SMOKE AND FEATHERS
“Expert, TX-pert, Choking Smokers”
by Ryan Muldoon
Legend has it that for some poor souls in the 1960’s, there existed the belief that smoking dried banana peels would result in a pleasant, hallucinatory experience (“They call it mellow yellow,” sang Donovan). Let this misguided belief be caution to any Austin Psych Fest enthusiasts who threaten to fall victim to pure nostalgia (“Be here now!” said Ram Dass).
But were it not for the well-placed “and” in the middle of the name of the Austin band Smoke and Feathers, we’d be tempted to start a rumor that the band is all about smoking feathers, resulting in a pleasant, hallucinatory experience. No need for the rumors – the band creates the aforementioned experience by more conventional methods, making easy converts for fans looking for the authentic “southern psychedelic rock” experience.
Smoke and Feathers guitarist/vocalist Hunter Cahalan was kind enough spell it out for us in greater detail.
What can you tell us about the way Smoke and Feathers began? What were your own histories of playing with other bands (if any)? Was there a particular point that you can recall thinking, “This is different – this is going to work.”
Josh Terry moved to Austin, TX, from Los Angeles in 2007. Shortly after, they met a really cool group of friends/musicians, which included Hunter Cahalan and Joe Correneti from the local band Cartright. Hunter had stopped playing with Cartright by then and they were on hiatus. By 2008, Hunter and Josh had written a handful of good tunes. We started playing them with Joe on keys and two other friends on bass and drums. Before long we were looking for a new rhythm section, and Joe was back to playing with Cartright. Someone introduced us to Alan Houston, who had played in numerous local bands and he was an automatic fit. Once we had a solid bass player we got our friend Geoff Guillard to come over and spice it up. We had never heard him play, but he told us he had graduated Berkley School of Music. So we thought, ahh … we guess we’ll try him out even though he likes to dress up like a little girl sometimes. It’s real weird. We always knew that we had a different sound and good tunes, but it was when Geoff and Alan brought the goods that we knew we had something to take to the stage.
Are you originally from Austin? What does it mean to be a band from Austin in 2010?
None of us are actually from Austin. Hunter and Alan are both from Houston. Josh is from Tennessee and Geoff is from Pennsylvania.
How did you come to be involved with playing the Austin Psych Fest last year? Does it mean anything to be a hometown band playing a festival dedicated to a sort of music loved all over the world – but a sort of music that can fairly be said to have originated in Austin?
We were really stoked to play Psych Fest II last year, being such a new band. It’s awesome to be part of such a beautiful event of psychedelia with great bands from all over. We’re excited to play again this year and want to thank our friends from The Black Angels for putting this on every year. As far as what it means to be an Austin band playing Psychfest … it means we get to play with bands the we dig and let loose for 3 days.
Even with the Austin Psych Fest moving in to its third consecutive year, I think it’s worth noting that “psychedelic” music is still a rather young – and we hope evolving – phenomena. Even the word “psychedelic” is only a bit over fifty years old – younger than all of The Beatles! What, if anything, does it mean to Smoke and Feathers to be a psychedelic band?
With our style of music, we get to play to people who are open minded to new sounds and are willing to let the music wrap around them. Rather than people who are coming and getting wasted because they might get laid.
Are there any bands in particular that you are looking forward to seeing this year?
I personally am looking forward to seeing Pink Mountaintops. Also, I haven’t seen Spindrift since the first Psych Fest … those guys are great.” Josh Terry
What is the most surprising band that you’ve ever seen live – meaning the band that you expected the least from, but got the most out of in the end?
One show that really stood out was Colour Revolt at ACL a few years ago. Also we played with The Entrance Band a few months ago and they’ll blow your mind pretty hard, too.
Smoke and Feathers strikes me as a fairly evocative name – two common, fairly unremarkable things that, when put together, become larger than the sum of their parts; Smoke and Feathers (the name) sounds like something a shaman might leave behind in his wake, while Smoke and Feathers (the band) … also sounds like something a shaman might leave behind in his wake. Where did the name come from and what does it mean to you?
We were just using imagery to portray what our sound is like through the journey it takes you on. Also, I’m really into collecting feathers.
What would be the perfect set and setting for your dream Smoke and Feathers show? And can you get me a plus-one on the list for that show?
That’s a tough one. Maybe a show in the desert, where everyone in the audience is wearing a masquerade mask, sitting on a zebra, and taking exotic drugs?
Let’s say someone is coming to Austin Psych Fest from out of town … maybe even from Richmond, VA. As an Austin gentleman, where do you recommend one tries to eat during their stay? What should one see?
There’s good food, rad bars, and tons of shit to do. I wouldn’t know where to start. Torchy’s Tacos is a must have. Jakalope is a rad bar with amazing burgers. Barton Springs is cool if you wanna take a dip in the river. Spiderhouse for coffee …
What’s next for Smoke and Feathers?
We just finished our first full length record with producer Frenchie Smith. We’re really stoked on how good it sounds and it’s getting mastered in a few weeks. It should be out by June or July. After that we hit the road … hopefully touring overseas soon.
Smoke and Feathers – http://www.myspace.com/smokeandfeathers