Feels are a beat-fuelled duo incomparable to all else coming out of Perth right now; their tracks, sculpted with eclectic samples, create a dynamic and ever-changing sound.
As expected from an outfit that seems unapologetically playful and natural, Rosie Taylor and Elise Reitze have been playing together for far longer than they’ve been releasing material and playing live during 2016.
Loosely forming around 2013, Reitze says it was more than three years later when “we decided that we’d sit down every Monday and just do stuff, whether it be write heaps of music, try and put something online to make it feel more official - that’s what 2016 was all about”.
That simple promise to each other has led to a steady stream of single releases this year including Lunch and Slope, which have both received triple j play and their newest offering Pipedream; a track buzzing with bold vocal samplings and beats, which has been given the nod by RTRFM’s music coordinator in his weekly Sound Selection.
Stemming from highly complementary backgrounds, Taylor is a graduate from WAAPA in percussion performance and Reitze graduated from composition at UWA. Until this year, Taylor has been playing in a bunch of local bands, and also working as a session musician for musicals and in marching bands.
Reitze’s first forays into electronic production only happened during the Proximity Festival in 2013. “That was the first time I had used electronics in my music. I had this ambitious idea of recording people’s voices and recording all these different sounds and manipulating them live. It ended up being quite stressful,” she laughs, “but I didn’t look back from there. I was just into manipulating sound and working with electronics more than what I was doing for my assignments. My assignments were all about writing string quartets and chamber ensembles… all stuff that wasn’t as good anymore.”
“I feel like you had a really obvious shift,” agrees Taylor, who had also pulled away from her initial classical intentions during university.
As for who is influencing their music now, Taylor is quick to name an artist on the London-based label, Ninja Tune. “I love Machinedrum. He’s my favourite producer,” she enthuses. Taylor began listening to him while at uni thinking, “’Why would I not want to be writing this kind of music?’ This is it. It’s so rhythmic.”
“I checked out his latest album and everything I’m writing for Feels right now is totally influenced by that” Reitze, a relative newcomer to his music, says. “I have this thing that drummers who are producers...” Taylor starts,
“They are the best.” Reitze agrees, adding “same with Fourtet. Fourtet is my favourite.
“I think one of the biggest influences is Steve Reich, for me,” Reitze continues.
“He’s still alive, he just turned 80 and he just knows what’s going on. I just saw Music For 18 Musicians, which is one of his pieces. It goes for over an hour and I think it’s one of the best live music experiences I’ve ever had. So damn good. He just went back to basics. Not basics in the sense that it’s not complicated; basics in the sense of getting a pattern and fucking with it so it starts to sound like something different. The way I see it is he would write music in a way where if you wanted to, the listener could become the composer and pick out what they thought was important. What's important for me and anything I write for Feels and for all my other stuff is letting the listener have some sort of say in what they want to pick out. Not just ram an idea in their face and not at the same time do something so basic that you can't pick out the good parts.”
This insight into Reitze and Taylor’s influences really informs a number of creative decisions within Feels, especially the lack of lyrics and many vocal elements in their tracks.
"We want to sing,” Reitze says. “We were talking about this and we do want to sing but the thing is, the singing isn't as important. We have one track that I sing on when we do it live but it's just because that track suited singing. We didn't go out to write a vocals track. We came up with a little hook and that worked.
“We're both open to working with singers and singing ourselves, but it's never going to be as much of the focus as the music."
While both acknowledge that lyrics can be incredibly direct and powerful, as Taylor points out, "We do it all the time, every day; speaking, talking. Why don't we listen more? Why don't you get moved by something that's not language?"
"To move people by just music is pretty powerful," Reitze adds. Perhaps this lack of words is also an intentional artistic challenge for the duo.
As creatives who are always attempting to push their own artistic boundaries, they are also keen to push the social and political status quo in their own identity and representation. Identifying themselves personally, as well as the band publicly, as feminist, is a very conscious decision as Taylor explains…
"Our whole musical careers have been based on this idea of unequal treatment as drummers." Women playing music have been of great inspiration their entire lives. Taylor even recalls the moment she fell in love with drums at age 10. "I was at a concert and I saw a girl playing drums and killing it. I thought she was the bee’s knees," she laughs.
"She played some awesome jazz standard, which was a big band piece and I loved it. I came out of it saying, 'I want to play drums', and that was it. It was just that one experience."
As is often the case with the representation of women in artistic fields however, this initial experience was not often replicated.
"I remember for Christmas one year my Mum got me a bunch of drum magazines,” Taylor recalls. “I remember going through it, trying to find women in it and found one," she adds, going on to explain her exaltation in discovering a woman amongst the sea of male drummers.
Both artists seem to realise they’ve had both the opportunity and responsibility to be role models for other women while teaching percussion at high schools.
"We want to be doing something cutting-edge,” Reitze explains, “promoting other women doing it and being role models for the younger female generation of producers - because that's what we both had and we were very lucky to have it.”.
When it comes to looking to the future in their own artistic careers, Feels are keen to find more like-minded musical mates.
“I want to meet some artists that are similar. I'm really feeling a lack of that. I want an alliance" Taylor laughs. The conversation evolves into musings on 2017, playing interstate, going overseas to summits focussed on women in electronic music and even performing a Steve Reich clapping piece for TWOS right there in Taylor’s living room.
Their enthusiasm is contagious, bleeding out into their music. We’ll watch them entering the New Year with great anticipation.soundcloud.com/feelsmusicartist