November 13, 2006
The music of Feathers is cool. It's cool and smooth and relaxing. For the past few years, Eddie Alonso and company have worked meticulously on their sound and their songs, and instead of following the traditional route of releasing a debut album, they decided to release a trilogy of EP's. The first EP, Absolute Noon, was a record that mixed together a Stereolab/Beach Boys/Tortoise vibe that made you smile. They recently released the second EP in the series, Synchromy, and it is a bit of a departure, mixing in elements that are more dance-oriented. Once again, this trio (now a quartet) has released a pleasing, satisfying record. Mr. Alonso spoke to us about the band's reasoning for the EP series and the process of making Feathers' music.
What prompted you to release a trilogy of EP's as a debut record?
It's always a struggle for us to get together and record songs. It takes us sometimes over a year to record just five songs. We got caught up in doing things, so it just made sense to release EP's. Also, I get the feeling it allows us more creative freedom and to make more disparate music. With an LP, you have to have some kind of unity of sound running through it. I'm so schizophrenic when it comes to style, so it made sense to focus on short EP's. Eventually, though, we'd like to make an album.
That's what I liked about your two EP's: they're concise and succinct artistic statements.
We focus a lot of energy on every song. When I have an idea for a song, it usually sits around for months; we listen to it and think about where it will lead or what we can do to it. It's usually a process of focusing on one song until it's done exactly like we want it. When we go to the studio, we'll work on one song until we're finished and then move on to the next. We're not jumping around on songs during the process; it's a really intensive focus on each song. Most of the time spent on the song is actually thinking about it. The actual process is like a very explosive thing, it happens, and then we move on. I like to think about a song for months on end, think about what I can do with it, because chord progression and a drum part and a bass line, it's really easy to come up with that kind of stuff. But to really turn it into its own unique little world, it requires a lot of thought, and I guess you just have to wait for that moment.
I take it, then, that Feathers is mainly a studio project?
We've been practicing to play live shows for the past year. We have something now that we actually feel comfortable playing in front of people. We're playing at CMJ, and we're playing a couple of shows here in Miami. It's just been a struggle for us to get it to sound the way we want it to sound, because on record, the things we did in the studio, they weren't songs that we sat down and played together as a group. It's difficult to convey some of the more elaborate ideas we recorded with just three guys. We have a new guy, a guitarist, and it's sounding a lot fuller.
I went back and listened to Absolute Noon, and the music you were writing then has a mellower groove, whereas on Synchromy, the music has more rhythmic elements, almost to the extent of being "dance" music.
I think the idea with the first EP…my tendency towards making music is...I don't want to say "aggressive," but it's really easy for a band to do the "cool" thing, distorted guitars, and just do something that's kind of expected. We wanted to do something that went against our nature, to make a really positive sounding, happy record. That's what that one was. The second EP is more in line with the way we think about music and our natural tendencies about music. The first was kind of an exercise of doing the opposite of what we do, just to see if we could do it, you know? (Laughs) I was unhappy with the way it came out. I just don't think that sort of idea translates to the audience when it is released. Because when a record's released, it is what it is, and nobody knows what you were thinking about when you did it. It's hard to articulate what you were thinking during conception and recording. It still is for me. It was like an elaborate inside joke, that EP. "Let's make a really happing sounding record without guitars! Instead of a guitar, let's use an electric sitar!" Synchromy, the new EP, is definitely in line with who we are and our ideas of what we think our music should sound like.
It has a more aggressive nature to it, even if it's not "aggressive." When I think aggression, I think "in your face," but the EP has a loud, pulsating, impossible-to-ignore beat.
The songs have a unified feel, but there are so many disparate elements within them that it gives a bit of an off-balance feeling, but at the same time, we wanted to make them self-contained, so that it made sense in context. There's definitely more juxtaposition there and more aggressiveness than the first EP, and it's a little bit smoother, too.
Have you started working on the third EP yet?
That one's been in the works for a while now. It's kind of driving us crazy, because we have at least 15 songs ideas. We're trying to hone it down to five or six songs, and they're all at different stages of development. What we're trying to do with that EP is blend the aesthetics of the first one with the second one, and that's been a major pain in the ass for us lately.
It sounds like it would be a difficult thing for you to do.
It is. What we're struggling with now is how to arrange parts. They're all there, but where to put the right piece in the right place? That's where we are at right now. But we're making progress. Lately, we've been focusing on playing live and getting that sound development.
When you add the aspect of the live element, then you're adding a third element that's missing from the first two records.
Oh yeah, yeah. It's been easier for us to play songs from the second record, because it's more guitar-based. We're slowly implementing some things from the first record and adding them to our set list. We get together once a week, but sometimes we can't, because of work. But lately we've had some momentum, and we're kind of happy with how things are sounding. Hopefully, we'll see how that turns out.
Do any of you work in music professionally?
I'm a musician and sound designer for an advertising firm. Eric produces radio spots and things like that. Matt works at a fancy children's furniture store
I kind of had the feeling that Feathers was the project of people who like the idea of spending as much time as possible in a studio in order to produce the most perfect song possible.
More than anything, it's our real creative outlet. I don't consider what I do to be an honest creative outlet. I'm told what to do: "make a song that sounds like this. You gotta do it." And that's cool and everything, you know? It's all I know how to do, and I'm actually getting paid to do it. But there's rarely artistic satisfaction in it, because you're doing what someone else wants you to do. If something were to actually happen with Feathers, in terms of us getting noticed or people actually buying our record, that's cool, too. But that's not our main goal. Our main goal is to make the music we want to make.
Feathers' Synchromy is available now on Home Tapes