This Saturday — as in tomorrow — Uproxx is co-presenting a show at Resident in downtown Los Angeles. The band we’re stoked to help promote is a local LA rock band called Feels. Back in 2016, the band released their self-titled debut record, which was produced by Ty Segall, on Castle Face Records. A couple years later, they’re gearing up for the next phase of their career.
The four-piece is composed of vocalist and guitarist Laena Geronimo, vocalist and guitarist Shannon Lay, bassist Amy Allen, and drummer Michael Rudes and they bring a powerhouse of sound to their live performances. Prior to the show, I corresponded with Geronimo over email to get a sense of what the band has in store and how they came together in the first place. Read our conversation below.
Feels emerged from your previous project Raw Geronimo, what qualities do the two projects have in common and what are different? How did the process of transforming into Feels begin?
When I started Raw Geronimo seven years ago it was me writing the songs and organizing everything, but I really wanted it to evolve into a collective thing where everyone was contributing and equally invested. There was a lot of trial and error with band members and direction; Raw Geronimo was a six-piece band with a full-time percussionist in addition to the drums and a guitar player cuz I initially wanted to just sing and freak out. Shannon and Michael were both in the band from the beginning but Amy joined after three years, and when it locked into being the four of us it felt like a magical transformation had happened and we’d become a different thing altogether — a much more collective thing — so we changed the name.
How did you land on the name Feels for your project? I love the juxtaposition of a word that reads as softer with a sound that’s more prickly.
We were working on a lot of new material and really focusing on how the songs felt and trying to not over-intellectualize them; we kept saying stuff like, “hmm that feels weird or “yeah that feels awesome” etc. I was thinking a lot about that word and offered it up as an option for the new name and we just kept coming back to it. We really did set out from that point forward to only make music that people could really connect to viscerally, and it’s all based on being an emotional human! Sometimes super aggressive for sure, but sometimes really delicate too, and everything in between. The name felt right.
I read that you have a classical background, which you said hindered you at first in writing more pop forward music. Are there some other ways, though, that it helped?
Music is a language that I’m very fluent in and undoubtedly I owe a lot of that to the fact that I’ve been playing violin for most of my life. I feel like growing up playing in orchestras and symphonies definitely created a different approach for me as a songwriter, with a huge focus on how the interplay of elements combined can become a completely new, much bigger thing. I’ve gotta say also, from a completely social standpoint, I’ve realized in retrospect that my classical background has been hugely influential on how I view myself as a musician, and not as a female musician. There’s nothing noteworthy about being female in the classical world; I never even thought about it. For whatever reason, if it’s a guitar and not a violin people think it’s special. I still don’t get that.
When did you start getting more into the punk/rock/raw sound that now encapsulates Feels?
My bandmates and I all have always loved punk rock; it’s what drew us all together in the first place, and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever made music that wasn’t coming from that place. Punk music isn’t really about distorted guitars and leather jackets, it’s about challenging expectations, questioning the status quo and being unafraid to speak your mind and be yourself. And about comradery and looking out for each other! Times are tough these days and there’s a lot to be angry about, so I guess our music sounds angrier now, but in essence, it’s not that different.
Your self-titled debut record came out in 2016, what have you been up to in the meantime? Is there another record in the works or possibly ready for release?
Yeah we have another full-length record that just finished getting mastered actually! We can’t tell you any of the release details yet but we’re all super proud of this one and we’ll be announcing some very exciting things in mid-September.
My favorite track on the record is “Small Talk,” which I think encapsulates some of the anger/discomfort expressed in other songs. How does rock provide a space for you to express some of these emotions that are “negative” or not the pretty/positive that women are often expected to provide?
Honestly, it’s mysterious to me too, why aggressive music can be such a cathartic, healing thing! But it just is. Most of the happiest, most ecstatic moments of my life have been while playing music or in the crowd at a rock show. It’s so important to honor the chaos in ourselves and in the world and to let it out together and revel in it! It’s not about being masculine or feminine to me, it transcends all of that and is just a pure, human release that allows you to connect to everyone else in this very primal and satisfying way.
Ty produced your debut album that came out on Castle Face Records, how did you get connected with both him and the label?
We had a lot of mutual friends with Ty, and he booked us to play a show he put together opening for Wand at The Griffin, and then afterward he offered to record us. We recorded the whole album in one single day and it was super fun! We’d played a bunch of shows with other Castle Face bands like POW!, Burnt Ones and Male Gaze and became homies with all these fine folks so it happened very naturally.
Shannon Lay, another solo artist in her own right, is also in the band, how did you guys get connected and what is it like working with her?
Shannon joined Raw Geronimo two months after it was formed in 2011, so we’ve been playing in a band together for all these years! I’ve had the pleasure of watching her blossom into the magical musical mega force that she is now. We’re (basically) sisters. Honestly, all four of us are (basically) siblings. The love is very strong and very real.
When it comes to songwriting for the group, is that something that originates with you and then expanded the rest of the band, or is it more of a communal process?
It differs from song to song but essentially it’s grown into a very communal process. We have an open door policy for interesting ideas, and we all bring a different light to each other. Our upcoming record is a mixture of songs we wrote all together, songs of mine, Shannon’s and one of Amy’s too!
You guys have already toured/opened for some pretty incredible LA rock acts, but who else is on your dream bill?
Dream bill is infinite but we’d definitely love to play with Iggy Pop, Wire, The Pixies, Thurston Moore Group, Television, The Damned, Breeders, Smashing Pumpkins, Poison Ivy’s new band + Bikini Kill reunion (attempting to manifest these). As for newer bands we’d be super stoked to do some touring with Parquet Courts, Priests, oh and it would be rad to play some shows with Ty/White Fence who just put out a new album together that rips!
I read in an old interview from 2016 that your band was practicing in an old warehouse downtown that your drummer, Michael Rudes, his dad used to practice in during the ‘70s. That’s such a cool, full circle story, can you tell me a little bit about that space? Do you still practice there?
Yeah we do! It’s called Downtown Rehearsal, it’s a giant four-story building off 7th Street. Two of the floors are some kind of clothing manufacturing factory operation, and two of the floors are all just practice spaces. It’s open 24 hours. We’re on the fourth floor with a big window overlooking the industrial wasteland side of downtown and some train tracks. It’s a gorgeous view but it gets very, very hot in there so we have to do morning practices in the Ssmmer.
In an era where detractors are claiming “rock is dead” your record is basically the antithesis of that, a fusion of ‘70s/’80s punk sounds that is decidedly rock. Who are some of your inspirations in the rock world?
Thanks! We’re inspired by our friends and all the legends!
Come check out Feels live at Resident tomorrow. The show is free and doors are at 3 PM.