The opening song on local quartet Feelings first full-length album is called “Haterade.” The song’s lead guitar is as gnarly and caustic as its lead vocals; the rhythm guitar and bass are setting stormy grooves through grating distortion, and the drums seem hell-bent on dislodging your footing. You could be forgiven for referring to this band, and the Ends Meat album, as punk rock.
Singer and guitarist Matt Mueller explains, saying “Which genre Feelings happens to fall into is anybody’s guess, and maybe even irrelevant.”
Mueller is joined by his brother Mark on drums, and he says that he and his brother have “been doing some version or another of this idea since forever.” Starting out in 2010 with Natalie Laginess on bass, Italy Records founder Dave Buick filled in on bass for a Feelings tour to New York in early 2012, and has since stayed. Guitarist Neal Simms (known for playing with Genders, Gardens, Sugarcoats, and Mountains & Rainbows) joined a year ago. Buick, looking back on his past bands, declares that it’s “been a long trip.” He’s played with several bands, notably with The Go. Matt, meanwhile, played with Simms in Gardens, while drummer Mark highlights his tenure in a Cars cover band called Just What You Needed, in which he played bongos.
Metro Times: You’ve all been in a bunch of other bands. How have those past collaborations influenced your approach to Feelings?
Neal Simms: The main thing differentiating bands I’ve been in is the level of responsibility and actions others in the band have taken. Everyone in Feelings is excited about doing things and trying to make things happen with whatever tools they possess. That’s refreshing.
Dave Buick: All groups I’ve been involved with have always found it super-rewarding to grab some wine coolers and have jam sessions on the porch. That has always been my experience, and I’m happy that hasn’t changed.
Matt Mueller: It’s always a little different but a little bit the same for me to play with different people. I like the group a lot right now.
Mark Mueller: I quickly learned that it helps to have no fun.
MT: I think listeners would be wrong to box this in as punk. I hear melodies, I hear hooks, I hear nuance, but I also hear a lot of noisiness. The crescendos are just crashing, the tempos are fast; some may hear that aggressiveness and just jump to a conclusion.
Matt: I’d be curious about what genre you think we are? Because I don’t think any of us ponder that. And what are you defining as punk? That word doesn’t seem to mean anything anymore. Our songs have pretty strong melodies and a few decent hooks. We love Cheap Trick and noisy guitar stuff like Tyvek and Brilliant Colors. I take “noisy” as a compliment. But we have a gentler side I look forward to highlighting on future releases.
Buick: … Yeah.
Simms: I subscribe to a saying a friend of mine told me once: “There are only two kinds of music — good music and bad music.” Sometimes I’m listening to straight bonehead white-kid rock and it’s heavily influencing me. Sometimes, I’m listening to jazz, soul and blues. Sometimes, I’m listening to country … whatever.
MT: Muellers — what’s it like being in a band with your brother?
Matt: It’s great.
MT: And how comes that works, or have you learned to make it work?
Matt: It don’t …
Mark: We get along nicely most of the time. [Matt] kicked me in the leg the morning before we went to record Ends Meat. It stiffened up and made it hard to play drums.
Simms: I can definitely feel a brother dynamic between them. It’s the classic close brothers-friends dynamic. I won’t say who the dominant one is in that scenario, but it definitely plays out in all of us. I mostly just sit back and reach for a beer, see how it plays out.
MT: Neal, do you ever wind up mediating sibling rivalry?
Simms: If it got out of hand, I might …
Buick: I never get blamed for anything. It rules.
Matt: Don’t believe Dave and Neal.
MT: What about Ends Meat — how was the recording experience at High Bias studios? How was it working with Chris Koltay?
Matt: I like [Ends] overall. I like songs like “Privacy,” “Haterade” and some others. They all mean the world to me. The recording was pretty quick and groovy — five or six days, spread over the first half of ’13. [Koltay’s] schedule gets pretty crazy. Working with him is fun, quick and natural. He’s a friend and knows what we’re going for, so it went smooth. He had loads of all kinds of good advice, including recipes …like a ready-made kit for fishy milk-burgers. De-lish!
Simms: I came in some time in the fourth quarter, when there was already like a 30-point lead, and I just did some goofy slam dunks that mostly bounced off the rim right outta my hands. It’s pretty nice to take credit for a win that I really didn’t have to work for.
MT: I asked about contemporary fixations on punk, but what about the contemporary music scene, overall, around here?
Matt: Well, what you’re not grasping here is that most of these groups, these “bands,” are nothing more than a bunch of young scientists conducting sonic mind-control experiments on the populace-at-large via “websites” such as Soundcloud or Huffington Post, and Feelings falls squarely within this tradition.
Simms: Everyone has a band. If you try hard enough to make friends and drill your shit into the ground, you might be able to play your music to audiences of an above-average size.
MT: Any special meaning behind the band name, Feelings?
Mark: It’s not ironic.
MATT: It is ironic.
Simms: I thought it was meant to be snarky. Like making fun of something “precious.”
Buick: If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.
MT: What are you working toward next?
Mark: Playing outside Detroit.
Simms: Getting big in Japan, at least …
Matt: … world domination …
Buick: … and some new recordings.
Feelings plays with Mountains and Rainbows at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 7, at the Park Bar; 2040 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-962-2933; $5.
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