Every year at City Park, New Orleans hosts the Voodoo Music and Arts Experience, a three-day outdoor festival of sounds spanning all genres and ages. While Metallica and AWOLNATION were among the names playing this Saturday, one other act brought passion, zeal, and thundering guitar lines to please their growing fanbase. That act’s name is The Features, an indie rock group from a small town in Tennessee.
While they played a quick performance at the Toyota stand, in the afternoon they had their true set at the WWOZ/Bud Light area. Matthew Pelham, the lead singer, said that was where you’d hear the real stuff. He sports a thick beard and ruffled brown pants. Though this is their first time playing Voodoo, “we enjoy visiting New Orleans”, he says.
Having finished a record that should be out around March or April, they feel this is the realization of what they’ve finally wanted The Features to sound like (though they don’t have a name for the record yet). “There’s more space in the songs in general…before we had this tendency to fill everything up with noise,” comments Rollum Haas, the drummer. He leans forward, his thick brown hair covering some of his face, his long-sleeved red-and-black striped shirt stretching across his body. He talks about how the band all have wildly different tastes; he is mostly into Brian Eno and shuns a lot of modern rock. “This could totally be me being old and grumpy,” he laughs.
Indeed, to listen to The Features is almost like having Pandora on station shuffle. Their sound is expansive and experimental, yet brings a hard rock and Southern thump often missing from today’s indie scene (which the band laments, stating boredom from stagnation is one risk for both bands and fans today). One girl in the front row frantically cheers for them between songs and even yells out “Sexy!”. Pelham, with his subdued demeanor, thanks the crowd for their support, then launches into “Lions”. Many of their lyrics seem to deal with trying to soothe over a relationship, with a sound that’s like MGMT by way of AC/DC.
For now, they’ve been on the road most of the year and “haven’t had much time for day jobs”. Their videos are all over YouTube and people recognize them when they’re out, so things may be looking up for the plaid-wearing foursome. If anything, they’ve gone from playing supporting slots for Kings of Leon and have moved up to their own headlining shows. They reflect on their first show at The Burrow, a local club in Tennessee, like two adults musing at their younger selves. In those days they dressed up and wore polyster pants. Pelham has one final bit of musical advice when discussing The Smiths. “Just quit trying to get into The Smiths.”