PSF: What about the 3rd Feelies album, Only Life?
DAVE: That came out in '88. In the meantime, we were touring a lot: about 2 or 3 big tours a year. We went to Europe for the first time, that was for over a month. We did 12 dates opening up for R.E.M. in big arenas. This was all before that album. We got used to playing. Going down south, going to the midwest on a regular basis like a real band.
GLENN: That was through Steve at Coyote Records. A&M knew the history of the band, back from Urgh- A Music War. They were interested in the band. We had a little bit of a reservation, going with a major label.
PSF: Because of the Stiff experience?
GLENN: Stiff was an independent label that acted more like a major label. We also figured that we'd been through everything so not much can happen that didn't happen already. Only Life was great. The people at the label were really enthusiastic. They let us co-produce it. They did quite a bit of promoting of it. Then they got bought out by Polygram and all new people came in that really weren't that familar with the band and didn't really care. Only Life and Time For A Witness didn't get the support that they should have. That happens all the time. Bands get signed to a label and the person that signs them leaves. Then you don't have a relationship anymore.
PSF: What was happening with the band in between those two albums?
GLENN: We did a Lou Reed tour for about a month and a half. Plus it covered a lot of the same territory that we just covered on our own. We were getting kind of burnt with playing and touring at that point. We thought "we don't want to do this but it'll pay off for us." When all new people came in (at the record company), it was like all that work was for nothing. People who were there didn't care about us.
DAVE: A lot of it had to with, especially in Bill's case, the more we toured the more we spent. Eventually we reached the point where we had a soundman.
GLENN: I remember before we went on the Time For A Witness tour, Steve, who was our official manager then because A&M wouldn't sign us unless we had a manager, said "you're at a point now where you could go to the next level or stay where you're at." I saw a lot of value in staying where we were at. Like playing clubs. What if we go to the next level and play to a half-empty theater? Or you could play to a jam packed club. To me, it was much more fun playing to a club to a jam packed audience. But not everybody in the band felt that way and our manager said "now's the time to make that next jump." So we booked theaters and what I figured happened, did happen. At that point, we weren't big enough to fill the theaters. When you go to that next stage, you have the sound guy and the monitor guy and the lights guy, road manager- we have five people in the band and five people in the crew. The crew were making more money than we were. It's like that Paul Westerberg quote: "when the guy lifting your amp is making more than you, something's wrong."
So that was really frustrating for everybody. Bill in particular because he didn't have insurance. He had medical problems and a family and a lot of pressure from home to make more money. He was offered a good paying job with steady income and security which is what he needed at the time.
PSF: When did he quit the band?
GLENN: The summer of '91. A&M said at the time "the new record didn't sell what the old one sold at the this point (which was a month after it'd come out). We really don't want to put a lot of money into the band for tour support so you don't have to tour if you don't want to and if you do, you're on your own." We didn't want to tour. We couldn't even afford it.
PSF: Were you totally surprised that Bill just gave up on the band and music?
DAVE: No, I was surprised he lasted as long as he did. It was getting hard for him to play. He couldn't stand cigarette smoke. Europe was horrendous for him- everyone there smokes three cigarettes at a time. You don't need an ice machine over there. Things like that. The strain of playing every night. It was pretty relentless. There were several times when he would think of getting on a plane and flying home from Germany or somewhere. I saw it coming for at least a year before he finally did pack it in.
There were more people coming to the shows, like on our last tour with Firehouse. The audience was getting younger and bringing skateboards and jumping on the stage. Bill couldn't deal with that either because they'd step all over his pedal board. The Feelies gave their last show in July then in August, Nevermind by Nirvana came out so it was like a new epoch, a new period where everybody would be moshing to anything. They would probably mosh to the Three Tenors. I don't think Bill would have like enjoyed playing in that scene.
PSF: How did you decide that the Feelies was over then?
DAVE: Bill and Glenn WERE the Feelies. They could have played with anybody. It would be like the Kinks without Dave Davies or the Stones without Keith Richards.
PSF: I thought Time For A Witness was the best Feelies album.
GLENN: That's why it was really frustrating. I remember Bill saying before we recorded "there's not going to be a single thing that I'm not going to be happy with and not going to be exactly the way I want it." We did the song "Time For A Witness" every day for a week. We all thought it was good but he heard something he didn't like.
PSF: You think you were more meticulous than with the first album?
GLENN: No, maybe he (Bill) was.
DAVE: Plus we ended up spending a lot of money. They had us going to a barn and studio where Aerosmith record up in Massachusetts. The Stones used to record there. It was like a $400 an hour place. I always thought we could work at Mix-O-Lydian in Booton (New Jersey) and get as good a sound for $50 an hour. When you're on on those big labels, they expect you to go to those big places like the Power Station. We had a girl from A&M come out to Mix-O-Lydian when we were doing the overdubs and she looked around and said "Is this a studio- I judge a studio by its lounge" This was just like an old factory with a studio in it and it was really cool. We did a lot of our other records there. We do all the Wake Ooloo albums with the same guy there.
PSF: So after Bill left, what happened with the band?
GLENN: He was still living in New Jersey. Dave says he wasn't surprised but I was surprised. Everybody threatened to quit at some point. You have a bad night. A little bit of time went by and Stanley said he talked to Bill and he's up for playing again but just not right away because he hadn't picked up a guitar in a couple of months. That looked promising. He said he wanted to play but on a limited basis just to try it again and see how things go. The next thing I know, he moved. I thought that since he was still living around here, there'd be a chance he'd be playing. Then this job opportunity came up, and his parents lived down there (Florida) and his wife's family lived down there. When he was on vacation, his father put in the job application and he got the job offer. It was too much pressure from home to pass it up.
PSF: How did you feel about that then?
GLENN: It was frustrating but then a lot of life is. If he was living around here, even if he didn't want to play, there was always that possibility. But once he moved, no chance now. Then Stan started playing in Luna. Brenda got married.
So Dave and I got together and just decided to play. No real thoughts of forming a band- just work off our excess energy. Whatever it is that drives you to play music is still there, we didn't care if there was a band or a record label. We would just play. We would jam. When it's two guys like that, guitar and drums, whatever popped into my head, I would just start playing. You don't have to worry about him knowing the chords. It would be like real stream of conscious. We played maybe 15 songs in 15 minutes. It was a lot of fun so we did it on a regular basis. At the same time, I had become reacquainted with an old friend of mine who I had been in bands with in high school. That's Russ, our keyboard player. He started playing with us, doing cover songs. Simoultaneous to that, another friend (Troy) who worked as a Feelies guitar roadie would swap tapes through the mail. We got together and jammed with him. A lot of the stuff that came out of those jams became seeds for songs- that was the original side. We were doing that with him and we were doing the covers with Russ.
Before we thought of combining the two, we had done a show at Maxwell's (New Jersey) that was Folk and Fondue- all acoustic in the front room. That sounded like fun so we did a show as a trio with Russ on keyboards. The stuff we were working on with Troy became more original songs. Then I started working on some more songs. We needed a bass player and Troy was playing guitar. Maybe Dave said, why don't you try bass? We actually tried him on guitar- but no bass (in the band) didn't sound very good. My feeling is that there are very few bands that have a very unique two-guitar sound like Television and the Feelies. So I didn't want to have a band with two guitars just for the sake of having two guitars. It takes years to develop interaction of the two guitars.
So we did a couple of rehearsals with Troy on bass and then it really sounded like a real band. We started working on original stuff and when we had enough for an album, we made a home-made four-track demo. We sent it out and didn't get any response. Partly, it was because we didn't have anybody shopping the tapes around so they were probably sitting on a pile. These independent labels get hundreds a day and there's nothing to distinguish it from anything.
PSF: When you were sending out the tapes, did you push the Feelies name?
GLENN: We knew there'd be a connection made. At that point, we didn't really talk about it or know how we'd approach it. We didn't get any response so we said that we really need a better tape. We pooled our money and made a good quality 24-track tape and sent that out.
PSF: How is it working with your new band?
GLENN: It's frustrating at times because we play some places and there aren't that many people there. With the Feelies, I can't remember the last show we did where it wasn't pretty packed. But that's expected. We're just happy to have a band and be playing. The whole scene has changed so drastically since the Feelies were around.
DAVE: It's a pleasure to know that you have your own sound. We just came off of a tour and you see bands trying so hard to sound like the Stone Temple Pilots or Nirvana. There was this band that was doing "I Will Follow" by U2. It's so pathetic. It's not old enough yet- it's not like doing "Great Balls of Fire." We do covers but we mutate them to our own sound. Like "She Said She Said" by the Beatles but it's much faster and has an Allman Brothers ending. We do a medley of "Psychotic Reation" and "How Many More Times". To me, it's OK to do something different. We wouldn't want to do a cover note-for-note although we did "Powderfinger" on the Yung Wu album.
PSF: Do you see yourselves being outside of the music scene today?
GLENN: It doesn't even seem like a scene anymore so you can't really say that you're part of it or you're not part of it.
DAVE: It's not as cohesive as it used to be. When the Feelies did their '84 tour, there were maybe 50 bands.
GLENN: Look at the college charts today and it's the same as the Billboard charts. There's really no distinction at all.
DAVE: Bands like Stone Temple Pilots and R.E.M. sell 80 million records. What makes them alternative? Neil Young. All of a sudden he's alterative. So what does this label mean anymore? With MTV and the record executives, they can make anyone alternative. They made Tony Bennett alternative. They could make the Three Tenors alternative. Put black eye makeup on them. There's all these young kids in bands but they're all trying to sound like Smashing Pumpkins. Not forging their own sound.
GLENN: It really hit home when we did a show with this band (name with-held at Glenn's request). Young kids on a major label, just got signed. They didn't have a clue about anything. We had an air mattress on our van and they didn't know what it was for. We told them we were touring on a budget. They would have band meetings. They stopped a sound-check to have one. The manager was waiting for them at the end of the show, asking if it was time to bring their girlfriends down yet. One of the guys played a bum note and the manager berated him, saying "You let yourself down and the whole band."
DAVE: Then they were being interviewed and before the interview, the guys from their record company had a meeting with them. They were telling the band what to say in the interview. "Joe, you're very into Frank Zappa. Mention that so they know you have some musical sophistication."
PSF: How do you see Wake Ooloo as being different from the Feelies?
DAVE: It's just one guitar. I think if the Feelies had stayed together, the next album would have been like the first Wake Ooloo album. Glenn was writing almost all the material for the last two Feelies albums. Bill would contribute guitar parts. Wake Ooloo is an extension of the Feelies if it had stuck together. You don't get the guitar interplay live- on the records, you have overdubs.
PSF: What do you think is the future of the band, especially with everything you were talking about in the music industry?
GLENN: I think we've been around long enough to realize that things go in cycles. They'll go back to a time when money isn't the only driving force in a band. Nirvana made it so big that everyone was thinking that's a good idea- get a lot of money and have some fun.
DAVE: Nirvana was a fluke. They were around for a while. They just touched a nerve. MTV played the video night and day. I don't think they would have made it without the video. No stations were playing their songs.
PSF: So you weren't interested in working with major labels?
GLENN: We didn't send out any tapes to any major labels. We didn't want to get invovled in that. We knew what would be expected of us. Pravda is limited in what they can do because they're a small operation. It's a trade-off. Even they want us to go to Europe and tour and we don't want to do that.
DAVE: We wouldn't mind making an album a year as long as Pravda gives us the money to do it. It's fun making the records. The touring's a little different- obligations, jobs. Pravda told us to book time for a new album last year and we had one song. All of a sudden, you have that pressure.
PSF: Would you be happy with maintaining the band the way it is now?
DAVE: You always want something more. But we're not unhappy at this level. We're playing, people come to the shows who bought the record and like it. You got to be satisfied with what you got. You can't think "I wish we could be like U2." They got their own problems. We're not the E Street band.
GLENN: We are disillusioned but what's the alternative? Not being in a band and not writing songs? We look at Pravda as a compromise. We're able to do what we want to do with the least amount of interference. If that means a smaller audience, that's fine. Usually when you get a bigger audience, it's usually the people you don't want.
DAVE: Plus some of the greatest bands in my book never made it as big as the Feelies. Like Television or 13th Floor Elevators.
GLENN: We always said with the Feelies, we'd rather have 20 people like us for the right reasons than 200 people like you because you're the newest thing.
Glenn and Dave played in a new band called True Wheel in the last year or two- they've played some shows and have a demo recorded so far but that looks to be on hiatus.
1998 UPDATE: Wake Ooloo is no more. Turns out that Russell couldn't work in time for the band. The last show that they did was around the middle of the year. Glenn and Dave are now working with Speed the Plough members and Stan in a new band called Sunburst. They started out 2 years ago, initially just friends getting together on weekends. They've finished a demo and are shopping it around now. Glenn is also working on his own material apart from the band- 4-track demos at the moment with the end result possibly coming together in another band.
Also see Todd Levin's article on the Feelies and a great new web site decided to the Feelies.
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