Interview by Mike Noon.
Feature is a three-piece band from London which combines driving 77-style art rock and melodic vocal harmonies. Originally a two-piece from Brighton they have since moved to the capital, added a member and launched what feels like a thousand collaborations.
Can you let me know who is in the band and which instruments they play? Do you all sing?
Feature is Jen (drums), Liv (guitar) and Heather (bass). We all sing.
How long have you been together? I know Heather joined relatively recently on bass, what was the idea behind this?
Liv: Jen and I formed Feature back in 2011, after we both moved to London from Brighton within a few months of each other. We released two EPs as a two-piece (using a splitter pedal to compensate for bass), and got to know Heather through mutual friends. There wasn’t really a plan about getting her involved, she just liked our music and we thought it’d be interesting to add bass to the dynamic, as we felt the sound still lacked the heaviness that we had in our heads.
Jen: It’s been over a year with Heather and we can’t imagine being without her
Can you let us know how you chose the band name?
Liv: We wanted something concise and without any attached meaning, so listeners would go in without any preconceived notions of what the music would sound like.
Jen: The name came to me for a few reasons: Liv and I were both writers, it brought to mind confidence and prominence, it sounded like a command, or a dare.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest there is at least one arts graduate in the band. Is this so?
Liv: We’re all from a literary background: I studied Journalism, Jen studied Media and Modern Literature with Creative Writing then an MA in German Language, Culture and History, and Heather studied English Lit.
If you were able to collaborate with any contemporary fine artist on a project – it doesn’t have to be musical – who would it be and (at a stretch) what would be the outcome?
Jen: I have technically started a side-project with a fine artist. Rich Phoenix that I play in Sauna Youth with is a portrait artist and we’ve just started an experimental sound and spoken-word project called John and Jennifer (I’m John, he’s Jennifer). We wear masks and I ask him psychoanalytical questions that he replies to with sound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLjFkIqpp6o
Your most recent release was an EP on Tye Die Cassettes entitled ‘Culture of the Copy’, that’s the title of a 1997 book by Hillel Schwarz which considers ‘the Western fascination with replicas, duplicates and twins’. Was this title considered when you were still a two-piece?
Jen: Well, our most recent release is actually a split 7″/cassette with Heather’s other band Slowcoaches that Unwork Records put out, but with regards to the EP I based all my lyrics on that book by Hillel Schwarz as I’d read it for my MA dissertation the year previous and what I’d read stayed with me: doppelgangers, consuming a sibling, ‘other halves’, cover versions. I hadn’t thought of it in reference to us being a pair, Liv is my doppelganger in many ways I suppose. The first EP, ‘Memory’, was also inspired by a book, The Body by Dr Lisa Blackman.
A cursory dig into your musical careers reveals that Jen plays with Sauna Youth / Monotony and Heather in Slowcoaches and Human Form. What’s wrong with you, Liv? Seriously, though, is collaboration important to the way Feature works? And are there any other offshoots/partnerships ahead?
Liv: Ha, well I’ve also played in other bands but not full-time… I think collaboration is important to us, as ideas will fit certain projects and manifest in different ways. Saying that, Feature’s never felt constrictive to me, we’re always honest with each other but don’t aim to sound like a certain band or genre, so it’s freeing to write songs and share ideas that might not fit into any typical blueprint.
What do you do when you are not being Feature?
Liv: As well as our other bands we all have busy day jobs; I work as an indie music PR, Jen is a German – English literary translator and writer, and Heather works for a number of big music venues. Any downtime we have tends to be spent going to gigs, writing and hanging out with friends.
The image on the cover of the Memory EP is tremendous. Was this something you created yourselves, or is it appropriated? Can you tell us more about it?
Liv: This is a photo that my Granny Daisy sent to me a few years ago, of my sister and I. We used to go on a lot of daytrips with my grandparents so I can’t remember exactly where it was taken, but my mum would dress us in similar dresses sometimes and we thought it was really funny that these particular dresses had these massive petticoat sections underneath. I like how sinister the image looks, when really we’re both laughing our heads off.
I read that you are going to be recording your debut LP this Summer. What hopes do you have for this? Do you have to write a batch of new songs or is there a stockpile from which you can choose? Do you write songs as a band or is it more the process of individuals?
Liv: Yeah, we’ve had it in the pipeline for a while but have finally put some time aside to record it – it’ll be a mix of older songs from our two-piece days, rerecorded with Heather and new songs we’re finishing at the moment. Usually we’ll bring initial ideas in, and will then all work on them as a group.
Does the new LP have a home yet?
Liv: Not yet. We have a few labels we’d love to release with, but we’ll think about that once it’s all finished.
Have any of you been to Indietracks before? Either in a band or as a participant? What are your expectations?
Liv: I don’t think any of us have, but we’ve heard great things!
If Feature could be transplanted into any musical environment, historical or geographical or both, which do you think it would most thrive in?
Liv: That’s a tough one. I know it’s a cliché but the CBGB’s scene in the 70’s must have been incredible – such a mixture of styles co-existing, but all sharing a love of melodies and pop amid the noisy guitars and drums, still with a focus on lyrics. Though I think the community around music never goes away, even when it’s not in the mainstream media and might seem that way to people who can’t be bothered to dig deeper. We’re very lucky to part of a sprawling scene that incorporates a huge number of bands, who might play differently but are united by shared ethics and creativity. I think it’s healthy to not be a part of a “buzz” scene, and to be left in control of your musical output and how you are represented.
There’s a cover of Supergrass’s ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ on the Culture of the Copy EP. Do you have any other covers under your belts? Any likelihood of one for Indietracks?
Liv: We never plan them, something will just pop up. You’ll just have to come and watch us to find out…
Jen: We did a Wire cover, which is online. There’s talk of a cassette of Misfits covers, but I don’t know who would put that out.