The Feelies: Here Again
by Steven Lee Beeber
The title of The Feelies new album — Here Before — says it all.
Or does it?
Situated somewhere between Crazy Rhythm’s nervousness and The Good Earth’s pastoral soundscapes, Here Before is a grab bag of mild anxiety, resignation and transcendence. Call it The Feelies in a suburban mode, but the kind of suburbia David Lynch showed us in his epic film Blue Velvet. Like characters in an Updike novel, surrounded by mortality and issues with their septic tanks, the band that can soundly lay claim to their rightful title as the godfathers of “college rock” may lack the darker, bent notes of their youth, but they’ve still got that soaring, guitar-on-guitar thing going for them. Listen to this while driving around on a summer day. Just don’t forget to take your medication.
I caught up with founding Feelie, vocalist and guitarist Glenn Mercer to hear more about the band’s return to the stage and recording.
ROCKER: I saw you at the Ritz in 2008. That was your first show in Boston in nearly two decades. How did that come about?
MERCER: Well, we did our first show over the summer that year. We did a couple of warm up gigs at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. And then we played at Battery Park in New York. And then I think Amherst and then Boston right after that. We were beginning our first mini tour. It’s been a while, yeah.
ROCKER: I heard Thurston Moore was pivotal in getting you back together. Was that the main impetus? Or was there more to it than that?
MERCER: I wouldn’t call Thurston the impetus. It was more a result of Joe and I talking about some business stuff we had to address, lots of licensing requests, and that turned into a casual conversation about Bill coming up to New Jersey. His son was attending Princeton, and I knew he was visiting occasionally, so I invited him to stop by if he ever wanted to jam. That was 2002, and around that same time we also started getting a lot of requests to play shows and to reissue our old records. It kind of snowballed and took on its own momentum.
We decided that if we were going to do it, we wanted to make sure that we would be able to do it with 100% of our energy so that we would be able to make it more than just a nostalgia thing. We realized that nostalgia would be a part of it, but we didn’t want that to be the whole thing.
ROCKER: And that’s when you decided to record together again?
MERCER: Yeah, it was something to talk about, like if we’re going to do shows again, we should consider recording again. I mean, it’s a no brainer, really. A lot of bands might not, they might get back together and just play the hits. But you know, if you’re going to be a vital, functioning band, you’ve got to make it about writing songs.
So it really took a while for us to be able to kind of clear our schedules just so we could get to the point where we really could focus on it. It seemed like it was kind of coming together, and then coincidentally, we were asked to do the Sonic Youth tour. So it really seemed like it all kind of fell together on its own without us really doing much.
ROCKER: It sounds like the reunion was mainly driven by renewed interest in The Feelies. What do you attribute that to?
MERCER: It’s hard to say. A certain amount of time had passed so people were looking back. Also, other bands, like The Strokes, would mention us, so there were things of that sort.
ROCKER: In the late ‘70s when you started playing Maxwell’s in Hoboken, were you consciously trying to create something different from the CBGB-based punk scene in New York?
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