Featherface has been one of the rising stars in Houston’s music scene. Their first album, It Comes Electric, was a notable DIY effort that burst right out of the gate with ambitious songwriting and production. For all its success, the album felt like a cliffhanger where the band was only just getting a handle on what it was capable of crafting and to many fans, the real question was what the band was going to produce for the follow up. The answer to that question is finally upon us with the release of Actual Magic and if the first song released is any indication, the band has really stretched itself between releases. We contacted singer and guitarist Kenny Hopkins to ask him about the new album.
Tell us about the new album. Where was it recorded, how was it different than your last album, etc.
Kenny - The new album was recorded by ourselves in various locations over the course of 2012. The last album was recorded completely in a cramped little storage unit in Friendswood, so this time we wanted to be somewhere relaxing that could really allow us to take our time with all the details. The first location, where we did a lot of the writing and planning of the album, as well as some recording, was a house on Canyon Lake that is owned by Steve’s grandparents. He has a lot of childhood attachment to that place, and we always find it really inspiring to hang out there. Most of the actual recording took place at a house on Lake Conroe where Travis’s parents live. It was another really great place to be able to relax and relieve some of the stress of recording. Finishing touches on recording and a lot of the mixing took place at Kenny’s parents’ house in Friendswood. We’re really thankful that we had such nice places to be during the process.
How do you feel you’ve evolved as a band in the time between albums?
Kenny - I think that we have evolved into a real band since the last album. It Comes Electric was an experiment for us, and we could have taken those songs and gone a lot of different ways with them. The new album is much more cohesive and intentional. Before It Comes Electric, we hadn’t played many shows at all, and since that time we have played nearly every weekend. This gave us the chance to really feel out what we wanted our music to achieve in front of a live audience, and the whole experience of being serious about this band has definitely impacted the way both our sound and our lyrics have developed. Over the course of the past year we have introduced our new songs into the live set to the point where we have only been playing one or two of the old songs at shows for quite awhile. Our sound itself has evolved into a much more hard-rocking take on psychedelic pop. It was bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath who inspired us to pick up guitars as kids, and we’ve definitely let that shine through more on this album. We also took a much more singer-songwriter approach to the writing process, keeping in mind some of our favorite artists like Paul Simon, David Bowie, Neil Young, and Nick Drake. All that being said, we didn’t want any of our songs to be derivative of any of those bands so we kept the process as natural as possible. We’ve always wanted to make a great rock album, so we really had fun messing with that concept.
Now that the album is out, will you be playing out more and possibly doing some tours?
Kenny - Absolutely. We are planning our first real tour for November, and we have a lot of weekends out of town coming up in the next two months. We’re definitely in this for the long haul, so we’re planning on touring as much as physically possible.
Kenny - The date that we wanted to release the album happened to coincide with a show that we were offered by our friends in The Tontons, so we decided to celebrate the album release that night. This is definitely still The Tontons’ show though, and with Quiet Company on the bill as well, it seemed weird to push it as our album release. We are still basically treating it as our release show, and we’ll have copies of the new album as well as new shirts. Other than that, we will be playing at Cactus Music earlier that day to support the release, and we have an album release show at Lambert’s in Austin on August 31st. We’re very excited about all of this, so it seemed unnecessary to have a separate album release.
The video is really well made. Can you tell us a bit about it – who directed it, who wrote it, the production of it and why you guys decided to do more than just a “look at us play our instruments in our rehearsal space” video?
Kenny - The video was directed, written, and entirely produced by Randall Hopkins, a great filmmaker based in Austin (who also happens to be Kenny’s brother). He is the only person who had heard the album all the way through its development, and when he came to us with the idea for the video, it instantly connected with us. We have always wanted a video that tells a story and can stand on its own as a work of art. We like the idea that a video has a reason to exist other than just the fact that bands need something to accompany the song on Youtube. We shot it with the help of some really great friends, and the extras were all people who saw the band post about it on Facebook and were nice enough to help out for a few hours. The band makes a short cameo at the end if you look very closely. It was a lot of fun to make.
So now that the album is complete and about to be released, how do you feel?
Kenny - We have been working on this set of songs for well over a year now, so the fact that we are finished with the record is still a little hard for us to accept. It was a really difficult album to make in a lot of ways. We had a lot of setbacks due to equipment breaking and malfunctioning. There was one time that we recorded nearly all of Kenny’s guitar parts, only to realize that there was some buzzing sound in the background of all of them. After about two hours of investigation, we found a Red Stripe bottle cap magnetically attached to the speaker in the amp. So that was fun. The production itself took a lot of going over and over the same parts until they were just right, which can take a lot out of you. Lyrically, we really poured our hearts into these songs, and confronted a lot of feelings that are very uncomfortable for people like us to talk about. We were very honest with ourselves, which turned out to be sort of therapeutic, but also very painful in a lot of ways. All that being said, we are very proud of how the record ended up, and even though we’re anxious about what people will think of it when it is released, we are satisfied knowing that we put everything we had into it.
Featherface perform this weekend
Saturday 01 September 2012 @ Cactus Music (3PM, Free, All ages)
Saturday 01 September 2012 with The Tontons and Quiet Company @ Warehouse Live (8pm, $10, all ages)