February 11th, 2016
Blackout Bill’s Band of the Week – The Feelies
The Feelies are a rock band from the little town of Haledon, New Jersey. The band was put together by singer/guitarists Bill Million and Glenn Mercer. In 1976, while the punk era was about to detonate, The Feelies were born. Their name is a reference to Aldous Huxley’s novel “Brave New World,” where “feelie” was used to describe a motion picture that also incorporated the sensation of touch.
The Feelies’ sound was everything in terms of rhythm which set them apart from the punk/New Wave bands of their time. They were a particle collider of glistening soundscapes that transformed into an alchemy of purified Velvet Underground-esque jingle- jangle & propulsive measures.
By focusing on precision rather than minimalist drones of distortion and noise, the Feelies forte was off of the beaten path of the late 70s & early 80s punk & art rock movement around New York. Unlike most bands, The Feelies weren’t connected to any extant rock scene and never were exactly tapped to the zeitgeist of their time. They were proud of being musical nerds from New Jersey who wore tucked-in button up shirts & horn-rimmed glasses pushed up to their nose bridges.
Although they looked and dressed as one that would do so if he or she was slavishly devoted to intellectual & academic pursuits, their original sound made up of rapid, clean strumming and sudden explosive leads mixed with simple melodies made them an indelible part of the history of American music. The Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore recalled seeing them play in the late 70’s and quoted “They came out and proceeded to just mow the place down with their guitar playing, and these guys were buttoned-up-collard nerd boys from the ‘burbs. They were totally straight from the backyard cookout. So it was cool to be not cool.”
Still un-signed, in 1978 The Feelies were named “The best underground band in New York” by The Village Voice. In 1980 they released their debut album “Crazy Rhythms.” The record never had a great number of sales but it has become a cult classic, and known as a masterpiece to many people within the music world. The band “ R.E.M.” cited the album as a “major influence.” “We were more concerned, not with how many people we could reach, but how deeply we could reach them,” said co-founder Glenn Mercer (guitarist/vocals).
The Feelies archetypical, hypnotic sound has become a delicate footprint within the annals of music history and is still heavily visible in a cornucopia of contemporary indie rock today.
Here’s a ditty to throw into your walkman and jam to-
• Friday Jun,17 – World Café Live – Philadelphia, PA
• Saturday Jun,18 – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
Bill wears a bike lock as the loser of the SWELL’s fantasy surfer challenge for the BIllabong Rio pro. Stay tuned for the video of his 24 hour lock down!