Since first forming in 1994 The Features have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride through line-up changes and the lows of record label fallouts to the dizzying highs of winning the Public Vote Award at the Diesel U Music Awards in 2007 and touring with Kings of Leon. Their new album ‘Wilderness’ came out earlier this year with their latest single ‘How It Starts’ was released on 10th December. Rollum Haas who has been with them through quite a lot of it took some time out from his hectic schedule of sitting on his couch to have a quick chat.
H: Thanks for taking timeout to answer these questions. I know you must be pretty busy right now with the new single out.
R: I’m actually on my couch right now. I haven’t even bathed today.
H: So how does it feel to have released your third album? Do you think your music has changed much from ‘The Features EP’? If so how and was this a deliberate move or something that simply happened in a more organic way?
R: It’s changed drastically from the first EP for multiple reasons. Chief among them being drastic line-up changes, getting older, & getting better. Nothing we do as a group is ever overtly deliberate. We’ve never sat down and made a group manifesto. We can’t even agree on where to eat as a group…..much less how to sound.
H: You always seem to be looking for a new and interesting way of expressing yourselves musically and don’t seem to be afraid to experiment, is this the driving force behind the band?
R: Definitely. The fact that none of us adhere strongly to one musical aesthetic helps that too. There’s no “indie rock guy” or “metal guy” in the group. We all like a lot of different music so everything from Can to Billy Joel is ok to plunder. The positive side of that is that the band never gets bored and a lot of different ideas are welcome. The downside is that some people don’t know what to think of you. You can end up being too weird for the squares and too square for the weirdos.
H You started out pretty young in the industry, how do you think this has affected your music? Do you think that the industry has changed much over the years?
R: Every industry in the world has changed outside of the Amish (or other societies that live in a pre-industrialized bubble) making hay carts and cabbage cutters. We started at a time when bands still had press kits with glossy photos, bios, and CD (or cassette) samplers sent in manila envelopes. Labels still had a lot of expendable income for limos, planes, etc. No one knows exactly what in the hell is actually going on and you probably shouldn’t trust anyone who says they do. I think it’s helped us in a sense because nothing seems particularly weird anymore. Whereas we stuck out like a sore thumb in the late 90s pre-internet macho rock world (Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc).
H: You’ve had your ups and downs with record labels but seem to have found ‘the one’, how did self-releasing your music compare to releasing it under a label?
R: With a big label you have resources like money, pr, distribution, free sushi dinners, etc at your disposal. With those resources come a lot of opinions. Sometimes good, sometimes shitty.
H: What are your earliest memories from the band? What was it like the first time you stepped into a recording studio? How about your first live performance?
R: I was a fan of the band in high school before I was a member. They were pretty different then. They had synchronized dance moves and wore matching outfits/costumes. I had recorded in a semi-professional studio before I joined them. This was when studios were recording to ADAT. I was amazed. The first time I recorded with The Features was actually way more lo-fi than that. It was in a friend’s living room. My first live performance with The Features was at a club called The Boro(in Murfreesboro, TN). There weren’t a lot of people there and we were met with mild enthusiasm.
H: What advice would you give to new bands that are just setting out in their careers?
R: Take an evening out of your life to make notes on everything The Features have ever done. Do the exact opposite and success will come.
H: Where is your favourite place to play? Any really memorable gigs and why?
R: There are so many fun places we’ve played. There’s a club in Louisville, KY called Zanzibar that I love. The club and crowds are always great there but they have a huge collection of vintage Arcade & pinball machines so that makes me biased. There are two main shows that stick out in my mind. One was at the aforementioned club, The Boro. We had decided to do a Velvet Underground covers set randomly. The crowd there to see us that night had never heard us before and they ended up being the root of our local following. Without them I don’t think we would’ve got outside of Nashville. The other show was opening for Kings Of Leon in Mexico City. We were playing to a crowd of 18,000 people who had never heard us and managed to have the whole place moving and singing. That’s an amazing feeling.
H: What is your best tip for staying sane on tour?
R: I can only speak for myself here. I’m very introverted and like space. One thing that’s really helped me is to make a ritual of winding down every night. I usually go down to the hotel lobby, find a quiet corner, make a cup of tea, and read. I’ve taken my bike out too when it’s convenient and ridden around before shows. That’s a really nice way to see different cities, get exercise and fresh air, clear out your head, etc. Running/exercise can help too. For others all of the above could be replaced with drugs, partying, loose women/men, or anything you like really. Just find out what works for you.
H: I’m sure everyone has asked you about this so I apologise if I’m making you repeat yourselves! What was it like touring with Kings Of Leon? Would you play with them again? What was the highlight of the tour for you?
R: No need to apologize. Touring with them is always great and we are always happy when they invite us out. They’re cool guys & they treat their opening bands and crew like family.
H: Is there anywhere that you would really like to play that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
R: Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Central & South America. The only country I won’t set foot in is Canada. I don’t trust anyone that stockpiles maple syrup.
H: Are there any bands about at the moment that you think are really interesting?
R: Not a whole lot. The only time I’ve ever felt remotely in touch with anything contemporary was in high school when I was really into Blur, Pulp, and a few other Britpop bands. I’ve always listened to older music and there’s always a lot to discover. Current faves are Mose Allison, Swell Maps, & Comsat Angels.
H: I’ve heard a rumour that you’re back in the studio recording your fourth album? Is it true and if so what can we expect and when will it be out?
R: It’s mixed and mastered. We’re still discussing the release date. I’m guessing early to middle next year.
H: So other than a new album next year (I hope) what else will you be up to in 2013?
R: Touring, riding my bike, moving, recording, laying about, and conquering the world.
H: Thanks you very much for answering my questions and I’m really looking forward to hearing what you put out next!
R: You are very welcome.