One of the hardest-working and hardest-rocking Southern indie rock bands you’ll ever see in concert are The Features. Before they moseyed into Texas to play the Austin City Limits Music Festival, drummer Rollum Haas graciously took the time to answer a few questions for Music Emissions writer Gilles LeBlanc. If you’re not familiar with The Features for whatever reason, check them out online at TheFeatures.com or Facebook.com/TheFeatures, or follow them on Twitter @TheFeatures.
I also highly recommend watching their rodent-rific video for “Another One”.
First things first – Congratulations on what I feel is one of the most underratedly awesome albums I’ve heard this year. Can you quickly share with me what the Wildnerness ride has been like so far, and are there more surprises to come before 2012 is out?
Thank you. The Wilderness ride is like a really slow rickety roller coaster that lasts for two years. It smells like a combination of sweaty dudes, salt & vinegar potato chips, and pee. The only things you’re allowed to eat are Subway or Taco Bell. You pass by really cool sites along the way but you’re not allowed to interact. Sometimes there’s free Wi-Fi.
Is it true that you’re already working on a full-length follow-up, due out in March? (Blame Wikipedia if this isn’t the case!) Should we expect more of the same, albeit in the sense that yours is a style that is tough to pin down and label? I absolutely love the retro psychedelic keyboard feel on songs like “Golden Comb”, by the way!
The new album is currently being mixed. I think it’s safe to say that if you like Wilderness then you’ll like the new one. We went into the studio with looser arrangements this time around so most of the things we tracked were put down as soon as the song felt cohesive. It doesn’t give you time to second guess things.
I’m glad you consider us hard to pin down and I take that as a big compliment. The new album is definitely the most eclectic thing we’ve done. I think it’s hurt us a bit in the past (mainly because of inconsistent production) but we’re finally starting to make sense….at least to me. Another big part of it is that none of us subscribe to any musical identity. We’re all open to different types of music, we all like different things, and none of our tastes cross over much.
I think it’s something that’s missing in a lot of music today. If you take an objective look back at a lot of classic rock bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, Queen, The Who, etc., they didn’t really operate under this strict rule set of what was or wasn’t forbidden stylistically. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of those types of bands anymore. Most indie rock feels like songwriter projects trying to sound like a real band or it’s just boringly safe and self conscious. All modern rock radio hasn’t really changed since the 90s other than getting progressively watered down.
Whenever your next release is, will they continue to be on Serpents and Snakes? I’m interested in learning more about your relationship with the still-young Kings of Leon. Is it a case of simple geography, or is there something in particular the Followill boys see in The Features?
Probably not but we’ll see. I think the Kings appreciate that we’re southern. As far as what they see in us I can only guess. I imagine it has a lot to do with us being stunningly handsome and talented.
You have two festival appearances to come (Austin City Limits Music Festival and Voodoo Experience), both of whom have some pretty stacked lineups. Who’s the ONE act you hope you’re not scheduled against?
As long as there are some people watching us I’ll be happy. I doubt I’ll get out and nose around much. I’ve never been into festival type shows. Mainly because of my dislike of hippies, drugs, and crowds of hippies on drugs. I would like to see The Stooges, Thomas Dolby, & Bootsy Collins though.
Before he had his little onstage meltdown and checked himself into rehab, Billie Joe Armstrong made headlines when he said that The Hives were the best band Green Day ever played with, and Bon Jovi the worst. Taking a page from that playbook, who are The Features’ best and worst concert mate picks? (Don’t feel you have to be as controversial, but go right ahead if the mood strikes you!)
I heard Billy Joe was just pissed because Bon Jovi’s groupies used up all of his eyeliner before the show. To sort of answer your question, we opened a few shows for The Walkmen during the Bows & Arrows tour. They were my favorite band at the time so that was definitely a highlight.
What do you think about artists like Jack White and The Black Keys muscling in so to speak on Nashville’s turf in the past few years? How has the city changed since the early 2000s?
Nashville has always had talented musicians. Honestly, Kings of Leon brought more attention to Nashville rock bands than Jack or The Black Keys. We toured a lot prior to KOL getting big and there was always a stigma surrounding you if you didn’t play country or have a twang. Once they hit, press started to not be as concerned with it. As far as Jack White and The Black Keys go they seem to be getting involved with a certain thing there. Jack White has always felt more like a brand to me. Marketing over music. I can appreciate that both of them have helped some bands out. I’m sure everyone you talk to in Nashville has an opinion on it. It’s no fault of theirs, but it inevitably draws/creates a lot of sycophantic behavior. None of it really affects us as we’re weird unsociable quiet men that like staying at home.
What’s your opinion on musicians/artists who are outwardly supporting presidential candidates this election year as opposed to say lending their talents to initiatives designed to get young people voting? (i.e. Rock the Vote)
I don’t feel like people will be swayed too far beyond what they already think because of Rock the Vote. It just seems to be there to reinforce a certain set of views. Maybe it’s always been like this but it seems like since I’ve been at voting age the US has been incredibly polarized. There’s a really creepy us & them attitude that seems to permeate everything from religious views to the food you eat. Some people seem to have a hard time separating taste and identity. I tend to respect things like Farm Aid a lot more because it seems like they’re actually getting something done rather than it just being idealism.
As I write this, the NFL just settled its dispute with their referees. Are The Features into sports at all? And whether you are or not, do you think your music appeals more to Titans/football fans or Predators/hockey fans?
Mark (Bond) is a huge sports fan (nerd). He’s in multiple fantasy leagues and checks statistics for hours every day. Football is his main thing but he likes them all. I asked him and he said Predators fans would like us more because they’re classier. The only sport I like or care about is cycling which is about as un-American as being a member of the communist party, drinking Perrier, women letting their pit hair grow, and being bi-lingual.
Being a Canadian writer, and this site being based in Canada, I’m entitled to one obligatory question about our country – What was your favo(u)rite city to visit last time you were up here, and is there anything that sticks out about us in terms of a venue you enjoying playing, food, or even beer?
We’ve never spent enough time there to get an honest opinion. I sat next to a Canadian exchange student in my 12th grade English class so that was probably my most meaningful cultural exposure. He was a super nice guy. The main thing I remember is him poking fun at Tennessee schools for closing if a snowflake fell. He also talked about how they’d get drunk and drive around icy parking lots spinning donuts and raising hell. I’m sure he wasn’t your ideal cultural ambassador but I thought he was cool. I’d be curious to try Canadian food as it’s a country I don’t associate with food. Though I’m sure when people think of US cuisine they picture McDonald’s burgers being funneled down our throats & washed down with 2 liter bottles of Coca-Cola.
Finally, we’re getting close to that time of year where people starting compiling their year-end lists. I figured I’d get a jump on things by asking YOU what the best album you’re heard in 2012 is. Feel free to substitute for best song or best live band…thank you very much for your time!
I think the only new things I’ve bought this year are the Can “Lost Tapes” box and Beak’s new one. I’ve listened to older things since I was a kid so my only exposure to new music comes through occasional work at a record store when I’m back home…..and we haven’t been home a lot this year. As far as older things go I’ve been back into The Who lately and they’re my favorite live band ever.