New Music to Know: The Wild Feathers Break New Southern Ground with Debut
By Courtney E. Smith
A Nashville band, with roots in Texas and Oklahoma, The Wild Feathers like to explore the harmonic landscape of Southern rock to personify a very simple idea that has been on a sharp decline since the ’70s: an American band.
But instead of taking cues from other country rockers like Eric Church and Zac Brown, this band leans more to the rock side of things, taking their influences from the Beach Boys, The Band and The Byrds.
“We got to hang out with Paul Simon quite a bit,” guitarist/vocalist Ricky Young said, recounting what they learned in their time opening for him on tour. “He was really funny because he was asking us what some of our influences were and…he started listing off all these incredible gospel vocal groups and he’s like, ‘No one has my ear.’ And he wasn’t being cocky in a negative way.”
The advice Simon was trying to give to the band, which is comprised of four lead singers who musically live in the land of 1960s Laurel Canyon, was to take the instrumentation of those great influences and mix it with other vocal styles.
The single “Hard Wind” — on which Taylor Burns takes lead — weaves all their voices together on the chorus, while the video drops them into a seascape by the desert, the stage of a club and the inevitable tour van.
“I think that just classic American rock ‘n roll is something that we all grew up idolizing, listening to, and still listen to,” Burns said. “It influenced us all as young kids. I don’t know if [the idea of being an American band] means anything. I hope it does. It means something to us to carry that music on. I hope we’re doing a good job.”
Perhaps the band’s most definitively American song on their self-titled debut, besides maybe the one called “American,” was their first single, “Backwoods Company.” The first few seconds have a bit of that “Black Betty” stomp with a downhome harmonica that comes in soon after. It’s a hand clapper of a ditty, but the vocal layering they drop in at about the 1:48 mark is really unusual for the current rock scene.
We’ve omitted some spoilers for those who haven’t watched the videos, as there is a violent surprise at the end of “Backwoods,” but Joel King continued, saying, “When we first got [the treatment] it was a two-part thing and when you watch them…watch ‘Backwoods’ and then ‘The Ceiling’ right after it.”
King explained that most people don’t know, but the video for “Backwoods” and their second single, “The Ceiling,” one of the album’s most unabashed nods to the Laurel Canyon sound, go into each other. “It’s actually the second part of it,” King said.
While they love ’60s rock ‘n roll, they say their band is not quite as rowdy as those from that era. So don’t expect any on stage fist fights anytime soon.
“No scandals, we’re a scandal free band,” Burns said. “We’re all brothers. We get along and fight and love each other like a family.”
“But we freakishly don’t even really fight,” Young explained. “The only time we ever get in little arguments is when we’re hungry or we’re lost.”