Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, Damen und Herren, from what was once an inarticulate mass of lifeless tissues ... please help us welcome into the world Fellaheen's latest creation, cheerily entitled ... DEATH & FROLIC.
It weighs in at a hale and hearty 2.4 ounces*, and includes a compact disc, hand block-printed sleeve, illustrated lyric booklet, artsy photo set, and sticker for your refrigerator, briefcase, notebook or bumper. it clocks in at 54 minutes and 25 seconds, and is comprised of 12 compositions (plus the obligatory "hidden" track) which scale the heights and plumb the depths of mortality, insanity, love, hate, loss, karma, birds of peace, and dogs of noble bearing (if questionable lineage).
DEATH & FROLIC is the product of about twelve months of blood, sweat, toil, tears, and “hey, how about just one more round?” So, on behalf of the group and ourselves, we hope you like it, that you’ll tell your friends about it, maybe write some nice things about it where people might read such nice things (you gotta blog?!? Hey, us too...), and, moreover, exist in a general state of happiness and grace. No foolin’!
(* The album is also available in exclusively digital formats; the physical specifications of those entities are somewhat more
difficult to pin down.)
A BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL Q & A WITH FELLAHEEN
Q: What’s the band name mean?
A: It’s an Arabic term for peasant farmers. Philosophically (or so said Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West), “fellaheen” refers to the great mass of peasants who adapt and survive from one civilization to the next without becoming part of any, thus remaining separate from the great movements of history. [Cue: crickets chirping]
Q: What’s the band sound like?
A: A lyrical mix of sit-down alt rock ’n’ roll, scratchy blues, Americana-rama, and downbeat jazz informed with a murky existential wit.
Q: Right. What’s the band sound like?
A: OK. Let’s say: comparable to the likes of Tom Waits, Wilco, the Velvet Underground, and Kurt Weill if we're lucky. More deeply-rooted influences include Beggar’s Banquet-era Stones, the Beatles, Captain Beefheart, Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, and Mose Allison. The lyrical approach is borne out of a head space created in part by the works of Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag, Cornel West, Mad Magazine, Flannery O'Connor, Roberto Clemente, Jack Kerouac, George Carlin, Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Pynchon, Madeline Kahn, Bugs Bunny, Haruki Murakami, moderately-priced red wine, insomnia, and Dante Aligheri, along with the movies of Vittorio De Sica, Jim Jarmusch, John Sayles, and Wim Wenders.
A: Yep. That was written with a completely straight face. But please feel free to arrive at your own conclusions.
Q: Who writes the songs and sweeps up after everyone’s gone home?
A: Bruce Hanson, a somewhat-grizzled 40-something-year-old musician born in Chicago and raised in New Jersey. He specializes in writing slightly off-kilter original songs about shady characters, particle physics, love ’n’ hate, and works of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.
Prior to Fellaheen, Hanson played in dozens of bands no one ever heard of (or at least remembers now) from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. Pausing to nap, he rediscovered his muse sometime around 1998, and so returned to music more-or-less full-time. And in a world dominated by giant record companies with little interest in nurturing music beyond that which can move a gazillion units in less than a week, he went the route now available via accessible recording technology, the Internet, and good ol’ fashion DIY: he built a recording studio in his home, and recruited a cadre of crack musical malcontents to join him in recording and releasing a succession of CDs.
And the rest, as they say, is mystery.
Q: I see. And who's in the band?
A: It’s a fairly loose, somewhat anarchic collective, but joining Bruce in Fellaheen is some combination of the following folks:
Joe Borthwick (upright bass, vocals); Mark Orlandini (drums); Dan Trent (lead guitar); and Kerry Watson (drums). Other friends
contribute when they can.
Q: Oh look ... my ride’s here. One last thing — what are the band’s goals?
A: For you to listen to our music, maybe get a song or two in a movie in the scene right after the murder, and for you to come on out to see us play live. Oh, and world peace.
"You just gotta admire the ambition, ingenuity and imagination at work.... [Fellaheen] skillfully blends elements of moody jazz, gritty blues, and melodic alternative rock into a fresh, compelling and harmonic synthesis. The cool, raspy vocals likewise hit the soulful spot. Ditto the quirky, yet incisive lyrics. Arrangements are appropriately brooding and mellow. Best of all, there's a hypnotic smoky atmosphere evident throughout which adds immensely to the overall sonic richness of this excellent and inspired oddball project."
—Joe Wawyrnizak, Jersey Beat Magazine
"Trippy, dark, and rumbling like a clumsily approaching lumbering monster waving a bong, [Fellaheen] will shroud you in storm clouds and blow your mind. Lou Reed would get high to this. Tim Burton would write an animated movie to go with this soundtrack. Johnny Depp would be too spooked to lend his voice to it.... immersing yourself in this darkly swirling (and highly intellectual and literate) music is not a bad way to channel your darker energies. Hypnotic and psychedelic, equal parts Monty Python and Captain Beefheart..."
—Jennifer Layton, Indie-Music.com
"Slimy, brutal and greasy can be great compliments when you're talking about raw sounding music, and Fellaheen is all of that and more. Bruce Hanson has a cigarette-scored vocal reminiscent of Paul Westerberg, and ... succeeds in tribal exorcisms, garage psychedelia, and sparse Americana with equal skill. Great imagery alongside some soul-baring episodes, with just the right sense of humor and the macabre."
—Bill Holmes, Pop Culture Press
"Armed with an uncanny (and unfair) sense of melody, Bruce Hanson and Fellaheen weave a diverse array of elements into a final product that is seamless, fresh, [and] living with impossible vibrancy."
—Jedd Beaudoin, f5wichita
"[Fellaheen] just oozes simple and unforgettable melodies and places them in a winning mix of contexts, [giving] the tracks a tossed-off decadence."
—Mike Bennett, Fufkin