The Feelies are an American rock band from Haledon, New Jersey. They formed in 1976 and disbanded in 1992 having released four albums. The band reunited in 2008, and most recently released an album in 2011.
The Feelies rarely worked with outside producers and created shimmering soundscapes with multiple guitar layers that set them apart from most of the punk/New Wave bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s. They frequently played at Maxwell's, a live music venue and bar restaurant in Hoboken during the 1980s, often on national holidays.
Although the Feelies never sold a great number of records, their influence was felt on the indie rock scene. Their first album, Crazy Rhythms (Stiff Records, 1980) was cited by R.E.M. as a major influence. Several bands have in turn influenced the Feelies, including The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. The novelist Rick Moody has also cited the band as one of his influences.
The band's name is taken from a fictional entertainment device described in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.Glenn Mercer, Bill Million, Dave Weckerman and vocalist Richard Reilly began playing together in 1976 in Haledon, New Jersey in a band called the Outkids. The Outkids evolved into the Feelies with the addition of Vinny DeNunzio on drums and John Papesca on bass.
In 1978, the Village Voice dubbed the then-unsigned Feelies "The Best Underground Band in New York". With the line-up of Mercer, Million, Vinny DeNunzio's brother Keith DeNunzio on bass and Anton Fier on drums, the Feelies released their first single, "Fa Cé-La", on Rough Trade Records in 1979.
The Feelies' debut album, Crazy Rhythms, was released on Stiff Records in 1980, featuring the same line-up as on the "Fa Cé-La" Rough Trade single.
After Crazy Rhythms, Fier and Keith DeNunzio left the band. With the Feelies in limbo, Mercer and Million collaborated with other local New Jersey musicians, forming one of a number of Feelies offshoots, The Trypes, featuring some once and future Feelies members, including Brenda Sauter, Dave Weckerman and Stanley Demeski, as well as John Baumgartner, Marc Francia and Toni Paruta. The Trypes, quieter and more psychedelic than the Feelies, played regular live gigs around the New York/Hoboken scene at clubs such as Maxwell's and Folk City. In 1984, Coyote Records released a Trypes 12" EP produced by Million and Mercer, The Explorers Hold, featuring three original songs (credited to Mercer alone or with other band members), plus a cover of the George Harrison song, "Love You To", which originally had appeared on The Beatles' Revolver. The Trypes also contributed a Million/Mercer-produced original song, "A Plan Revised", to the 1985 Coyote anthology of Hoboken acts, Luxury Condos Coming To Your Neighborhood Soon. Some members of the Trypes later formed the band Speed The Plough.
Million, Mercer, Sauter, Demeski and Baumgartner also gigged around New York and Hoboken under the name, Yung Wu, which was fronted by and featured the songs of Feelies' percussionist Dave Weckerman, who also sang lead. Yung Wu released one album on Coyote Records in 1986, titled Shore Leave. It featured Weckerman originals, plus covers of "Big Day", "Child of the Moon", and "Powderfinger", a staple of their live gigs.
The Willies, also known as The Willies From Haledon, were yet another Feelies offshoot that played around the New York/Hoboken clubs in the early 1980s. The Willies shared a similar lineup as the later Feelies, but their live sets consisted mostly of cover songs, extended instrumentals and psychedelic jams, such as "Third Stone From the Sun" and "Sedan Delivery". The Feelies' appearance in Jonathan Demme's Something Wild was credited to the Willies.
The members of the Feelies never stopped playing and collaborating in the 1980s, earning them the distinction of being "the New York area's best-loved underground rockers since the late 1970s", according to Jon Pareles of the New York Times in 1986. The band occasionally even performed under the name "The Feelies", often on holidays at Maxwell's. At least one such gig featured a reunion of the Crazy Rhythms line-up of Million, Mercer, DeNunzio and Fier. By the late 1980s, the band re-emerged from their self-imposed exile with new members and their first new album in six years.
Reformed as a quintet featuring Mercer, Million, Weckerman, Sauter and Demeski, the Feelies recorded The Good Earth in 1985 with Peter Buck of R.E.M. on board as co-producer with Mercer and Million. The album was released in 1986 and featured ten original Mercer/Million compositions. The band toured in support of the album as an opening band for Lou Reed as well as R.E.M. that year.
In 1988, the Feelies signed to a major label and released the album Only Life on A&M Records. The lineup was the same as The Good Earth, and Mercer and Million again handled production duties. The disc was a critical favorite, coming in at No. 27 on the Village Voice's 1988 Pazz & Jop critics' poll. Recently, the album's title track has been used as the introductory music for the Harvard Business Review's HBR Idea Cast
The band's final album before a hiatus, Time for a Witness, was released on A&M in 1991. The album broke little new ground from Only Life but still earned the band critical praise.
As of March 2011 The Feelies had released an album entitled Here Before produced by Bill Million and Glenn Mercer, on the Bar/None record label. The band remains "one of the nation's most beloved alternative-rock bands."
The band played reunion shows in the summer and fall of 2008. A performance at Battery Park in NYC with Sonic Youth followed several warm-up shows at Maxwell's.
In June 2009, the band performed an acoustic show at the Whitney Museum. They also headlined a show at Millennium Park in Chicago.
In September 2009, they performed Crazy Rhythms live in its entirety as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties-curated Don't Look Back series.
Bar/None Records reissued Crazy Rhythms and The Good Earth on September 8, 2009. Domino Records will reissue both albums outside of the U.S. and Canada.
The Feelies have reunited sporadically over the last two decades to play concerts at their early home at Maxwell's. The band most recently performed there for three consecutive nights on July 4-6, 2013.
The band was featured in a Jonathan Demme movie called Something Wild playing as a high school reunion band; however, they did not feature on the soundtrack. Credited as "The Willies", they performed bits of five songs, including "Crazy Rhythms" and "Loveless Love" as well as covers of David Bowie's "Fame" and the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" (written by Neil Diamond). The Feelies song "Too Far Gone" made it on to the soundtrack for the Demme film Married to the Mob. Million and Mercer were also brought together by director Susan Seidelman to create the score for her film, Smithereens. The song "Let's Go" from the band's second album "Good Earth" is featured on the soundtrack of Noah Baumbach's 2005 quirky indie film "The Squid and the Whale".
"Loveless Love" was used on the soundtrack of Olivier Assayas's 2010 film Carlos.
Side projects and alumni bands
- Wild Carnation featuring Brenda Sauter and her husband Richard Barnes (both also of Speed the Plough).
- Wake Ooloo featured Mercer and Weckerman, and released three albums with both Mercer and Weckerman on vocals.
- Anton Fier formed The Golden Palominos and has toured with Bob Mould.
- Stanley Demeski joined and toured with the band Luna
- Demeski, Weckerman, and Mercer have been playing in a band called the Sunburst with former Speed The Plough members Marc Francia, Toni Paruta, and John Baumgartner.
- Glenn Mercer's debut solo CD was released by Pravda Records in May 2007. It includes performances by Stanley Demeski, Vinny DeNunzio, Dave Weckerman, Anton Fier and Brenda Sauter.
- Vinny DeNunzio played drums and co-wrote a song on former Television guitarist Richard Lloyd's first solo album, Alchemy.
- Bill Million – guitars, vocals, percussion (1976–1991, 2008–present)
- Glenn Mercer – guitars, vocals, keyboards, percussion (1976–1991, 2008–present)
- Keith DeNunzio a/k/a Keith Clayton – bass guitar, percussion, background vocals (1979–1982)
- Vinny DeNunzio – drums (1976–1978)
- Dave Weckerman – percussion (1984–1991, 2008–present)
- Anton Fier a/k/a Andy Fisher – drums, percussion (1978–1979)
- John Papesca – bass guitar (1976–1979)
- Brenda Sauter – bass guitar, violin and backing vocals (1983–1991, 2008–present)
- Stan Demeski – drums and percussion (1983–1991, 2008–present)
- Crazy Rhythms (Stiff LP 1980)
- The Good Earth (Coyote / Twin/Tone LP 1986)
- Only Life (A&M LP 1988)
- Time for a Witness (A&M LP 1991)
- Here Before (Bar/None CD 2011)
- No One Knows (Coyote / Twin/Tone EP 1986)
|US Modern Rock|
|1979||Fa Cé La||Crazy Rhythms|
|1991||Sooner or Later||13||Time for a Witness|
- , by Jon Pareles, The New York Times, Dec. 17, 1982
- , Time, Sept. 12, 1988
- , by Robert Christgau, The Village Voice, Mar. 26, 1991
- , Crawdaddy!, Nov. 7, 2007
- , by Jon Pareles, The New York Times, July 1, 2008
- , by Jon Pareles, The New York Times, July 3, 2008