FeelsClub On Fire In 2020!
The Creative Issue caught up with FeelsClub vocalist St Jonnie following the release of their latest track ‘b) sober’. Speaking to us from his studio, St Jonnie filled us in on their recent tour of Japan and what they’ve got planned for the rest of 2020!
The Creative Issue: Congratulations on the release of ‘b) sober’. You’ve released a stack of music already this year, which is quite a feat considering the way the pandemic has impacted the music industry. It feels like you’re just powering through. How are FeelsClub approaching 2020?
St Jonnie: It’s either this or it ends [laughs]. It’s pretty bleak but if I stop playing shows I’ll lose my mind. The only thing that keeps me together while I’m at my day job, that I fucking hate, is the dream that it’s going to go away. So when everything fell apart, our only option was to occupy ourselves by putting out as much content as possible to try and keep that dream alive.
TCI: Jumping back to last year quickly, FeelsClub toured Japan and I believe this new track was inspired by your time there. What was that experience like?
S: Surreal. Absolutely insane. Other than when I was a kid, going to see my family in New Zealand, I’d never been overseas. I’d been interstate a bit. Leith had never been overseas and Mika had never been overseas. It was the three of us that went. We’d finished the last EP and we decided we would go on a holiday. Then we decided “well half the band is here and we can play a show with as little as two people, because we do a lot of it digitally, so why don’t we try and book some shows?” So we did two weeks of holiday and then in the last week we played a bunch of shows in Tokyo. It was crazy. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. We were keen to go back again this year, but it’s not been possible.
TCI: The song sounds massive but I’ve heard you refer to your studio as a dungeon. Can you paint us a picture of FeelsClub recording ‘b) sober’?
S: I’m literally standing there right now hunting for a microphone and cord that I have to take to another place. It’s an old Queenslander on stilts in Bardon. It’s next to a main road. The underneath has been built in over the years. Half of the downstairs is big and open, and then there’s one long dungeon-esque room sort of pushed under the stairs. It’s closed in and liveable, but has zero windows, and it’s filled with our gear. It’s about six meters long and about two and a half meters wide, and it’s just us packed in there in different configurations recording or writing music. Two of us live about five minutes down the road in different directions so they might bounce a track to me and I’ll work on it here, or vise versa. But mostly everything gets recorded in here.
TCI: It sounds nice and cosy.
S: Yeah. We invested in colour adaptive lighting to kind of set a mood. There’s a TV at one end, and a sound system, so if we’re ever bored or stuck for inspiration we pop on a scene from a movie that we really like or something, or flick YouTube onto the TV and just try to vibe that. We really stopped trying to deny ourselves the ability to be inspired by things. Like we used to be like “come on guys we’ve got to record something this time. No one move. No one step away from the computer. We’re really just going to have to session this one out.” But this time we decided to do more sessions and allow them to all have more freedom. So it felt less forced and more inspired I guess.
TCI: FeelsClub have definitely evolved since you first hit the scene, especially with your last single ‘talkTALK’ and this newest release. Has that come from changes in the music you’re listening to, or is it more from the changes you mentioned in how you’re approaching recording sessions?
S: Yeah. So none of us can read and write music really. I mean, we can sit down and sort of read sheet music, but if someone asks us what key a song is in we don’t know. We’re not ‘musicians’ in that standard sense of the word. Any that we did have in the band are gone and it’s just the four of us left. We’re just shuckin’ and vibin’. It’s not really a shift in what we listen to. We’ve always listened to this sort of music when we get together, or different stuff again. Like I listen to a lot of trap, you know, Waka Flocka or Gucci Mane, but as well I listen to a lot of Tom Waits, a bit of Jim White, a lot of really sad country. Anything with a strong feeling I’ll listen to. I suppose what we changed was, and we were actually talking about this the other day after a photo shoot, we decided to write music that we like rather than the music we think we should be writing.
With the last EP we had a lot of time with producers. We’re a band where there are only two of the original members still here, Letih and myself who write most of the music. So we took what we were doing, then we weren’t really sure what we were doing, we were all coming from different directions and from different bands. We didn’t really know how to do what we wanted to do, and it sort of just happened, and we just went with it. Then we went, “Ok. So what do we need to make it?” and we tried to make it that. Then we went “Well what do people want?” and we tried to make it that. Then we said “How should we be doing it?” and we tried to make it that. We finally stopped and just said, “We’re either quitting this or we’re going to make what we want to make.” and we just did it I guess.
TCI: We spoke about your experience in Japan sparking this latest song. Still thinking about different cultures and touring internationally. If you could tour any country where would you most want to go?
J: I would love to do a tour of the Philippines sponsored by Jollibee [laughs]. That’s the dream. Do you know what Jollibee is?
TCI: I’ve got to admit I do not. I was about to google it.
J: Jollibee is like a KFC sort of thing. It’s a fast food chain that originated from the Philippines, and that bee shakes it. Just google a gif of Jollibee and you’ll see this bee, that is their mascot, it’s like the Ronald McDonald of Jolliebee’s, just shaking it. If there’s a dance concert for a Filippino fest in Sydney, or London, or anywhere that there’s a large community of Filipinos, Jollibee will come out and Jollibee will break it down to a Drake track or something like that.
TCI: Alright so what we’ve got to do is make that a FeelsClub track and you could just play at all of their restaurants in the Philippines. Is that the plan?
S: Absolutely. I would love to. My partner Mika, who is also in the band as well, she’s part Filipino. We were meant to be going there this year as well, so this way we’d get to meet all of the family, and have fun. I’ll tell you what, Filipino people absolutely are the wildest people to party with. So that would be an insane place to tour and play small shows everywhere and get loose on cheap beer, sunshine and chicken.
TCI: You’ve played a bunch of great festivals over the last couple of years, not to mention supporting the likes of Confidence Man, The Jungle Giants, Client Liaison and of course your own sold out tours as well. Is there any standout moment? Any highlight you can pick out?
S: Highlight show would have to be Yonder last year. We played to our biggest crowd yet and we had a choir with us. Standout tour, just for fun’s sake, would have been when we brought The Deltafish over from Japan to tour the east coast with us a bit. They did four or five shows with us I think. Just touring with another band was fun, but it was crazy because we’d just met these guys in Japan one night. We played a show and they’d lent us some gear. We hung out with them for a bit and went our separate ways but stayed in contact on Instagram. That night I was hammered and I was like “I love your music! I’m going to bring you to Australia.”. Later that year, like a couple of months later, they messaged us and were like “Hey man, can we come to Australia?” and I was like “You know what? Let’s make it happen.”. It was crazy. Two of them could speak, I’d say, fluent English, one hit and miss, and the other not at all. But it was so much fun. Just sitting and drinking and driving around, I don’t mean ‘drinking and driving’, I meant that separately [laughs], with these guys who didn’t necessarily need the same language to talk shit. I don’t know how that works but it works and it was just so wholesome. We were meant to be heading back over this year and touring with them. We’re still trying to figure out how we can get there next year as soon as possible.
TCI: Whilst we might not see you live as much as we’d like to, with the live scene just getting back on its feet, and touring still being a bit uncertain, we’ve heard that we might have a new EP from you before the year is out, is that true? What can you tell us about it?
S: That is true. So true. It’s nearly an album. I think it’s six tracks, it was going to be seven but we were like “Hmm.” There’s a lot more of Mika singing on this album. You would have heard it on the single, and it’ll be on the next single coming out soon called ‘Skins’. I should probably be plugging ‘b) sober’ more because it’s actually one of the first tracks that’s pushing our old stuff off the most played on Spotify [laughs]. ‘talkTALK’ finally overcame ‘Come On’ which was the first time ever that a song had taken over our monthly most played. Which was great. ‘b) sober’ is climbing. That song is just so dear to us, and dear to my heart with that experience in Japan and just deciding to pull my shit together and stop drinking so much, and stop being so lost in the romanticism of everything, and actually do some work. But yeah it’s called A Wave Inevitable, the EP. It’s crazy cause we wrote a bunch of it about a year ago, before all of this crazy stuff in America started happening, based on a lot of the stuff that was happening in Hong Kong. It’s just about being fed up with the shit that is happening and realising you have to make a change on a personal level. Also on a much broader social level wanting to use your voice to talk to people and say things. A lot of the songs on it are very close to our hearts with the messages behind them. They’re not so much sappy love songs like old FeelsClub used to be, or “oh. I’m sad about this.” It’s more about “I’m really fed up with this shit and I really want to do something about it.”.
TCI: That’s brilliant and with what you were just saying about your newest songs overtaking others in your most listening to tracks on Spotify it obviously affirms that people want to hear the ‘real’ FeelsClub, both sonically, and with the perspectives you’re sharing within your new music.
S: As well, I should just plug a song that didn’t make it onto the EP. It’s MK’s first song singing completely solo. It’s called ‘Tired XOXO’ and it didn’t make it on because we wanted to be super 100% about how it’s execution worked and we didn’t make it time for it to be one of the singles. But we want it to shine on it’s own, so, if everyone likes everything off of the EP, if there’s anyone out there who’s really keen, it is a little different again but it is going to be an absolutely shining stellar moment where she gets to be the superstar that she is born to be.
TCI: Oh that’s beautiful. A little something else to look forward to!
S: Yeah a little change again. A little shift in pace again. Same style and vibe but if you’re sick of hearing my voice on the tracks get ready she’s coming in hard!
TCI: Before we go is there anything else we should share with your fans?
S: Just thank you. Thank you to everyone who is supporting us so consistently. Thank you for helping us to sell out the first session of our first show back at Black Bear. For us, it’s crazy just knowing that even though we weren’t playing shows every week, or every month, or in your face all the time people still want to be there and support us. We wanna give you guys a dope time. We want to make sure everyone stays safe and does the right thing by everyone else. Be nice to each other! It’s not a bad thing to be empathetic. If someone screws you over because you were nice that’s on them, you’re still a good person. So be nice to other people.
TCI: That’s a really great sentiment to end on. Congratulations again on the release of ‘b) sober’ and no doubt we’ll catch up with you again soon.
S: Thank you so much.