“I think coming from the last year and a half of this crazy stuff, spending time rehearsing and writing, we definitely have magical moments together where you really feel like, ‘This is why we started doing this in the first place’,” says Michael Rudes, drummer of LA alternative rockers FEELS. Last week the band released the Subversive Reaction EP via Deemed Printable, in addition to a music video for EP track “Trash Island.” The EP was recorded in March 2020 and follows up the band’s 2019 sophomore LP, Post Earth. It’s also the band’s first release to feature new vocalist/guitarist Cole Berliner of Kamikaze Palm Tree (who replaces Shannon Lay). During a recent Zoom chat with all four members, Cole tells me that he’s really liking the dynamic he’s fallen into with the rest of the band and that it seems to be taking the band in a slightly new direction.
“I’m a new guitar player and singer, but I’m also male, too, so now it’s like a two guys, two girls type thing, which I think is cool. It’s definitely a different thing from past albums. I think with this EP, it sounds like we did kind of go the dystopian route, a little bit. To me, it kind of has this feeling of being lost in something and maybe a product of the world kind of crumbling down.”
Michael tells me that he’s especially enthusiastic about this lineup and the music that’s coming out of them so far: “I’m probably the most excited about this of anything we’ve ever done before, artistically and sonically. I feel like the flow of writing with the four of us is really fun, because everyone has a different energy when they get together in the writer’s room, and different people take different leads, and push back and pull back, and different ways of experimenting and stuff like that… This four, I’m just like very excited about it.” Vocalist/guitarist Laena M.I. furthers the notion that the music of FEELS is the product of these four people, collectively and equally.
“Our process is 100% collaborative. We all get together in a room and we just start jamming, and then we record our jams and then we all get together and listen through them and take notes on our favorites and pick little parts and then build out the songs from there. I mean, of course if someone has an idea that they wanna bring in, then that’s always welcome, too, but it’s definitely not one of those things where it’s like one person doing all the writing and everyone else is just kind of like ‘the band.’ It really is about the culmination of all of our different influences and technique and everything. And I think that that’s kind of rare these days, to be honest.”
The three tracks of Subversive Reaction harken back to the sounds of many of history’s favorite sonic revolutionaries of the 1980s, most notably those that fall into the noise rock genre. “We went back to a little bit of Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation and earlier territory, especially guitar-wise. There’re are like these duel guitar lines that remind me of that,” says Cole, who also mentions Killdozer’s Burl EP as a favorite recent rediscovery. He also tells me that they were doing a little experimenting that was inspired by a live performance: “We tried to make a krautrock song, because we had a really long set to play in San Diego, so we needed to fill time, so we wrote this song that was kind of just meant to drone on for like a long time, and then the vibe set in place and we cut the song back a little bit.”
This Thursday, July 29th, FEELS will be playing their first show in a year and a half at The Echo in Los Angeles. This hometown show is apparently nearly sold out and the band are all very excited to finally be back onstage and connect with fans, Michael tells me: “We’re just kind of portals of the energy [“a channel,” bassist/vocalist Amy Allen adds], which is why music’s so fun, I think. People, naturally, they kind of get it, like, ‘I’m feeling this crazy shit, too, but I can’t really put it into words, but I can tell that this is kind of my vibe as well.’” However, the band also has even more new music in the works. Subversive Reaction really just serves as a teaser of the sounds of their third full-length, set for release on Wichita Recordings, which Michael is predicting might be their best work yet: “These three songs that we’re doing now with the EP is really just like a window into this world that we’re opening up with the four of us. I’m really excited about it and I’m confident to say I’m the most excited about this that I have been about a lot of things.”