Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sound Check: Wild Feathers (FPT x SXSW 2013)

The never ending SXSW coverage continues! I had the privilege of sitting down with a few groups over the course of the week of SXSW in Austin, and asking them a series of similar questions, and letting the artists run with them. The first of these groups being Taylor Burns (seen above, second from the left) from the up-and-coming, genre-testing, Nashville based group Wild Feathers. Check out the interview below (as well as their single "Backwoods Company" and video for "The Ceiling"), and get to know a group that shows an unbelievable amount of promise.

Kellen (FPT): So let's start out at Point A: How did Wild Feathers come about? I know that you guys all used to front bands, how did you guys come together?

Taylor (Wild Feathers): Ricky and Joel were trying to put this band [Wild Feathers] together, and we didn't really know what it was going to be yet. We had a mutual friend play bass in me and Preston's band - Preston and I had been in bands together since we were 19 or so. And he was saying, "man, you need to hook up with this guy, you just need to jam or something" and they were in town, in Austin, when I used to live here, and we just met up, hung out, and wrote a song or two and we just kinda clicked. And so I started making the trip out to Nashville every once in a while, and they'd come here occasionally.

Was that pretty arduous?

WF: Oh man. It was tough. It SAYS 13 hours.. but it's more like 16. So, that's when I finally moved, I was just kind of like "I'm done with this shit" (laughs). I mean I love this town and all, but that drive was just too much.

Yeah I drove down from Milwaukee two days ago; it says 16, but turned out to be more like 20. It was brutal..

WF: AH MAN! That's so tough. Yeah we've been driving so much for the past few months in particular. It gets tough, for sure.

Ok, I know you guys all kind of share the "role" of singer, or frontman, is there a power struggle there at all?

WF: Man, I know at first, for me, I dunno if I'd call it a "power struggle" but I was just like 'man, I'm used to calling all the shots, and being like 'We're doing this song now.' But I actually really love it now, now that I've gotten to know the guys, we're like brothers now, and it's kind of nice to not always have the burden of carrying the whole show, y'know? But, I think it's a healthy competition, now. Like 'Alright man, you wrote this one, I'm gonna step my game up a little'

Oh, well that's awesome! That's a good writing process to have, just trying to one-up each other.

WF: Yeah exactly, it's a good problem to have.

So you're from Austin, what about the rest of the guys?

WF: Actually, me and Preston are both from here, Ricky's from  Katy, Texas - he's our acoustic guitar guy, Joel's from Tulsa, OK, and the drummer [Ben] is from Macon, GA. We're just sort of based out of Nashville - Ricky and Joel and Ben have been in Nashville for about 7-plus years or so.

Okay, kind of pieces from all over then. Being based in Nashville, then - Nashville has a sort of distinct reputation for music, was that move there based on the sound you guys were creating, and what you were trying to do?

WF: Not at all (laughs). It was purely based on being in one central location, and the guys being in Nashville, there was obviously a big scene going on there. And everyone associates Nashville with "country" but like, The Black Keys are there, Jack White, Kings of Leon and a bunch of other great bands that are up-and-coming right now, so there's a really good scene there. I just kind of got stagnant here in Austin, so I just needed to change it up.

For sure. On that note, there's been a surge of the indie-folk/country stuff coming through the music scene, where do you see Wild Feathers fitting in with that?

WF: Well, I like to consider us a rock 'n' roll band, because with rock 'n' roll band you can be country, you can be folk, like Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, they all had folk songs, they had hard rock songs. So I like to think we're a more rock 'n' roll band than like The Lumineers of the world, who are just really focused on acoustic, where we like to have heavy riffs and stuff too, but we also have the other element and other side. I think it's just kind of a more old school approach to rock 'n' roll music and what it once was, before all these sub-genres, and small things like creatively, when really... it can get convoluted sometimes when it's just fucking rock 'n' roll.

That's definitely the cool part of music now is that, genres are getting to the point of nonexistence. You can just kind of float from one type of music to the other.

WF: Oh for sure, man. It is good. I always kind of hate the question "what kind of music do you play" when really my answer is always like "this song is like this, and this song is like that" I don't necessarily hate it, but it's just hard to define under one umbrella, saying we're THIS kind of band.

It also seems kind of pointless, like why pigeon-hole yourself?

WF: Absolutely!

Does the surge of that "genres" of music (like the Lumineers) make you happy? Bitter? Is there a sort of mentality of "I've been making this music for so long, and NOW it's becoming popular"?

WF: It definitely makes me happy. There's always people who are envious and jealous y'know - there's people talking shit on other bands, but I'm just glad that it's going that direction, instead of another direction that would make our music obsolete. I'd rather see that then music that's not in my same vein or whatever. Like, I like all kinds of music, but still, I'm glad to see the Mumford & Sons and those types of bands have such great success because that means there's a great opportunity for us.

Who are you guys listening to now?

WF: Man, I'm in love with Dawes. I guess they have two albums out under that name, but we've been playing those albums so much in the van. Joel's a huge Jack White fan, so we've played that record a lot, Black Keys a lot too. I know I'm forgetting some of the new bands out there, but we listen to a lot of old stuff too, like The Band, that's our favorite band collectively, as a band we would definitely say that's in our collective top 5.

Wild Feathers' "About" via Facebook
That's funny, because I was going to ask about the Facebook Bio.. The Led Zeppelin, meets the Band, and yadda yadda yadda. Is that an aspiration or is that true, because there's a lot of heavy hitters in there?

WF: I'd say that's probably more of an aspiration. Someone wrote that about us in a text message, and we loved it so much we were just kind of like "we gotta put that in the Facebook." But all those are inspirations, I mean it says 70's country and like the Stones... I mean, Exile on Main Street is one of my favorite records of all time.

Oh, absolutely. So what's a Wild Feathers show like? What's a tour like? I know you've been touring mostly down here.

WF: Yeah we've had a sort of southern residency down here, like Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, we've been doing the same clubs for about the last 6 weeks. But we just got some dates out with Ryan Bingham for a few months, and we have two dates with [Bob] Dylan in April, both in Kentucky.

Wow that's awesome. Congratulations.

WF: Yeah we're still kind of freaking out about it. Hasn't really set in yet.

So do you guys do a lot of writing on the road?

WF: Not lately. I do a lot of writing, personally, on my Notes thing on the iPhone, I'm always coming up with melodies and humming them in to my Voice Recorder.

Yeah I've heard from a lot of musicians that are actually utilizing that tool.

WF: It's pretty great just to be able to keep that, to utilize that tool and have the iPhone as a resource, just so you can capture the ideas, because I've lost so many ideas just because I haven't had something around to record on.

But we haven't gotten to writing too much new stuff yet, I mean, we're playing 6 days a week so on our one day off we're just kind of like "man, I just wanna fuckin' sleep; drink water, and rest."

What was the writing process for the album?

WF: It was really good, man. It goes back to that competition thing. We actually demoed a bunch of songs, held up in a cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in the dead of winter. We were there for around two weeks and demoed about 33 songs and wrote about half of them up there, we had about 15 or 16 songs already, and just demoed them all day, every day. It was grueling, but like it was awesome too, because that process, having that deadline sort of breeds a mentality of "we just need to knock this out" but a lot of good stuff came from it; we got a couple of songs out of it that we weren't really expecting to get out of it.

That's always a plus, for sure. You guys pretty happy with how everything turned out?

WF: I love the way the record sounds, I can't wait for everyone to hear it.

This is usually my last question for groups or musicians: How many records do you see Wild Feathers making?

WF: Man, I mean, I think we could be a career band where we could still be together in 20 years. Maybe we'll all hate each other (laughs) but I think the sky's the limit - I know that's cliche to say but.. I truly believe it. It's one day at a time, but I really don't think there's a limit to what we can do.

I imagine it helps to have the chemistry you have. Whereas a lot of times there's just one or two primary songwriters, but with you guys...

WF: Yeah I mean if someone dries up, we're just like "don't worry about it, I got plenty of songs, man" (laughs)

We eventually talked about SXSW, Sound City Players, and Milwaukee-based favorite Hugh Bob & The Hustle, whom Taylor had been turned on to about 6 months prior, working with Nikki Lane whom Wild Feathers also worked with closely.

Be on the lookout for Wild Feathers self-titled debut LP, due out this spring from Warner Brothers Records. FPT will be sure to keep you in the loop on all things Wild Feathers in the future.

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