The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers’ album, Life in the Dark, out on Yep Roc, is classic American music. At once plainspoken and deeply literate, the band’s latest features nine new songs that capture the hopes and fears, the yearning and resignation, of a rootless, restless nation at a time of change.

Life in the Dark also coincides with The Felice Brothers’ 10th anniversary as a band. Hailed by the AV Club for a sound at once “timeless, yet tossed-off,” they’ve released plenty of music over the past decade, often on their own without a record label, but the new album is the fullest realization yet of the band’s DIY tendencies. Self-produced by the musicians and engineered by James Felice (who also contributed accordion, keyboards and vocals), the Felice Brothers made Life in the Dark themselves in a garage on a farm in upstate New York, observed only by audience of poultry.

“The recording is definitely rough around the edges and cheap,” James Felice says, laughing. “It was liberating and really cool to do. It allowed us to untether ourselves from anything and just make music.”

Because of makeshift studio set-up, the music they made was necessarily stripped down, emphasizing acoustic instruments and spacious arrangements on songs that showcase the sound of a band playing together live, with echoes in the music of Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and rural blues.

“We tried to make it as simple and folk-based as possible, because we were working with limited resources,” singer and guitarist Ian Felice says. “We wanted to take all the frills out and make it just meat and potatoes.”

Still, there are hints of seasoning: among the folk and blues touchstones, the band took a certain inspiration from Neil Young and the Meat Puppets, too. Ian Felice says he was trying to channel the spirit of Meat Puppets II on opener “Aerosol Ball” — “They played kind of weird, freaky folk music, so there’s a connection there,” he says — while James Felice says listening to Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night was like getting permission to make Life in the Dark.

“If you listen to that record, it’s fucking crazy,” he says. “We listened to that to know that what we were doing was legal and had precedent. If Neil Young could make a record that sounds like that, we can make a record that sounds like this.”

He’s referring to the wild, whirling accordion and big, loose rhythm on “Aerosol Ball,” mournful glimmers of electric guitar and fiddle on “Triumph ’73” and the ramshackle, blues-rock feel of “Plunder,” full of grainy lead guitars, blasts of organ and a shout-along chorus inspired by the rhythm of Shakespeare’s “Double, double toil and trouble” incantation in Macbeth. Though The Felice Brothers often share songwriting duties, the band gravitated toward Ian Felice’s songs for Life in the Dark.

Along with Shakespeare and the Meat Puppets, Ian Felice absorbed the essence of writers from Anne Sexton to Anne Frank, Raymond Carver to Dr. Seuss, on tunes with clear, if unintentional, political undertones. “It’s just what was going on when I was writing the songs,” Ian Felice says. “It’s a pretty politically charged climate right now.” To say the least.

The singer’s characters on “Aerosol Ball” exist in a dystopian culture bought, and ruled, by corporations; while “Jack at the Asylum” catalogs cultural ills including climate change, economic inequality and the numbing aspects of televised warfare, themes that recur again on “Plunder.” He wrote the title track after re-reading The Diary of a Young Girl, the journal that Frank kept while in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. “The idea of living in a dark attic unable to fully grasp what is going on in your life and feeling powerless to change it seemed like a relevant metaphor for me at the time,” Ian Felice says.

Elsewhere, he offers his own interpretation of classic American archetypes: “Triumph ’73” follows a young man on the cusp of adulthood desperate to ride his motorcycle away from the life changes overtaking him, while the ballad “Diamond Bell” tells the story of a folk heroine gunslinger in the vein of Pretty Boy Floyd or Jesse James, and the hapless, lovestruck kid she ensnares. “It’s part-love song, part-adventure story, part-tragedy, told in the Mexican folk tradition of singing about bandits,” Ian Felice says. “I think it’s one of the most straight-ahead narratives I’ve written.”

The band, spent about a month recording Life in the Dark in the late winter of 2015. James Felice learned engineering on the fly — “I literally had a book, like, ‘Where do you put the mic? How do you mic the kick drum?’” he says — and the band managed to nail most of the tunes within a few takes.

“There wasn’t too much agonizing, just the joy of playing music,” James Felice says. “We had an audience of chickens, and an audience of each other, and we were just really enjoying making it.”

The resulting album is more than just classic American music — it’s a parable for modern America.

Black Horse Motel

Philadelphia's Black Horse Motel crafts its genre-fluid city folk sound by taking traditional folk instrumentation and lyrics, blending them with Americana roots, rock, blues, and country influences and tying it all together with rich vocal harmonies. The resulting sound is infectiously foot-stomping, heart-breaking, familiar and new.

In 2012, Black Horse Motel offered their first recording; a self-titled EP. In 2013, they followed up with their debut full-length LP, Red Summer Spirit.

The next three years brought several lineup changes while the group continued to hone their sound and expand their fan base. The current group is Desiree Haney(cello/keys/vocals), Megan Manning (drums/percussion/vocals), Galen Fitzpatrick (guitar/dobro/vocals), and Ryann Lynch (fiddle/vocals).

The now cemented four piece released Parable, a 5-song EP, in January 2017, after a successful PledgeMusic campaign.

In the fall of 2017, Black Horse Motel competed in Philadelphia councilman David Oh’s city-wide PHL Live music competition and won the Country/Folk category! Prizes included cash and studio time.

Black Horse Motel also won twice at 2018’s local Homey Awards, hosted by 93.7 WSTW - for Best Folk Song, and EP of the Year!

Partnering again with engineer/producer Ron DiSilvestro, the band headed back to the renowned Studio 4 in Conshohocken, PA and Forge Recording in Oreland, PA, to record their next EP in the winter of 2018. The finished product was once again mastered by Grammy Award winner, Phil Nicolo.
And Then You Were Gone was released on July 20, 2018 to all major online outlets.

Black Horse Motel has performed at the famed Philadelphia Folk Festival in Schwenksville, PA, the Dewey Beach Music Conference and Dewey Beach Americana Festival in Dewey Beach, DE, Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA, Xtreme Folk Festival in Telford, PA and the People’s Choice Festival in State College, PA. The group has also performed at many popular Philadelphia-area venues, including World Cafe Live, Boot & Saddle, Ardmore Music Hall, and Bourbon & Branch. The group has begun spreading their sound to the greater Philadelphia area, with performances in Jenkintown, King of Prussia, Phoenixville, New Hope, State College, and Wilkes-Barre, as well as to Brooklyn, NY, Ithaca, NY, Baltimore, MD, Charleston, WV, and Nashville, TN. Black Horse Motel has been featured as live performers on several radio programs, including Delaware’s WSTW Hometown Heroes show, The Folk Show on WXPN, Folkadelphia on XPN2, and Y-Not Radio.

Love? said the Commander

Love? said the Commander is a duo from the Philadelphia area made up of Kate Hall, a sad gal who sings and plays guitar and bass, and Chris Bishop, a less sad guy who plays guitar. Both have been playing music in different projects for many years, but the pair met in the winter of 2018 via a Craigslist ad. It was Kate's desperate, last ditch effort at finding a musical partner and Chris's first all too easy attempt at meeting that perfect singer - a fact that has created a grudge Kate will hold on to for many years to come. Combining powerful lyrics and vocals with dynamic guitar work, the two hope to deliver a sound unlike anything listeners have heard before.

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