how you tune it and what kind of head you put on it you can create so many sounds. I take it on tour with me. That’s one piece I couldn’t part with because I can do anything I want on it.
Who are a few drummers you admire?
I watched the Who documentary, Keith Moon is a nutcase, He’s phenomenal to watch, very energetic. Ringo Starr is one of my favorite drummers. I hear people say he can’t keep time. He’s very subtle. It may sound like a simple beat he’s playing but if you listen to each stroke he takes a subtle timing difference when he hits the snare. It’s the simple things he does to connect his drum line to the song. But I think what he did was perfect. To say Lennon was an amazing songwriter you’re not adding new info to the table. People who listen to new music are all about new stuff…i don’t mind telling people how in love with Ringo Starr I am. I appreciate his subtly and it’s something I always try to work on, it comes across in the song as a whole.
In the early years were rehearsals met with serious dedication or taken as a way to let loose a bit?
The first time we got together at McGill University it was the beginning of the semester and they set up a tent on the main green with cheap beer. Mark signed up by himself and he said he had a band but didn’t. Two days before the show he starts assembling a band together. “We have a show in two days lets practice the next two days.” In those two days we tried to learn these songs, it was probably one of the worst shows ever presented to people. It consisted of Mark and our former band mate Rich sort of dancing around and turned into freestyle rapping. Someone liked it and invited us to the battle of the bands.
These days we’ve been jamming more for a release but in the beginning we really practiced a lot. Before our second show, we won the battle of the bands. It was a lot of hard work and practice at the beginning. The past few months we’ve just been getting together and jamming for an hour or two, nothing too structured. It’s definitely a challenge but there’s nothing like getting in the zone and connecting with other musicians around you.
I fully enjoy speaking to passionate musicians, folks just in love with what they do. It’s always so interesting.
I feel like you’d get much more interesting stories talking to someone like me than Chad Krueger from Nickelback.
And indeed I did. Conversation turned to the recent Leonard Cohen collapse, as it was streaming on You Tube. We ended just so, musing on Leonard Cohen and talking great Canadians in music history. I’ve now decided I love Canadians and their tuxedos.
-Holly Jones, Editor, On Tour Magazine