Despite catchy, three minute songs continuing to top the charts, ‘pop’ can often be seen as something of a dirty word. If that’s the case, there’s been no filthier band over the last eight years than The Feeling, the five piece who burst onto the scene in 2006 with a series of perfectly crafted hits and the brilliant debut album Twelve Stops And Home.
With their critically acclaimed fourth album Boy Cried Wolf on general release, The Feeling are back on the road and come to the Rescue Rooms this March. After the break-up of their deal with Island Records and songwriter Dan Gillespie Sells’ (centre of picture) relationship breakdown, the front man is glad to have gone ‘back to basics’ with their new record.
“The writing on second and third album became stressful and forced, partly as a result of success of first album. Now, we have been able to follow our instincts without anyone trying to push us in any direction.
“I already start thinking about the new record as soon as I start promoting the previous one. I didn’t know whether this was going to be a solo album or a Feeling album this time around. We were in a tumultuous place having fallen out with the previous record company and it was really just a case of writing for the sake of it and writing because that’s what I do, really.
“The boys came and we started working on it, and it felt almost like it did before we had a record deal. We got free of the deal and the contract [with Island] so we could move on and we felt this moment of liberation that no-one was looking over our shoulder or expecting too much of us at this stage. We felt very at home making music again and it was a really nice experience – really like the old days.
“Out of it we got a really great record. BMG immediately said they loved it and the rest is history.”
‘It’s not just a break-up album’
You may well know The Feeling from their early hits – Fill My Little World, Sewn and Love It When You Call were all massive – but their recent singles Rescue and Boy Cried Wolf have been playlisted on Radio 2 and their fourth album is as good as anything the band have produced.
“It [the end of the Island Records deal] came at the same time as a break-up from my long term partner and so the writing became pretty easy too as I had lots of stuff to write about.
“I wanted to represent that six months or a year – that period of time – truthfully. If you keep the songwriting really honest and truthful and you express all the emotions you’re feeling over that period of time it feels like a snapshot of a period of time of all the things you’re going through.
“There’s a nice, broad spectrum of emotions there rather than it being just a break-up album. It’s an album that has the full gamut of emotions you get with a break-up, not just the ‘sorrow’ bit. There’s a lot of relief, a sense of liberation and hope for the future alongside the regret.”
Pop music is the ‘ultimate art form’
While The Feeling have been recognised for their songwriting – a Brit nomination and an Ivor Novello award amongst other gongs – I wondered whether Gillespie Sells was ever frustrated by the low esteem in which pop music is held in the 21st century?
“It gets bad press, pop music, but there’s no way I would ever not do it. It’s the ultimate challenge. It’s a really exciting art form to work in as you’re constantly on a tightrope of what’s tasteful, what’s too much, what’s too little. You’re playing this game constantly with what’s seen as acceptable in the world of taste.
“In my opinion pop is the ultimate art form because you’re creating something which has to let people in but which also has to be quite sophisticated – enough for it to last and hold some value. It has to say something and have a purpose but it can’t be too ‘thinky’ – it has to come from the heart.
“You have to get that right and then to fit that into three minutes – to give it a perfect shape and chop out all the dead wood – and then produce it in a way that sounds like it’s radio friendly. All of these elements have to be done right to make this perfect thing. I love that and I love the challenge of it and I love how pure you can make it when you get it right.
“Getting everything condensed into this perfect thing which is almost pocket sized and still prefect, and still powerful and still means something? That’s really the ultimate challenge in music and I don’t think people respect that.”
The Feeling made their name as a covers band in a ski resort and so it?s no surprise that Gillespie Sells loves performing and heading out on the road.
“I love playing live. It’s the last bit of the puzzle. You have an idea for a song, you sit down at the piano or the guitar, you flesh it out and get some more of the lyrics done and the boys come along and put the drums and guitars on it.
“We work out how it’s going to sound, we get it mixed, it goes on the record and then the last bit of the puzzle is that you go and play it live and test it out in front of the audience. Without that it would almost seem not that worthwhile.
“I love the studio bit but I love going out on the road. This time we’re hitting all of the towns we didn’t get to on the last tour. It’s a lot of the new album and we’ll probably throw in other stuff. We were asked to do a thing at Buckingham Palace and we ended up playing a whole chunk of music from different eras and we might chuck that into the set.”
[This is a longer version of the interview that appeared in the Nottingham Post on 21 February 2014]