The Feelies, who celebrated their 40-year history with two shows at Rent Party in Maplewood in June 1016, kicked off their next 40 years with the release of a new album, In Between, in late February. They’ll play songs from it, as well as older material, at another Rent Party concert, April 28.
A press release describes the album as the band’s “quietest and most furious album,” and, indeed, it does have a focused intensity that makes that seem like an accurate assessment. Does singer-guitarist Glenn Mercer — who forms the band along with singer-guitarist Bill Million, bassist Brenda Sauter, drummer Stan Demeski and percussionist Dave Weckerman — agree?
“I don’t know. It’s not for me to say,” he says. ” The Good Earth (1986) … people thought that was kind of quiet. The last record (2011’s Here Before), I heard references to it being more laidback.
“I think some of it , too, is the actual sound of it. You can hear each instrument pretty separate. There’s not a lot of ambience. It’s a more intimate type of a sound. People might perceive that as quietness.”
The album, recorded primarily at Mercer’s home studio in North Haledon, stays mainly in a concise and melodic vein, though the closing track, “In Between (Reprise),” is an outlier: An explosive 9 ½-minute epic.
“Yeah, but it’s not that far of a stretch from something you might hear on (1991’s) Time for a Witness — you know, ‘Decide,’ or the song ‘Time for a Witness,’ where they’re a little more jam-oriented,” says Mercer. “We used to jam a lot, so it’s not outside our frame of reference.”
Like Here Before, In Between was released by the Hoboken-based Bar/None record label. Bar/None has also reissued the band’s first four records, originally put out by Stiff, Coyote and A&M. “It’s a local label, and we just feel really comfortable there,” Mercer says. “We have good communication with them.”
The album was basically finished last fall, but didn’t came out until February, partially because time had to be factored in to get the vinyl copies printed.
“We sell more vinyls than CDs now, apparently,” says Mercer. “Vinyl’s made such a big comeback, and there aren’t as many pressing plants as there used to be, so you have to get on a waiting list, and oftentimes it will take half a year from the time you submit the masters, and get the vinyl pressings.”
The 40th anniversary shows, last summer, featured guest appearances by former bandmates Vinny and Keith DeNunzio, and Anton Fier, as well as members of Yo La Tengo and Speed the Plough.
“The initial idea came from Dave, who had commented on The Rolling Stones having had a big anniversary tour, and they brought out various prior members to be guests,” says Mercer. “He thought that would be fun to do with the Feelies. I guess our manager overheard him, and kind of ran with the idea.
“It wasn’t really supernostalgic for me, because I had been playing with Vinny recently — he played on a few songs on my first solo record (2007’s Wheels in Motion), and did a bunch of live stuff promoting that. So I kind of revisited the past and thought a lot about the early days of the band when I reconnected with him. And Anton played on Wheels in Motion as well, so I kind of made a connection with him. So it wasn’t quite as nostalgic as it might have been if I hadn’t seen those guys in decades.
“I think, also, it’s probably, partially on an unconscious level … the desire to have it not really be about the nostalgia: To have it be more of a celebration of the current lineup, and the past lineup, and not to look too hard at the past. I kind of thought it would be an event that would be different for everybody, and you could take from it what you want, really.”
For information about the Rent Party show, visit rentpartylive.com.