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RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW FEATHER TRADE

Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.

What made you decide that music is a thing for you?

Chisolm: I never really saw any practicality in music when I was growing up. I had friends who started bands and asked me to join, but I always saw it as a pointless thing to do. Then once my parents weren’t home very much, and I started getting invited to my friend’s practices and they said “we’ll be ordering pizza,” I figured it was worth a shot. At that point, it was a meal ticket, and I wasn’t gonna be sitting at home alone and bored. Since then, it’s been somewhat of a meal ticket and my primary way of meeting people and seeing places. It’s offered me a method of expression, and interaction with the world, so I guess it just kinda happened more than it was an active decision for me. 

Introduce us to all of the members and your musical history.

Hi, I’m Chisolm. I sing and play guitar with Feather Trade. Do mean our personal musical history or like as a band? I’ve been playing for a while, in a few bands here and through time I guess Punk stuff, Deathrock/postpunk stuff. Natalie and I have been in bands together for a bit now. We met when I was in another band and we lost our bassist. The department head at the art school I was in suggested I contact Natalie. She had just graduated, but he knew she was a bassist. During the lockdown, we lost our drummer. I played with a few people over here in Manchester. A guy that was starting to fill in got a really bad form of covid and couldn’t do it anymore and suggested a few people. It was through them that I found João. 

The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?

That’s a question that kinda feels impossible to answer. I wanna make a good living wage, and I want to feel like what I’m “selling” so to speak, is of some value. But I really feel that this industry is often like any other. If you wanna become a household name, you’d better have AT LEAST ONE of these three options. Number one: Be better than nearly everyone around you at what it is you do, and that had better be something supremely populist. Number two: be extremely lucky and then be able to maintain that luck somehow. Number three: be incredibly wealthy when you start out. Most people that are major successes in this industry started out wealthy. So with that said, if wealth and fame are measurements, we aren’t doing very well at all, and I’m not sure we ever will, or care to do well within that framework. But outside of that framework, I’d say we’re trying to get better at being articulate with expression and more prolific with creation. That’s all you can do. I’d rather have industry people worry about the industry and artists worry about the art. 

I look at a lot of things like this: We’re all gonna die someday. This road we are ALL walking down is a one-way road. All we have is what we all do together on the way to the end of that road.  With this band are all working on something and we all get along, care about each other, and have started working with new business people that care about us, and whom we care about. That’s important enough for now. I’d love us all to do something we can be proud of and to reach as many other people as possible. It makes the conversation bigger, doesn’t it? Everyone wants to have an effect on others. It’s a way to know we exist while we are still here, and to know we’re not walking on our own. No one can do anything on their own. We’re chatting with you, and what’s new, and worth something. That’s what it’s about right? So, we’re doing ok I guess. I dunno. I guess that’s not much to do with so much the music business, but more to do with the business of living and dying well. 

We set up RGM USA and many other countries in the world to share music with America and the UK, good idea?

As you said, it’s a hard industry. I think it’s even harder in the US right now. It’s a good idea if your goal is to give people more of an opportunity to discover new things. It’d be good for us! We play in both countries, so I’d say go for it and I support the effort and I’m never gonna discourage someone who wants to promote music. But if you’re asking if it’s a great monetary investment, i’d say a similar thing as before. America is tough for music and the arts. I’ve noticed so many divides in the past few years. We’re such an extreme version of capitalism, that it benefits the overarching system to make people dedicated to a given demographic. Too young for that, too old for this, too black for this, too white for that. Too elitist for one thing, too blue-collar for another.

Over here in UK, I’ll meet people in their mid to late 60’s who will ask me if I’ve heard the new Eminem record or whatever. That would almost NEVER happen in the US. You’re sort of subconsciously encouraged to “grow out of music” in the States. If you’re over 30 and in a band in the States, most people are gonna think you don’t have your life together. Or they’ll ask you “yeah, but what’s your REAL job.” I think it’s because music and entertainment have become less of a cultural point, and more of a way to tax young people. When you’re young, you don’t own a house, a nice car, or have a high-paying career that can be taxed, so companies get you at festivals with high ticket prices and high drink prices, etc through your early twenties. Then, after that, it’s like you’re expected to “get serious,” get a good (aka taxable) income from a corporate job, then a car, then a home, then a family and healthcare to pay for out of-pocket, etc. You’ve no time for music to have meaning in your life at that point. You gotta keep that machine running. 

Whereas over here, it just doesn’t seem that way. If music means a lot to you, you keep it going. And yeah, a place to live and healthcare and all that are important too. But the system is set up to help you acquire those things without it ALL being based on how much money you make so you can pay for it all on your own. Maybe it’s because your union of countries just has a smaller population. Art and music can play a role in larger socio-political discussions with smaller populations and maybe your politicians know that, and treat them with a little more respect as such. Don’t get me wrong, I know the UK has its problems. But there are no PRS or musicians union-type things in the states the way there are here. Policymakers seem to actively, although not primarily keep the arts and entertainment worlds on side. 

I know no politician ever hears a song and says “ooh, I’m so touched now. I’m gonna change a law or put in a policy because that song has changed me.” But groups of people hear a song and think “Yes, now that’s a succinct way to articulate how we feel about this certain societal issue” and that gets the attention of policy makers. But, in America right now, there’s so many issues to distract and divide people from their interests and each other, it’s super hard to reach any group of people at any given moment. Sometimes it feels like the only people paying attention are the people not paying attention. Party music people just want to party, and don’t care about what’s happening in the world at all, or in music for that matter. So, I think that’s why pop music does as well as it does. They have less distractions in the world. Pop music listeners just want a soundtrack to the only thing they are distracted with; themselves. But we could explore that rabbit hole for hours couldn’t we?

All of this is to say America needs more influence from the way your culture handles culture. You’re doing the good work by spreading the word about music and its critical content. I couldn’t comment on the commerce, but I’m happy to see you doing it. 

Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?

After the Trump era, and even more now as we try to have a post-Trump recovery era, I have no time for that kind of thing. I mean, I have peculiar theories about how the world works, just like everyone else I have a limited perspective and do my best with that. But, no. I think a lot of the stuff that’s out there is really dangerous. It’s the kind of people that believe in Q-Anon stuff that are the same kinda people that would propagate Blood Libels against Jewish communities in previous centuries. 

Maybe I’m taking it all too seriously, but what I’ve seen happen with conspiracy theories in America has just personally given me no time for it. We need truth and transparency more than ever. Other planetoids in other places can have a variety of shapes, and there’s likely some kind of “life” as we call it in other parts of the universe. But this planet is globose, there are no lizard people underground, birds are real, and Elvis is dead. Who knows about Roswell, though?



Lets share the love, what bands are doing really well in your Town / City?

Someone is gonna get upset if we leave them out, I just know it. In Athens, I really like what Hunger Anthem is doing. Tears for the Dying is a really genuine band too doing good work. Entertainment is a former band I was in. They’re Atlanta based now, but always make me want to push my boundaries and rethink how I approach music in general. I really enjoyed Bleach Boy while on this tour. They’ve got a couple of tracks that I wish I’d written if I’m being honest. We did a few dates with them. They’re a Manchester band. The last tour we did a show with Triptych from Glasgow and I really like their sound too. Pretty technical stuff. 

What advice would you give other artists starting out?

First, learn to listen to yourself before blindly accepting advice from others. You’re just starting so you still have nothing to lose by learning from your own mistakes. Your inexperience is the truest zeitgeist and the pure thing you have going for you. If you keep going, you’re gonna get so much advice thrown at you, so learn now what is your truth.

Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?

Chisolm: I bought some star wars figures, and like a back to the future board game, which I’ve still not played. That might be it though. God, I do really hate to spend money. 

What was the worst experience on stage?

Chisolm: People heckle once in a while. I don’t mind that. It’s just part of the fun and ultimately, I have the microphone. I think in recent times the worst I’ve felt was when I was sick on a tour and we were opening act in front of like 1000 people and I just sounded terrible. I just felt like I let everyone down on both sides of the stage. 

Tell us something about you / each member that you think people would be surprised about.

Chisolm: As a way to get out of class and go on school trips, I signed up for poultry judging in high school. I was pretty good at it honestly. So, I know a surprising amount about chickens. 

If you had to describe your band/music to an alien how would you describe it?

Audible vibration and tones synchronized to percussive rhythm and vocalization. That’s of course if they have an understanding of human language. Otherwise, their points of context would be so wildly different than ours, it’d probably be hopeless to try and describe them. Seriously though – it’s intense and it’s genuine. It’s driving and familiar. It’s noisy and melodic. It’s like a punk in its criticality but doesn’t wear the outdated uniform. It’s angry, and sad, and wants to see change. It sounds like a thinking human mind. 

What makes you stand out as a band/artist?

Our sunny disposition and cheerful sense of humor?

I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.

It’s called Deadboy. It’s our first officially released single. We are finally on all the major listening platforms. It feels odd, but relieving in a way. 

Talk me through the thought process of the new tune/s.

I lived in Athens Georgia as a kid and loved it. I moved back as an adult. I loved the town and the music scene there and wanted to have that returned. I worked in a rock club there, which was great because I got to see shows that I could otherwise not afford. But sorting garbage and scrubbing toilets the morning after those shows was pretty demoralizing. I started resenting showgoers, and being at shows whenever I wasn’t working just stressed me out. 

We saved up as much money as we could and recorded with someone in town who screwed us out of thousands and never even finished the recording. There was this band in town whose members came from a lot of money. They didn’t like that some of our songs and merch called out the privileges of the rich in the art world. They paid a venue $3000 to have us taken off a SXSW festival slot. I couldn’t believe another band would or even could afford go that far, and I couldn’t believe a venue would actually let them. Then I got diagnosed with cancer. I felt as though i’d given everything I had to an ideal and a scene only to get screwed over and then get cancer. Life felt pretty hopeless and pointless and unjust. On top of that I was constantly seeing how the media sensationalizes the suffering of artists and nearly fetishizes and expects it. “Paying your dues” is like the minimum people expect. Paying with your life or emotional wellbeing seems to be what this twisted industry has made newsworthy. I was enraged over how cruel and twisted the entire concept was. The appropriation of a struggle story by the privilege for financial gain, only heightens the expectation of suffering for those who have nearly nothing left to give. I dunno, I think Deadboy was a reaction to all of it. By the way, I have been diagnosed as clear of cancer not long ago after surgeries, etc. I don’t want anyone worried after reading this. I’ve been super lucky with doctors who had my best interests in mind.  

What was the recording process like?

It was a big learning experience. Once Matt Yelton and I found each other, I think it was the first time I’ve worked with a producer I’ve trusted that really invested a lot of time to help me understand getting good takes and helping me develop to a point where we could get something to be proud of. Matt’s worked with a lot of cool artists over time and some of my heroes. Frank Black of The Pixies to be clear and to drop names! Hahaha. We tracked some stuff in Full Moon Studios in Watkinsville Georgia, but then also just set up primarily in this kinda old cabin in the woods in Athens Georgia where he was living for a bit. Kinda did most takes there. But yeah, it was great to learn about talking tones for guitar and other drum samples. We’ve had a really nice time working together. Learned a lot about wine during the process as well. Matt really likes nice foods and wine, so it was nice to kinda experience some of that and learn about them and develop a point of view on it. 

What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?

Sometimes the who song pops into my head and I just have to figure out how to play it. That’s always nice and lucky. Other times, I have to sit and hash it out. I have a feeling attached to a particular concept. I need a sound that makes me feel how the concept makes me feel. Then I have to find a way to articulate it in a way that works. The watershed aspect is the hardest part. I don’t think anyone is ever really writing from pure scratch, the tap is always on. Sometimes it’s just barely on at all. Learning how to sit down and put the time in on the ones that didn’t just show up in a dream or in my brain suddenly one day. That’s been the toughest thing. That and not overthinking it while thinking about it. 

Would you change anything now it’s finished?

Oh, there are always things I’d change. If you’re completely satisfied, you’ve not gotten better during the process. It’s never really finished. It’s just eventually “out there.” I feel like we play it to live better all the time and if we went back and re-recorded it, we could possibly get something even better in some ways, but perhaps not as real or raw. It’s best for me to not go too far down that road or I’d never be putting out new music! 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

Aside from the obligatory plug of “check us out, listening, liking, telling a friend is a big support and it costs you nothing” kinda pitch? 

Mainly I’d like to say this to people. Eliminate suffering. Don’t suffer for anyone’s sake. No one deserves pain. No one. I’m not saying “just be happy.” There’s plenty out there to be unhappy about, to not accept, to even be angry about. But, focus on the idea that no one deserves pain in their life, no one deserves suffering. Find a way to not accept it for yourself, and help others cast it off. I think that’s the key to improving your life and the lives of others.