True to their roots, the five southern gents of The Wild Feathers have orchestrated a blend of rock and roll that has Nashville stamped all over it. From the vivid images of Americana steeped into the lyrics, to the harmonizing vocals found throughout most of their debut self-titled album, The Wild Feathers bring us back to an age where blues, folk, country, and rock collide as one.
Pop Counter//Culture catches Joel King (vocals/bass) after sound check prior to the band’s sold out Vancouver show. King, with a charming southern drawl and long rock star locks to match, graciously answers our questions on storytelling, The Beatles, and of course, rock and roll.
I see you’ve got the skull and Indian head dress logo on the drums, the tour posters, and the t-shirts. Is that the official Wild Feathers logo at the moment?
Joel King: Kind of, we thought we’d nickname him Mike because we meet a million Mike’s. We were trying to look for a logo and we thought that looked really awesome. It kind of fit with the whole band image, so we went with it. I don’t know how long, just for this tour, or longer.
There’s a lot of vivid imagery in the album. Was that deliberate?
Maybe it’s just the style of tunes we write. We don’t really think about it too much. We demoed like sixty tunes because everyone just had a million song ideas. We wrote a lot together. We tried to pick out the best album and what the best songs were. So I don’t know if we intentionally did an imagery thing, but it’s just the way we are.
The imagery really ties up the story of the songs. Do you find that good storytelling is necessary for good song writing?
I think it does. But I like all types of songs too. There are some songs where I don’t know what the hell they mean, like “Free Fallin’“ or “Hotel California”. Like, who knows what those songs are about, but they sound great and paint a really good picture. I think storytelling depends on the song. Sometimes there’s a point to the song and you want to get that point across, but sometimes you just want to create something that sounds great, that’s pleasing to the ears, kind of like a Tom Petty song.
You mention Tom Petty and The Eagles and those are the guys that The Wild Feathers are getting compared to.
It’s nice to be compared to people we like and everything. We don’t try to sound a certain way. I think it’s in our blood and where we’re from. Classic rock radio, our parents’ collection, things like that, it’s what we’ve grown up listening to. Bob Dylan, The Beatles, it’s just naturally in us. We never go, “let’s try to sound like this.” We try not to sound like anything, but do what feels good. At the end of the day, it must be natural because we’re not trying too hard.
The single,” The Ceiling”, did the song sprout from the melody or from a line in the lyrics?
It started with the riff. I’ve been playing the riff for years and nothing every come of it. Then Ricky was like, I’ve got this thing, so we tried to figure it out and mould it. Taylor came in with another part and then at the end of the song, there’s another part that we put together. It was work, but it was fun work. It ended up being six or seven minutes, but we thought it had to be that long.
And the last couple minutes of the song where you guys completely change it up. What’s that about?
The Beatles always did something really crazy where they came back in like “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, it doesn’t even go back to repeat a part. It’s just one part, and then another part, another part and like six different things, and then it goes on and ends. The Beatles are the king of that. Just switching it up. The Beatles wrote the Bible as far as rock and roll goes.
Back to “The Ceiling“, when is the last time you felt so far down, you couldn’t find the ceiling?
It was a pretty dark time before we got signed. We were barely hanging on, trying to tour. Last year on Valentine’s Day was a really low point. We were in Birmingham, Alabama at this notorious cesspool of a venue. We were away from our girls and our wives, and we were playing to four people on Valentine’s Day. That was pretty dark. It’s been pretty good since then.
The song, “American”, does a really cool thing where you personify this ideal or lifestyle. If the song happen to change from “American” to say, “Canadian”, from what you’ve seen of Canada, what would that song sound like?
It does say “blue jeans, broken in” so that could be a little Canadian. There are a lot of similarities. Vancouver is a lot different from the east, and we wrote that in California, so it probably has more of a Vancouver vibe than a Montreal vibe. You could probably throw “Canadian” in pretty easily.
When we first wrote that, we didn’t know if we should use the term, “American”. We wrote the song with Gary Louris of The Jayhawks, one of our favourite groups. It was early morning. Me and Taylor were jamming on it. We were like, “should we say American? Is that cool to do?” We met Gary later on that night and were talking about writing the song. He said, “Just say it. Either no one will give a shit and you won’t either, or people will like it. Either way you have nothing to lose.” He came in with the bridge and we agreed it was great.
Are there any perfectionists in the group?
Maybe, a lot of times…actually no [laughs]. We’re not really like that. It just works or it doesn’t. Also, with the stuff we like, like The Rolling Stones, they record a whole song with the guitar out of tune and fifty years later, the guitar is still out of tune on that record, which is cool. It’s the imperfections. I like The Beach Boys all right, but they’re too right on. We like playing live. We don’t like to be locked up in a studio six months at a time making a record. That sounds like a drag.
All the band members grew up in the south. What characteristics from your southern upbringing have you brought with you into your adult life?
Hopefully being polite, even when we don’t want to be. Maybe our accents? There’s also an overall feel, like the type of music being played there – classic rock, old country, and stuff like that. It’s in the water. It’s where country and blues and everything started. Even jazz. I’m proud of that.
Nashville especially, is a hub for artists and musicians, and all of you made your way there. What were your first impressions of Nashville when you first arrived?
I moved to Nashville years ago. When I got there it was a little overwhelming in how good everyone was. Good guitar players, songwriters, good like kazoo players. Everybody being really good is a good thing, being around company like that. It makes you better. We felt that if we wanted to do something, it had to be at least as good as other people. So many people make a living playing music there, whereas I’m from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where no body makes a living playing music. It was inspiring and a little scary.
Rock and roll has become so many things over the decade, so how would you answer the question, what is rock and roll?
I’d say rock and roll is blues, folk, country all mixed together. It’s a little of everything, which is what’s so cool about rock and roll. The Rolling Stones can play a full country song and then a stereotypical blues song. There’s an umbrella with rock and roll. We like to spit and scream and play loud, and then we also like to take it back. That’s what’s cool about being in a rock and roll band. You can play what ever you want.