The Feelies’ Deliberate Speed
JPG: Did it, I guess you could say, boost your confidence as far as the interest of a reunion when you saw bands like Gang of Four, Mission of Burma etc. etc. reuniting and then getting a good reaction?
GM: Probably a little bit. The general feeling of enough time has passed from the late ‘80s for people to look back fondly on it. The time is right, really.
JPG: Is it that type of thing, as far as reunions go, where band members working together are at such a combustible atmosphere that it’s rare to actually stick together? So, in the end time heals all wounds.
GM: Well, we were lucky. We didn’t have a lot of wounds to heal. When we ended, I think we all kind of felt like it was time. And yeah, we didn’t really have to make amends. We were all still friends.
JPG: When you did the entire “Crazy Rhythms” album as part of All Tomorrow’s Parties were you a bit reticent to do that due to the idea of not wanting to be nostalgic?
GM: Well, it’s a different rhythm section that we’ve been playing with, the band that was on “The Good Earth,” “only life” and “time for a witness.” So, whenever we play those songs it’s always a little bit different. We still play a lot of ‘em when we play live.In other words nostalgia’s okay. We knew it would be part of the package, so to speak, but we didn’t want it to be the whole thing. So, we don’t mind going back and revisiting as long as we can balance it out with the new stuff.
JPG: Now, you made a solo album between those initial talks of getting back together to actually reuniting and playing live, when writing songs do you distinguish between a Feelies song and something that’s not right for the band? What makes it a Feelies song?
GM: Well, really, the people playing it. As I was writing the songs, I would send Bill demos. So, all along I had in my mind that it would be a Feelies record. When it was possible for Bill to get involved I just went ahead and had Brenda, Stan and Dave…. So, to me, I didn’t make a real distinction.
JPG: I think of someone like Pete Townshend who, at one point, was splitting his songwriting between solo material and Who material, and how to him there was a different approach to writing a band song versus one just for him to record. But, as you said, the players are what make it a band song.
GM: Yeah, pretty much. Also, I do collaborate with Bill on some of the Feelies stuff.
JPG: I read where you mentioned how important the track listing is for “here before,” and you moved things around so that the songs flowed nicely from beginning to end. I found that interesting because it starts off more pastoral until you get to track four and it kicks in to a more patented Feelies type of rhythm.
GM: Yeah, we hoped that people would buy it in its full form rather than, they call it ‘cherry picking’ nowadays, downloading specific tracks. We put a lot of effort into the sequencing of it. I look at it as a whole musical statement whereas one song can make a strong statement.
JPG: “here before” holds up well next to the last Feelies album. Is it a matter of the songwriting and the people involved because it doesn’t contain any modern sounding elements? Was that a conscious decision or things just flowed in a certain way and this is the result?
GM: Yeah, basically the way we write, and the way we play. We could sound different if we really wanted to. And not being really feeling very connected to what’s going on anyway, we’ve kinda always been in our own little world.
JPG: I asked this of Gary Louris of the Jayhawks. Like the Jayhawks, the Feelies are a band that has received much acclaim and achieved cult status, but would you rather trade that in for commercial success? Or do you think that things happen just the way…
GM: They’re supposed to?
JPG: Yeah, as they’re supposed to.
GM: Of all the bands that we liked when the Feelies were starting out, the bands that we kind of modeled ourselves by — the Stooges, MC5, Velvet Underground — none of those bands sold a ton of records. They all had a pretty big influence. So, we’re comfortable with that. We preferred that it wasn’t about how many people we could reach. It was how deeply we could reach people.
JPG: Was there ever a concern about confronting your history via the live dates or the new album, as far as, ‘I hope the people still like us when we play live.’ or ‘Oh, I hope this new music appeal to them just like the old music’ or did you not even consider that?
GM: Well, you want it to be successful, to what degree I don’t know. It probably changes from day-to-day anyway.
JPG: Besides the summer concert dates listed on your website, how much further do you think this will all go? Beyond 2011?
GM: We’re just take things as they come up. It’s a little bit more comfortable, reactive versus proactive, I guess. Take what comes our way. Either accept it or not. We don’t really have major touring plans or anything. We really haven’t talked about beyond this record.
JPG: Hopefully, it won’t take another 20 years. Then again, I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m rushing you, so, you can come up with it when you can. How’s that?
GM: We always do it at our own speed.