It’s been a long day for The Feeling front man Dan Gillespie-Sells. Not that he’s harping on about all the work he’s been doing, but this interview comes towards the end of a day that’s included stints on Radio 1 and Virgin, and he’s just got in the door.
Such has been The Feeling’s success, he’s able to brush it off as a normal day in the promotional office. “It has been quite a long one, but it’s all my own fault! It’s part of the job, though, and we don’t mind it. Honest!”
If anything, our chat comes at a brief lull in the band’s predictably hectic schedule. And while it’s cold outside, it’s a good deal warmer than the Alps, from where they have recently returned. “That’s right, we went out there a couple of weeks ago, and we went back to the place where we used to play before we recorded the first album and were signed. It was a bonkers idea from a friend that led to it. We got there and it’s mad, as the bands are playing our songs in the same clubs!”
He continues, “My friend drunkenly said, ‘well why don’t you go back there, and wouldn’t it be a good idea to film it?’ So we got in the old van, drove over there and didn’t tell anyone, filmed the week, gave people a surprise and at the end of the time we did a big charity concert out on the piste, at about 1,600ft. It was brilliant, we all really enjoyed doing it, and the big tractor things they have for moving the snow turned it into a natural amphitheatre. So it was great, it’s gonna make a nice documentary. Then when we came back I was out in town with Kiefer Sutherland, who I’ve got to know well and who happened to be in town, and he offered to do the interviews for us which was really kind of him.”
Gillespie-Sells exhibits a strong sense of pride in the band’s achievement, and agrees it has put their rise in perspective. “We went out there with no roadies or anything, and we went to these places where we used to do ten shows a week, two hours a night. I think it’s brought us closer together, remembering where we’ve come from.”
Indeed, it was playing in the apres-ski environment that made the band. “That’s what we were doing, we made the first album in a shed from the money we made in the Alps.” And now, two years on, they’re preparing for big live things. “We’ve got a Bon Jovi tour coming up. We’re going to Japan first, then the Bon Jovi tour and then we’ve got our own tour in November.” He sounds excited.
The band’s website proclaims a love of Andrew Gold, ELO, Supertramp and 10cc. “A journalist wrote that”, claims Dan. “At the time they were uppermost in our minds. Really though I like a lot more things than that – The Clash, The Beatles, Beach Boys, Squeeze, XTC, things are much more diverse. I also like the Carpenters, Metallica, The Kinks and that list includes The Who and Pink Floyd. Actually I’m as much influenced by Eurythmics and Human League and everything else.”
An eclectic list – but Gillespie-Sells does agree that with each song, his lyrics try to tell a story. “Yeah, that’s kind of how music works for me. I have a habit of sitting at a piano and coming up with things, but most of my lyrics are about a particular experience.”
A prime example is recent single Without You, written when the band were on tour in extremely unusual circumstances in Virginia. “My experience of that was so strange, as the tragedy at Virginia Tech happened while we were out there. We had a show in the town that night and it was a really strange gig – imagine playing Fill My Little World in Virginia that night! It just didn’t feel right, and we were all emotionally spent when we’d finished. I wrote that song after we played. That line is there in the song, about “I wonder if they miss me in London”, and the reason for that is that when you’re on tour you never really know where you are, what time it is and what time it is in London, and we kept asking what time it was there and wondering if our folks were thinking of us.”
On a completely different tack, the Feeling front man found himself fronting a rather different campaign last year – for Marks & Spencer. He laughs at the mention. “That was just a random thing! The idea is so ridiculous, because I’m such an awkward kind of bloke that the idea of being on a billboard was completely crazy. It was a little bit weird, the whole experience, but I really enjoyed it, and my granny’s got a big poster of it that she got from a store! It was so strange seeing myself up on boards that big though!”
So did he remain confident his band were going to make their breakthrough? “I’ve always thought of myself as a performer”, he muses, “and you always have to have a certain amount of confidence I think, in what you do. At the same time though you notice how different the business is, how it’s full of bullshit. When we were close to getting signed we were being told “oh, you’re not hairy like Kings Of Leon“, or “you’re not edgy enough”. We don’t really care about that, and I don’t think the general public really care about that either.”
I’m curious to know how he feels about the more recent media treatment of his band, which amounts to something of a backlash. He laughs again – it’s familiar territory. “I wouldn’t even call it a backlash, it’s always been there. When you’re talking about publications like the NME” (used as an example), “bands like us challenge their very existence. I read the NME when I was a kid and genuinely was interested, but then it became a bullshit fanzine for Babyshambles. It became something which wasn’t about music any more, and it kept harping on about what ‘indie’ is. I don’t think they have that relevance any more, they’re writing about fashion and stuff like that. We really don’t care what they think at all, we knew they wouldn’t like our sound.”
He warms to his task. “This idea of ‘alternative’ has lost all credibility – ‘alternative’ is the thing now, rather than the exception. It’s not ‘alternative’! ‘Alternative’ is about people expressing themselves, but when you are perceived alternative it’s still really difficult to keep someone like the NME on board, as it were. I’m happy to say that we’re just being ourselves, being straightforward and being honest.”
And with that our time is up – Gillespie-Sells has another set of questions to answer. Whatever the NME or anyone else thinks about The Feeling, one thing seems certain – whoever’s asking, the answers are frank, to the point and delivered with a smile. Rather like their music, in fact.