Saturday, May 1, 2010

James Felice Interview w/ Paducah Sun

Getting weird with The Felice Brothers
Written by Adam Shull
Thursday, April 22 2010 00:00
Roots rock group brings folksy act to Murray State

Contributed photo The Felice Brothers, a roots rock group out of New York, hits Murray for a show at Lovett Auditorium on the Murray State University campus Monday.

Some key facts clue us in on The Felice Brothers.

The roots rock group recorded its latest album in a restored chicken coup.

The bass player is named Christmas.

James Felice, one half of the band’s brother duo, plays a romping accordion. (Brother Ian Felice is a rail-thin guitarist and lead singer.)

And one of the band’s most high-profile moments came at the 2008 Newport Folk Festival when rain cut power to the stage.

Wet weather zapped the venue’s electricity just before the group went on, so the guys from New York’s Catskill Mountains stomped out time in the mud and electrified the crowd on their own.

“It definitely wasn’t a big deal for us with the power,” James Felice said. “I mean, the show must go on.”

When the group rolls into Murray next week, its show is likely to be just as raucous and flexible because that moment at Newport says a lot about this 4-year-old group. It showed the freewheeling but calculated approach to an ever-evolving folk sound and outlaw attitude.

James Felice, who has been known to sip Tennessee whiskey on stage as he swings his accordion like a dance partner, revealed another side of the band in an interview last week: its subversive humor.

“This year we’re playing (Newport) again,” he said. “We’re all going to play on laptops, all electric.”

When the humor, outcast nature and carnival band stylings all meld the band emanates a willfully bizarre but still resonate act. And the group definitely falls into the “is a completely different animal live” category such as other groups to hit Murray recently like The Avett Brothers.

“We have a sound that’s hard to describe,” James Felice said, “but the one thing about us is we’re always changing. We’re much less of a folk band than we were. Not really rocky, just more electric, more visceral sounding, I think.”

When the group first formed, and included a third brother, Simone Felice, on drums, it sounded like a blast from early 1960s Dylan — the folk bard singing about Hattie Carroll and Medgar Evers.

Ian Felice’s vocals sound like that of the grainy early Dylan.

The more recent sound of “Run Chicken Run,” from the group’s 2009 album “Yonder Is the Clock,” is like a rock and punk group took over and left the old timey touches.

All the changing and on-stage antics are serving the band well these days. The group is recording again and plans to open for the Dave Matthews Band for several dates this summer in a nationwide tour.

Which gives more incentive to keep up the unique artistic pace.

“I’d say we’re getting better,” James Felice said. “Hopefully we’re getting better. And weirder.”