Wed, Oct. 31st, 2012
The Features present: A Gala of Goblins and Ghouls
with Heypenny, Tristen & The Goldroom
The Cannery Ballroom
But when the four members first set up shop in the cabin-esque confines of Ripcord Studio, what they'd come out of there with was anybody's guess."A lot of it seemed pretty spontaneous," says the band's frontman, Matthew Pelham. "Because we didn't solidify anything, really, in those two weeks of practicing. So when we got there, there were a lot of loose ends to tie up."
It wasn't just a bold move, but a dramatic change of pace for a band that’s been praised as one of best live rock combos around. Over the years, they've served up slice after slice of hook-fueled brilliance - with subtle nods to new wave, '60s garage, southern rock, Krautrock and beyond - and perfected them over the course of countless shows and constant retooling in their practice space.
Capturing their thrilling, stage-tested sound was a no-brainer on previous albums. But for "The Features," Pelham and his bandmates - keyboardist Mark Bond, bassist Roger Dabbs and drummer Rollum Haas - were game to shake things up. Just two months away from the release of their hailed 2011 album "Wilderness," they decided that they weren't going to wait another two or three years to start work on the follow-up. They'd make it in the two months they had to spare.
That meant that almost none of the songs pegged for "The Features" had been performed in front of an audience - and several were still works-in-progress when the band arrived in Vancouver. "I don't think we really had any expectations," Pelham says. "We just thought, 'Let's do it differently.’"
From their first night in town - when they loaded into the studio and immediately started firming up the song they were set to track the next day - the band didn't flinch at the task at hand. With no time for second-guessing, they embraced a slew of previously untapped sonics and styles, resulting in their most adventurous set of songs yet.
Lead-off cut "Rotten" is a bold, multi-movement stunner, veering from serene synth-pop to proto-metal riffs, flirting with anthemic "Who's Next" arena-rock before shrinking back to its starting point. "This Disorder" - an instant classic in The Features' esteemed catalog - throbs with a tense funk pulse, jagged guitar swipes and staccato synth lines, as Pelham's tightly wound vocal offers words of caution in the scatterbrained smartphone age. "New Romantic" and "Ain't No Wonder" similarly straddle the line between classic new wave and Bowie-styled soul. But the album is thoroughly modern, too, particularly in the wide-open spaces of shimmering rockers "With Every Beat" and "In Your Arms."
Add it all up, and "The Features" is the sound of a band that's wholly comfortable with where they are - and know exactly where they want to head next.
Though known mostly for country music royalty—the likes of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash—Nashville has a flourishing indie-rock scene that along with the neighborhood streets, the hills, and woods—make a perfect place for Heypenny to create their world of indie-pop-fun-rock.
Four years ago, Ben Elkins lived about 150 miles south of Nashville in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He experimented with sounds and spaces and new ways of writing songs. Through these efforts, Heypenny was born and an album called Use These Spoons was completed and Elkins relocated to Nashville, TN, recruiting DJ Murphy on bass and Aaron Distler on drums.
Although it was never fully distributed, Use These Spoons made waves in the blogosphere and garnered accolades throughout the region/country/Western hemisphere for its pop-infused balance of rhythm, harmony, and DIY brilliance, ultimately selling out of all their pressings.
What started out as a quiet, solitary and patient endeavor has over the last year erupted into a staccato-rock band that finds company with contemporaries, while channeling the pop-appeal of Michael Jackson, and the naiveté of Sesame Street.
Fresh off a stint opening for pop superstar, Ke$ha, playing for 2000+ at the Florida Music Festival, playing Bonnaroo in 2009 and headlinging Next Big Nashville for a capacity crowd, the band has honed and perfected their craft, rapidly building their profile and fanbase, inking them as a must see live show.
Whether they are pushing through capacity crowds with marching bands in tow, having artists paint 8′x5′ renderings of the pages from their CopCar Coloring Book EP during their show, or playing a surprise set in the middle of the crowd with an upright piano, string quartet and horn section, blanketing the audience in a hundred feet of white Christmas lights, it’s no secret that they think big and deliver.
It’s the attention to detail—custom, hand-made marching band uniforms to the old-fashioned, big-knobbed, wood-paneled television sets that bathe the audience in abstract colors, flashing and pulsing with the songs—that gives the audience an actual show.
Graham Hawthorne, drummer for David Byrne emailed the band after their Bonnaroo performance and said that he happily stumbled onto the set and that it was perhaps “the best thing he saw at the festival.” It’s little things like that, going in as the underdog and winning the hearts, minds and ears of strangers that keeps them going and make them pour everything they have into perfecting their craft and giving their fans something memorable.
Heypenny recently finished up their follow-up to Use These Spoons titled A Jillion Kicks. AJK was released on February 22, 2011 to rave reviews from fans and critics alike. You can find the band touring in a city near you as these relentless road dogs never stop.
With her warm, guileless vocals and earnest, evocative songwriting, Tristen has emerged as a truly individual talent, bridging genres and emotions to create a distinctive sound all her own.
You guys are pretty solid.