FEELS work fast.
As in, the four-piece recorded its bruising self-titled 2016 debut in a single day. For its sophomore record, due out this fall, the band took its time and spent an entire six days recording in a studio in Grass Valley — an exorbitant amount of time by comparison.
But process matches content, and that’s not to say FEELS’ music sounds rushed as much as it does forceful, unapologetic, and driven. This is fully formed half-garage, half-punk, prone to melodic-pop moments even when the band delivers them at a breakneck speed. Not unlike contemporaries L.A. Witch or Death Valley Girls, FEELS are indebted to Wire, Richard Hell, and John Dwyer’s Oh Sees, audibly tapping into the California garage tradition with both the record’s melodicism and immediacy. (Producer Ty Segall’s fingerprints show on every scuzzy guitar lick and tidal wave of reverb.)
But it would be strange to expect a California garage band to avoid this tradition, especially one whose members are born and bred Angelenos weaned on Southern California’s DIY and punk scenes. But while those scenes have shifted and many of the venues that housed them shuttered in recent years — DIY venues are notoriously temporary — FEELS haven’t lost faith in the culture’s potential or longevity.
“The punk warehouses have always come, gone, and then reappeared somewhere else. The Smell is still The Smell,” frontwoman Laena Geronimo says. “The sense of communal support just keeps burning brighter.”
“I went to a generator show recently that was in the woods in the Angeles Crest forest,” bassist Amy Allen adds. “I hope to see more of that.”
FEELS’ optimism is hardly the norm in the discourse surrounding DIY and artist-run spaces in recent years, especially in the wake of the unanticipated venue closures that followed the Ghost Ship tragedy. But this optimism perhaps stems from FEELS’ overall positive attitude about making music and sharing it with others. Geronimo, a classically trained violinist, describes herself as “obsessed” with songwriting.
She’s not alone. All of FEELS’ members juggle side projects, musical and otherwise. Geronimo plays in Numb.er as well as a project with her boyfriend called Urgent Care, and writes her own solo work. Guitarist Shannon Lay recently released and toured on her own solo record, Living Water. Allen works as an apprentice knife-maker and designs a line of handmade chains called The Psycho Snake.
“The key to collective success is to maintain time for one’s individual needs,” Allen says.
“It takes the ego out of the room and allows us to combine our ideas without having something to prove individually,” Geronimo adds. “FEELS gets first dibs on all my best ideas, so it’s all good.”
Expect to hear those ideas on the forthcoming album and live on the coinciding tours. Piling into the van will be a return to order for the band that has yet to lose its taste for the road. (“Being on the road can feel a lot more sane than being home,” Geronimo says.)
“We’ve definitely had some adventures, from having to take insane back mountain roads in the middle of a heavy Pacific Northwest storm to that time I fell in a ditch in Spain,” drummer Michael Rudes says. “But it never ceases to amaze me how kind people are all over.”
FEELS, Monday, Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m., at the Independent, 628 Divisadero St., $22.50-$25; theindependentsf.org
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