I walk into lead singer Dan Gillespie-Sells’ converted public house which he now calls home and there’s chaos all around. In amongst the recording equipment on the ground floor – which was once the bar, the kitchen where the drinks used to be served – are a film crew, there to record an acoustic session with The Feeling. Dan’s curly black dog sniffs my bag before deciding I’m not as interesting as he’d first thought, then trots off to have a fight with an empty water bottle – I’m not sure who wins. I’m ushered upstairs into an equally chaotic living room, awash with retro furniture, guitars, leads and mic stands. In the middle of it all are The Feeling – Dan, Richard, Paul, Kevin and Ciaran – all kitted out in pop star, seated around a large wooden dining table and frantically signing new album covers for fans. “We’re doing so many, we think the rareties will be the unsigned copies,” quips bassist Richard Jones. The Feeling are back – three years on from Join With Us, five years on from the mega-selling Twelve Stops And Home. So, what have they been up to?
“We toured the last record for a year, then after that we took a few months off from the band to recharge, and for me to give my brain a break so I could write again,” says Dan, flicking his hair out of his eyes. There’s murmurs of agreement around the table. “After three years solid together as a band, we needed to take a little time off to live our lives,” says Richard. “So Paul bought a drag car, Dan bought this place, a camper van and a dog and we all just took a breather.”
But having said all that, The Feeling’s idea of time off is a little skewed – a great chunk of it was taken up organising the Little World Festival in the French Alps, plonking the festival ethos in the snow. “We had to book all the acts, flights and accommodation, so it was a lot of fun but a lot of work too,” agrees Richard. “It’s in its second year now, and we hope to do another in 2012 providing we’re not too busy with the new record…”
Ah yes, the new record, hatched between learning to fly (Dan helicopters, Richard planes); driving cars fast (Paul) and well, living. Dan begins: “The writing process was quite extensive – we had around 40-50 songs which is why we’re releasing a double album and even then it was hard whittling it down to just 25.” I tell them they should do an LP with a gatefold cover and they all agree.
“We’d love to do that, but I can’t see the record company sifning it off,” says drummer Paul Stewart with a frown forming under his Johnny Cash-styled quiff.
The band worked on the album in their own homes and in Damon Albarn’s London studio before Dan bought the pub and built a studio – now they have a readymade base to record and produce their own sound. However, with album number three, they were keen not to force the issue.
Richard explains: “You have your life to make your first album; the second album we did in a massive rush which is the norm and so with this one, we wanted to take our time, get some perspective and we did a load of gigs along the way to gauge fan reaction too.” The writing process has been extensive and organic – “Sometimes we’d meet up and work quite hard for a few days and other times, when it wasn’t happening, we’d bugger off to the pub till something did.” And did that help? “Surprisingly, yes!” laughs Paul.
The end result has had some help along the way from their friends and family too. Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Richard’s wife – appears on one track; they coaxed Betty Boo back into her sparkly 90s suit; Roisin Murphy also features, as does Cathy Dennis. “All the women!” quips keyboardist Ciaran Jeremiah from under his Trilby hat. “We’ve got enough men really though haven’t we?” They made an exception for the Freemasons though, who came on-board to add some “specialised fairydust” to a handful of tracks.
So with summer now revving up, can we expect The Feeling to be appearing at festivals this year? “We’d love to, but I think we’ll be too busy promoting,” frowns Dan. “I really want to go to Glastonbury though…” One festival they are playing though is Alex James’s Harvest festival. Can we expect cheese-making next on the agenda?
“It’s like Single White Female – I want to be Alex James,” Richard smirks. “The bass playing, the band, flying, every night down the Groucho. Expect an autobiography soon but it might not be quite as interesting…”
“He made it all up anyway!” Paul adds dryly.
And then they’re back talking about Glastonbury and how they might be able to squeeze it into their schedule, but Richard looks unimpressed. So have they heard the new record on the radio yet?
“No,” says Dan, leaning forward and putting down his marker pen. ” But I heard Love It When You Call in B&Q the other day, only it wasn’t our version – it was a soundalike version so they don’t have to pay royalties. It was excruciating.” London’s Westfield shopping centre however is always playing their stuff – at least when guitarist Kevin Jeremiah shops there.
“I’m just happy when I hear us on Homes Under The Hammer or something like that – then I know we’ve made it,” smiles Paul.
“No no – we made it a while ago when we were written into the script of Hollyoaks, remember?” says Dan. “Some girl was defending us to a guy, saying our music was good. Clearly implying we’re a girls’ band.” He shrugs his shoulders and smiles. “She’s probably about right.”
The Feeling’s new single Set My World On Fire is out now; album Together We Were Made is out June 20th.