DeadJournalist.com Exclusive Interviews
EXCLUSIVE Interview: The Features
Chuck Norton, DeadJournalist.com
So, you think that when a band signs on with a major label, they have sold out. And why not? Even casual music snobs could come up with a lengthy list of critically adored artists whose music completely changes once they sign on with one of the corporate giants.
But really, who can blame them? It's most artists' only chance and making a little money for all their hard work and years on the road.
How many bands do you know that, once signed, put out a well received album only to stand up for their principles when the label asked them to do a cover song for a TV commercial?
That list isn't that long - and for good reason. Most songs, most commercials - it's a great opportunity for a band to make a little money and get some much needed exposure.
But what if that song is the classic, revered song "All You Need Is Love" by the Beatles? And what is the commercial is for a credit card company? Then what do you do?
Well, if you are the Features, you say "no". And you get dropped by your label, Universal.
The Features, whose ten-years of playing together had paid off with 2004's debut Exhibit A, decided that they cared more about their integrity as a band than the financial benefit of covering the Beatles' classic.
As drummer Rollum Haas stated in a September 2006 interview with Nashville Scene, "That Beatles song for that commercial feels really wrong to me. As far as covering the song, whatever. If we were just to do that, cool. But using it for something like that seems wrong to me.”
(The article in Nashville Scene is a top-knotch read, so if you are a fan of the band, or if you want to get a complete history into them, check it out: here.)
So the Features decided to go back to their Murfreesboro, TN roots, and put out their next album, the EP Contrast, on their own. The band, comprised of Matthew Pelham, Roger Dabbs, Mark Bond and Rollum Haas have only one focus. Making their music, on their terms.
The Features will be touring in 2007 and on December 30 and 31, 2006 the band will be playing a two-night set with the Raconteurs at the Rivera Theatre in Chicago.
Contrast is available for sale on the band's Web site. You can also download tracks of their album on MySpace's new for-pay download service.
DeadJournalist.com is proud to bring you this exclusive interview with Rollum Haas of the Features.
The band has had a hell of a year - are you looking forward to being done with 2006?
RH: Very much so.
Looking back on everything that has happened, is there anything that you'd do differently?
RH: No. Aside from the cover song being a bad idea on all levels, the simple fact is that if anyone at Universal had really cared one bit about the band we wouldn't have been dropped for refusing to do it.
Has it been a big adjustment going back to the DIY way of doing things?
RH: Everything hit at once and it was pretty chaotic for a while. The fact that we stayed moving was very important to keeping everyone's spirits up. In a lot of ways it's actually been very healthy for everyone. The band was getting pretty complacent, and it really felt like we weren't making good use of the time we had.
The band was set to record its follow-up LP to Exhibit A when the split occurred. Were any of the songs intended for that LP used on the EP Contrast?
RH: We had (and still have) a massive list of songs we were considering. I know that "Contrast", "Wooden Heart" (in a totally different form ... more street-tough than the swamp-tough version we ended up recording), and "I Will Wander" were close to ready. "Commotion" was a very new song at that point and "Guillotine" was an idea we'd been tossing around for about four years.
Given the numerous positive reviews that Contrast has received, do you feel the band is recording the best music of its career?
RH: We've always been bigger fans of whatever we're doing at the moment.
Are you in the process of recording a new album?
RH: We're taking things a step at a time right now. We're writing with the intention of recording an album soon, but I have no way of knowing when that will be.
Will the events of 2006 show up on future recordings, or are there other topics about which you want to write and record?
RH: I know Matt wrote about some of it on the Contrast EP. Some topics I've overheard him sing about at practice lately are coffee and honeybuns and white flags.
Are you in talks with any labels about a new deal?
RH: I've been trying to stay in the dark about that sort of thing. I know that our managers are talking to a few people here and there.
While the band has some date around Tennessee scheduled in the next month, are there plans in the works for a full-scale national/international tour?
RH: We're going to tour as much as possible next year. The scale of it depends on what our means will be. Hopefully we'll be able to go across the US and get back to the UK.
The band recently announced two shows with the Raconteurs at the end of the year. Given the bands' high energy stage shows, are you sure the building will be able to take the punishment?
RH: Absolutely not.
As an artist, who has had the most influence on your career?
RH: Probably The Beatles. They were the first band that I made a decision to listen to. I knew that their records were the ones with apples on them. I'm always listening to different random stuff, all of which plays some part in influencing me.
What were you listening to back in 1996?
RH: A lot of Brit-pop (particularly Blur and Pulp). I was just getting into Bowie and Roxy Music around that time too, which leads to Eno, which leads to a billion other things.