Believe it or not, indie rock existed well before the ’90s. The Feelies, a prototype indie rock act from New Jersey, began in 1976 and are back at it again with their fifth album, “Here Before” — and a few dates in the Northeast this spring.
Even after a 16-year absence, lead vocalist and guitarist Glenn Mercer says their motivation hasn’t changed since the start.
“When we first talked about reuniting, we agreed that if we only played old songs, it would be too much of a nostalgia thing,” says Mercer. “For a band to exist, it’s gotta create music.”
Although the sound hasn’t diverged too much from their earlier albums, that doesn’t stop new fans from appreciating it.
“Every time we play, there are more and more young people,” explains Mercer. “It’s a bigger demographic.”
While they’ve been reunited since 2008, Mercer and The Feelies tend to stick to themselves and their music.
“We kind of live removed from any of the big places that have any music scenes [in NJ]. I don’t know if there’s a NJ scene per se.”
Their dedicated fans have given them staying power and the chance to come back to play more rock ‘n’ roll in the 21st century, but they never hoped for stardom.
“The mainstream was never that appealing,”?Mercer muses. “To us, all of our favorite bands were bands that didn’t sell a lot of records — The Stooges, MC5.”
Lo-fi, part deux
In recent years, there’s been a re-emergence of the lo-fi sound that made The Feelies so unique in their time, with acts like Girls, Real Estate and Youth Lagoon reverting to a back-to-basics aesthetic. Mercer calls the re-emergence “a reaction to what’s going on.”
“Our music is more about what we leave out than what we put in. … Popular music has become so generic and Auto-Tuned.”