With melodic, slightly off-kilter tunes and a subtle, understated musicality, Fellaheen carves out a lyrical mix of sit-down indie rock n roll, scratchy blues, and downbeat jazz, informed with a murky existential wit. Upright bass, clink-clank drums, and guitars both sublime and ridiculous intersect to create an unique and invigorating listening experience.
Fellaheen’s 2014 album release, You Either Get Hands or Get Wings, received widespread critical acclaim and extensive airplay on adult-album-alternative stations across the US, Canada, and Europe. The band’s previous release, Death & Frolic, released in 2012, won the band a whole new legion of fans and brought with it increased exposure and airplay worldwide for Fellaheen.
Tim Merricks at AmericanaUK writes that “Fellaheen continues to knock out downbeat existential blues fused with surreal jazz held together with whiskey-soaked gypsy hellfire lyrics to die young to. This is how it’s supposed to be, all ye pretenders to the throne. It’s a rare treat to hear raw, soulful, alt-country sound so original and pleasantly beat-up when produced this way.”
Joe Wawyrnizak at Jersey Beat Magazine further notes, “You just gotta admire the ambition, ingenuity and imagination at work…. [Fellaheen] skillfully blends elements of moody jazz, gritty blues, and melodic alternative rock into a fresh, compelling and harmonic synthesis. The cool, raspy vocals likewise hit the soulful spot. Ditto the quirky, yet incisive lyrics. Best of all, there’s a hypnotic smoky atmosphere evident throughout which adds immensely to the overall sonic richness of this excellent and inspired oddball project.”
A Brief Biographical Q & A with Fellaheen
Q: What’s the band name mean?
A: It’s an Arabic term for peasant farmers. Philosophically (or so said Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West), “fellaheen” refers to the great mass of peasants who adapt and survive from one civilization to the next without becoming part of any, thus remaining separate from the great movements of history. [Cue: crickets chirping]
Q: What’s the band sound like?
A: A lyrical mix of sit-down alt rock ‘n’ roll, scratchy blues, Americana-rama, and downbeat jazz informed with a murky existential wit.
Q: Right. What’s the band sound like?
A: OK. Let’s say: comparable to the likes of Tom Waits, Wilco, the Velvet Underground, and Kurt Weill if we’re lucky. More deeply-rooted influences include Beggars Banquet-era Stones, the Beatles, Captain Beefheart, Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, and Mose Allison. The lyrical approach is borne out of a head space created in part by the works of Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag, Cornel West, Mad Magazine, Flannery O’Connor, Roberto Clemente, Jack Kerouac, George Carlin, Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Pynchon, Madeline Kahn, Bugs Bunny, Haruki Murakami, moderately-priced red wine, insomnia, and Dante Aligheri, along with the movies of Vittorio De Sica, Jim Jarmusch, John Sayles, and Wim Wenders.
A: Yep. That was written with a completely straight face. But please feel free to arrive at your own conclusions.
Q: Who writes the songs and sweeps up after everyone’s gone home?
A: Bruce Hanson, a somewhat-grizzled 40-something-year-old musician born in Chicago and raised in New Jersey. He specializes in writing slightly off-kilter original songs about shady characters, particle physics, love n hate, and works of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, as well as moderately-amusing self interviews. And the rest, as they say, is mystery.
Q: I see. And who’s in the band?
A: Its a fairly loose, somewhat anarchic collective, but joining Bruce in Fellaheen is some combination of the following folks: Joe Borthwick (upright bassist, vocals), Kerry Watson (drums), Joe Wagner (lead guitar), David Evan (lead guitar); Nick Sullivan (bass), Ben Dumbauld (accordion, percussion) and Kaveh Haghtalab (drums, percussion). Other friends contribute when they can.
Q: Oh look … my rides here. One last thing what are the bands goals?
A: For you to listen to our music, maybe get a song or two in a movie in the scene right after the murder, and for you to come on out to see us play live. Oh, and world peace.