Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Interview with James Felice Prior to Buffalo show

Mountain man James Felice and the Felice Brothers are headed to Mohawk Place

- If, like me, you use horror movies as a guide to life, then you probably don’t trust hillfolk. But after a friendly, lively conversation with JAMES FELICE —pianist/accordion wheezer for Catskill Mountain natives the Felice Brothers—I’m pretty sure that he’s not a bloodthirsty radioactive mutant, and his family doesn’t kill teenagers and feed them to their zombie grandpa.

The band swings through Mohawk Place (47 E. Mohawk St.) at 9 p. m. Saturday, in support of its new album, “Yonder is the Clock,” out April 7. Stuffed with free-wheeling, Dylan-es-que rock and mournful Dust Bowl ballads, the record manages to lean on old sounds while still capturing the feeling of the here and now.

We talked to Felice about the album, his obsession with Lil Wayne and whether or not he has the Catskills to pay the bills.

Is it incorrect to call your music nostalgic?

It’s definitely not nostalgic. It’s inspired by a lot of that music; it hearkens back to it. But I think that the music’s really prescient, people can feel it at any time—especially now, with the economy, everybody feels the crunch.

You guys do the expected singalong country romps, but the ballads really set you apart from the novelty Americana groups.

There’s a great deal of sadness in the world, and if you play just hackneyed, fun-loving songs all the time, you’re not really doing a service. You’re just masking over what’s really there. You look at singalong songs as comedy, and sad songs as drama, and trying to combine them both, hopefully, is high art.

Have the mountains you grew up in influenced your music?

Absolutely. Jumping off cliffs into streams, watching out for rattlesnakes, scaring deer, chasing porcupines. That was our life growing up. If we had grown up in the city, our music would be much different, if we played music at all.

As someone who has mountain music street cred, would you be annoyed by a folk band from L.A.?

Nah. I mean, none of us grew up the way guys in the ’20s grew up—we’re sort of poseurs in our own way. I know how to turn on a computer. I play DVDs sometimes.

What kind of music do you love that might surprise people?

We love hip-hop. Ghostface Killah, tons of Lil Wayne. 50 Cent, too. I like 50 Cent a lot.


I’m feeling him.

Fair enough. What are your thoughts on the new album?

I haven’t listened to the album since like four or five months ago. I remember hating it for a while, and then really liking it again, and I’m pretty sure I like it a lot. Joe Sweeney