WESTERLY, R.I. — When St. Patrick’s Day rolls around on March 17, it’s usually a time where beers get drunk and whiskey gets sipped in local bars, a variation of corned beef & cabbage gets consumed and people either celebrate their Irish heritage or at least pretend to do so. It’s also a time where live music takes the stage in many establishments all over the United States, Ireland and beyond.
Based out of the Catskill Mountains in New York, The Felice Brothers will be coming to Westerly to take part in this fabled occasion with their rambunctious brand of folk rock. They’re going to be performing at the Knickerbocker Music Center on 35 Railroad Avenue for what should be a grand experience. Tyler-James Kelly from the Providence blues rock act The Silks will be starting the night off at 8 p.m.
I recently had a talk with accordionist James Felice from the band about releasing music independently versus through a record label, The Felice Brothers’ current lineup, recording their most recent album in an old church and making plans for the next recording session.
Rob Duguay: Throughout the band’s career, The Felice Brothers have both self-released their music and you’ve also worked with various record labels including Loose, Dualtone and most recently Yep Roc. How much more work goes into self-releasing an album these days versus releasing one through a label?
James Felice: We actually haven’t self-released a record in a long time because it’s so much work and it’s also because we’re not very good at it. It requires a lot of being present with material, follow through, engagement and organizational skills, so that’s why you have a label. We don’t have a great skill set with that stuff, we’ll make a record and put it up on our website but we don’t have much of a skill beyond that.
RD: That’s totally understandable. You and your brother Ian have been the constant members of the band with Jesske Hume and Will Lawrence currently serving as the rhythm section on the bass and drums. In what ways does this current edition of the band set itself apart from prior lineups of The Felice Brothers?
JF: There’s a lot of ways. Will and Jesske are just really great & phenomenal musicians and they’re a great rhythm section. They’re both so good, so steady and so musical that it sort of frees up myself and Ian in a lot of different ways. Honestly, they do most of the work up there while the both of us can mess around a little more and be more loose. We don’t even have to worry about where the song is going because they got it.
RD: Very cool, that’s great. You all recorded your latest album From Dreams To Dust, which came out in 2021, in an old church that was originally built in 1873 that Ian renovated. What was it like making the album in such a unique space? Were the acoustics really interesting to deal with because of the dimensions of the church?
JF: It was pretty fun. The acoustics of this particular church was basically just a box so it didn’t have beautiful vaulted ceilings or anything of the sort that you might expect to see in a church of that age so the acoustics were challenging. We had to put some treatment up and we had to tame it down because it was just a racket, you could hit a snare drum in there and it would sound like the place was going to shatter. We had to be a bit intelligent about where we put the drums and everything else but it was such a beautiful space to work in that it was all worth it.
RD: Does the band plan on using the studio for future recordings going forward or just using it every once in a while?
JF: I think I want it to be our spot. It’s not a full-time studio at all, Ian also uses it to paint and it doesn’t have running water or heat or any insulation so it’s not great for the wintertime, but it’s such a wonderful & beautiful place to be creative and have fun in. It’s also on Ian’s property so we don’t have to worry about paying for it and I think it’s going to be our creative home for a long time.
RD: With the upcoming show at the Knickerbocker Music Center happening on St. Patrick’s Day, what are your thoughts on the upcoming show?
JF: I’m excited to be playing on St. Patrick’s Day. We’re going to try to include some Irish tunes and some traditional tunes into our set if we can. I always love to play our weird interpretations of those songs and it’s a good time for everybody. I’ve never been to the Knickerbocker but I have heard about it and I know some friends who say that it’s a really beautiful venue so I’m excited. We don’t really get to play in Rhode Island very often, we’ve played the Newport Folk Festival a few times but the last time we played a proper show was at least two or three years ago so I’m happy to be back and I think it’s going to be a particularly fun night.
RD: It looks like it’ll be fun. After the show, what are The Felice Brothers’ plans for the coming months?
JF: We’re going to try to make a record. We don’t have too many shows booked this year, we have a few here and there. Last year we spent a lot of time on the road so this year is more about writing and ultimately recording this spring if everything goes according to plan, so I’m very excited for that.
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