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BOTW Interview: Feathers

Ahead of Feathers‘ long-awaited debut full-length, the equally forward-looking and backwards-glancing ‘If All Now Here‘, finally seeing release later this month, Alex Cull caught up with the quartet’s leading lady, Anastasia Dimou, over a crackly phone line. Read on for an insight into the group’s sci-fi, dystopian inspirations, a guide to the best acts they caught at this year’s SXSW, and why sharing a stage with Depeche Mode might be one of the best things they’ve ever done.

PlanetNotion: So, when I’ve been listening back to the new album recently, I’ve found it quite interesting how you’ve got this dream-like, future pop sound and yet you go by the name Feathers. I found that contrast between this forward-looking music and such an archaic, antiquated band name quite interesting. Where did you get the name from originally?
Feathers: Oh, good question. I had a bunch of names that I thought I might want to use and ultimately, when it came down to picking a name I wanted something that wouldn’t decide for anyone what we sounded like before taking a listen.

First of all, I didn’t exactly know where the songs were going to go when I started writing. It takes a while for you to figure out what it is you’re going to make as a writer; it took a little while for me to figure out the feeling. It’s funny how people have latched on to the future pop, polished, futuristic element; it strangely makes a lot of sense given who I am and what I probably project.

It felt like a good name after I had a few songs finished, the right name for me. I’d sketched out how I wanted it to look more or less; and I liked the contrast of bold futuristic letters spelling out the organic noun. Right there I felt something click, one part ancient and one part future. There’s a little bit of old-world mysticism imbued in everything I do, along with the expansive future that I’m interested in.

PN: You played at the Jeff Mangum ATP last year, before you played that were you aware of him as a musician and did you know he was a fan of yours?
F: ATP selected us for that. I hope he was a fan of us after that, but, I don’t think he was aware of us before it!

PN: How did you find ATP? It’s definitely a unique festival.
F: It’s been one of our favourites so far. It was great. It was definitely one of our top three experiences as a band. They take really good care of the artists; they really, really do. They think it out and they’re generous. It was a great experience, even just being in the cafeteria with the other artists. We met so many bands just having breakfast. They also picked a great venue; the sound was really good. The crowd was really good, too. We had a full audience by the end of our set, it was packed, and everybody was so positive and interested even though they had no idea who we were. It was awesome.

PN: I think ATP is very much a music lover’s festival so you’re going to get people there who are really there to enjoy the music and pay attention to it.

F: Yeah, it really felt like that. We had such a great audience – really good vibes.

PN: While we’re on the subject of festivals, you did SXSW again this year. How was that? Did you see anyone while you were there that made you think ‘wow, these guys are great’?

F: We got to see Depeche Mode because we opened for them, which was awesome; it was one of the greatest shows that I’ve ever done. We are huge fans of theirs, but we were mostly excited because it meant we were actually able to see them. It was so hard to get tickets as it was like a lottery, so when we found out we were opening up, we were like ‘yes! we actually get to see them’. It was a really intimate setting — just over 300 people around a really small stage. So, we were just inches away from them when they played. That was amazing.

Another artist I saw twice while I was there was Autre Ne Veut. He was so good; I was so into it. A friend of mine introduced me to him, so I got to chat with him for a bit and when he’s back from Europe, I’m actually going to try and work on a song with him. I also saw this band that we shared a stage with called Valleys, they were great. They’re one guy and one girl, and they had one song that killed me, it sounded like INXS or something, like almost a ‘Never Tear Us Apart‘ – really sexy and really good.

PN: You guys are based in Austin, aren’t you?

F: Yes, we’re based in Austin but I’m from New York.

PN: It must be quite strange living there and then suddenly having the city overrun with bands and music industry people on a once-a-year basis…
F: I think everybody here is used to it. For me, I’m starting to get used to it too, but I couldn’t wait for it; it’s a really fun and exciting time of the year, because all of your friends in bands from different countries come for it. It’s great having all those people in your hometown and getting to see everyone. The energy before it, too, the weather just starts to change right before it and there’s this energy that starts creeping in beforehand.

PN: In the past, you’ve mentioned a love of, and a fascination with, alien landscapes – something that I’ve noticed being pretty present in the video for ‘Land of the Innocent’. I was wondering what the connection was between the visual imagery and the track itself?
F: Well, the song, when I wrote it, it felt like I was writing about an alternate universe or an alternate place where nothing but feeling and the visceral matters, and I think subconsciously the director picked up on that. “In the land of the innocent, I’ve known you forever. In the land of the innocent, we’ve not made all our plans”. It’s like this longing for this simpler setting, which in the video looks like some strange place on Mars or primitive earth.

PN: You did a moodboard feature for us a little while ago and you spoke about the influence of films like The Fifth Element, Blade Runner, Solaris; I was wondering what it is about those dystopian visions of the future that appeal to you? What interests you about them?
F: I keep getting the dystopian commentary on everything and it’s funny because for me, it seems like kind of a great future in a strange way. The Fifth Element is so colourful – I guess I’m just feeding off of the way that everything looks. There’s something quite magical about it. I’ve latched on to the visual more than the negative aspects, I guess.

PN: On the album itself, you strike quite a precarious balance between this quite dark moodiness and at the same time, this buoyant poppiness. It’s something that you pull off incredibly well but I was wondering if you’ve ever found it difficult to balance those two facets of your sound, or is it something that comes quite naturally to you?
F: I never give it too much thought in the sense that I say to myself ‘okay, these last three tracks were really depressing, the next one needs to be really positive’. I think there’s a melancholy that has come through on a lot of songs for some reason, that I guess must be something I lean towards sonically, but I’m really influenced by pop. I always say this and it’s a strange thing to say, but I really like songs. I really like songs that are songs that are songs. Songs with melodies you can latch on to, that make you feel, that make you connect to people. I’m not writing songs about being “in the club” or whatever, I have to be truer to myself than that. That’s probably where the balance of aiming to write maybe more thoughtful pop meshes with my taste for sonic candy.

PN: Going back to the live show a little bit, you’re hitting the road with Little Boots pretty soon. Are you guys fans of hers? How did you get involved with her to the point of touring together?
F: Well, she’d tweeted about a song on our Soundcloud and I was obviously aware of her so I excitedly tweeted back. A couple of weeks later I got word that she was looking for us to support her and of course I said “yes” because I thought that would be a really fun tour. We tweeted a couple of times and I’m looking forward to meeting her and hopefully hanging out. I have a feeling we’re all going to get along really great. It should be quite fun.

PN: Yeah, I’ve heard she’s a really nice girl.

F: Yeah, I get the sense of that. It’s kind of funny, there was another artist who I won’t name but I really like, who we had a chance of supporting, but I found out that this artist doesn’t like to have other female artists on her tour, and I just said to myself ‘that’s awful and limiting in so many ways. Why would she do couldn’t understand that at all. I’m always excited when other female artists are supportive of one another.

PN: Finally, outside of touring, what are you most looking forward to doing in 2013 – be it musical or otherwise?
F: I’m really excited to start working on a new record already, I’ve already started to do that, so I can’t wait to see where that goes. It would be nice to have a vacation at some point, it would be nice to have a couple of weeks where I just eat food and sit on a beach somewhere – something like that.

- Alex Cull

Feathers’ debut album ‘If All Now Here’ is available May 27 on Nyx.

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