Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rock Candy Interview: The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers. Photo by Nolan Conway

The Felice Brothers - the folk/country rock quintet - have been through a rather prolific period of late. Over the last several years, they've released something every single year.

On tour now, and stopping at The Waiting Room Lounge on Wednesday night ($13), they're riding the release of "Celebration, Florida," which hits record store shelves on May 10.

While previous releases came out on Team Love, the label of Conor Oberst (who they also played onstage with several times), this time it's out on Fat Possum, the home of Smith Westerns, Wavves, The Black Keys and Omaha band Digital Leather.

Felice Brothers bassist Christmas - yes, he's just named Christmas - chimed in to answer our questions while the band was touring in Australia.

Rock Candy: You've played with Conor Oberst on a few occasions. I know you've had releases on Conor's label, Team Love, but how did the performing together part come about? What do you like about working with him?

Christmas: Conor's tracks are hot fire. We do pretty good ourselves. We stumbled around and stared at each other and thought "Hey, this could be good." We like working with him because he has a great sense of humour and is obviously quick as a whip. He is a renegade at heart.

Rock Candy: Speaking of, you are releasing on Fat Possum instead of Team Love this time around. Why the switch?

Christmas: We had a two record contract with Team Love. We made those two records and we needed another record label.

Rock Candy: Tell me about "Celebration, Florida." You wrote and recorded the songs in an old high school?

Christmas: Yes, we recorded the album in an old high school. We felt the need to find and create our own space instead of just going into a normal studio. We wanted to set up and create our own place to go. So it would be ours, instead of going to some studio where a shitty metal band just clocked out an hour before us. We didn't want to be surrounded by pictures of Jimi Hendrix or gold records on the wall. We wanted rows of lockers and chalk boards. A place where we could discover the mysteries of sound ourselves. We like feeling like detectives.

Rock Candy: Did the environment help or influence the writing of the songs?

Christmas: Of course the environment influenced the songs. If we did it somewhere else it would be a completely different record. It's like wondering if John Lennon would have wrote different songs if he grew up in Salt Lake City. Or if Abbey Road was recorded in my bathroom.

Rock Candy: Is there a theme or common thread to this album?

Christmas: Everything we had to say about what the record means is on it. It's kinda like one of those 3D illusion pictures they used to have on display at malls. You just gotta look at it a little further away, squint and use your imagination.

Rock Candy: I feel like the band branches out a bit on this album. Do you agree? Why take that direction?

Christmas: I agree with you that it sounds different. I don't know how to explain this sort of thing but we could imagine how we wanted the songs to sound. We stumbled onto other noises. Things happened. There is no rhyme or reason to it.

Rock Candy: The band has been busy, releasing something or other every year for about five years. How do you stay creative? How do you find time to keep making these records?

Christmas: We always have new ideas for songs. Sometimes it's hard being on tour to find time to sit down and think about them but every chance we get, we scribble something on a notebook or strum a guitar. It's actually hard to keep up with them. When we get home it is the best time to work things out and explore. It's my favorite part of the whole process, to make something new.

You can't pick up "Celebration, Florida" until May 10, but you can listen to the first single, "Ponzi," right here.

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