Spotlight: The Felice Brothers
Photo by Nolan Conway
The Brothers continued to nurture a dedicated grassroots following thanks to the manic, punk energy of their live shows and regular festival appearances. After signing domestically with Team Love Records, the quintet finally broke through with its eponymous 2008 release.
But around the time of 2009’s Yonder Is the Clock, Simone Felice left the group following the tragic death of his unborn child. (The grief-stricken drummer subsequently mourned his loss through music in his upstart band The Duke and The King.) “The lifestyle he was living was not conducive to life [in The Felice Brothers],” Ian admits. “We were on the road too much. He writes a lot of songs and he’s a novelist—he is a little older than us and he wanted to do his own thing.”
When it came time to record Celebration, Florida, the members decided to shake things up themselves, hunkering down in an old high school in Beacon, N.Y. where they used the school’s lockers as instruments and experimented with MPC drum machines for the first time. “Farley dove into that world,” Clapton says. “[James] is a great piano player, so he played a lot of synth on the record.”
If The Felice Brothers have spent much of their career escaping Woodstock stereotypes, then ultimately found inspiration by exploring a new city—the Disney-built Celebration, Fla. “It is a weird, idyllic, strange society that they were trying to build,” Clapton says of the town which is situated next to Disney World. “We got really into the notion of it—a strange corporation building a kind of paradise. There are a lot of songs about fitting things into that whole motif.”
The resulting album filters the group’s folk-punk sound through the bombastic 21st century sounds of Arcade Fire and Phoenix. “We wanted to try to make a different record but we weren’t that self-conscious throughout the whole thing,” Clapton reiterates.
For even casual fans of the band, the biggest sonic change is just how many of those computer effects, synthesizers and samples ended up on the album. “We have been on the road for a long time and this was a way to get excited about something new,” says Ian. “I wasn’t listening to much rural folk—I was listening to more Aphex Twin, Brian Eno, hip-hop, Miles Davis and film score music. All of our idols have constantly changed.”
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