Featherface are a bit of a contradiction onstage. The four young men sporting all-black clothes, Converse sneakers and dark, shoulder-length hair appeal to the low-key “shoegaze” crowd, yet the chemistry between them sends an infectious energy pulsing through the intimate space that the band and audience share. For the last four years, the group has been perfecting its own blend of psychedelic pop-rock mixed with brooding, introspective lyrics to create a sound that is spacey, but not sleepy. Never one to be pigeonholed, Featherface constantly strives to evolve musically. Story by Devonshire Lokke Photos courtesy of Featherface
The group’s story began when singer/guitarist Kenny Hopkins and bassist Jake Harris met in eighth grade in their hometown of Friendswood, Texas. The two started playing music together, and after high school they added their friend and vocalist/keyboardist Steve Wells to the mix, calling this first “serious shot” at a band Featherface. Drummer Randy Hopkins, Kenny’s brother, later joined to complete the lineup that exists today.
Featherface have come a long way from their humble bedroom beginnings. Since their first EP in 2010, they have performed at high-profile festivals such as Free Press Summer Fest, Index Fest and South By Southwest. Last year, the Converse Rubber Tracks recording and production team chose their song Ourselves Together for its “Track of the Week." The band also immortalized this single, along with Cosmic Draw, on the grooves of 7” vinyl with the help of Austin’s Big Orange record plant.
When asked to describe the sound of Featherface, Kenny says, “We’ve tried to just never put a label on it, which has made it change really rapidly.” He emphasizes the band’s ever-evolving nature as key to their increasingly tight dynamic. “We’re still trying to find ourselves as musicians and as a band, but I think that’s what it’s all about for us, continuing to try to evolve,” he adds. This evolution pertains to the band members as individuals, as well as musicians. “A lot of us writing music is us trying to come out of our shells, living in a weird conservative town outside of Houston, growing up and feeling kind of outside of it,” he explains.
Kenny says the group draws inspiration simply from “all of the bands [they] love.” Having started out by “playing weird, bad classic rock covers all throughout high school,” Kenny says the band members also hold megalithic hard rock acts like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath close to their heart. Meanwhile, Featherface’s studio work combines Beatle-esque pop with weighty, atmospheric psychedelic rock à la Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Spiritualized and Muse.
“We’ve always tried to make a point to not pin it down, to not say, ‘Okay, we’re going to be this kind of band,” Kenny says about the roots of the band’s cross-genre sound. He explains that a recent indulgence in hip-hop and R&B artists like Outkast has provided a brand new outlet for inspiration. The group is also bravely seeking ways to explore “the humor in music, which we have been terrified to try,” he says.
“All of that coincides with our personalities — as we’re changing, our music is changing,” Kenny notes. “I think [the music] is getting a little more wild, upbeat-sounding, a little more high-energy, rather than depressing, slower or more plodding stuff.” Kenny attributes this evolution to Featherface’s immersion in the “more live-band oriented” scenes in Houston and Austin. “We know what we want to feel playing live. We also know what we want to hear on our record, but it’s about finding a balance between those two things,” he explains. Kenny speaks for the rest of the band members, too, when he says, “it’s definitely a learning experience, and I kind of think if it ever stops being a learning experience, there’s kinda no point in doing it, you know?”
To further encourage the creative process, the members of Featherface have recently moved to a house in Austin and are living together for the first time. Kenny considers the Austin music scene a breath of fresh air, saying, “at their best, people are a lot more attentive … It’s having more of an impact, people really caring about music.”
Still, the band realizes the world has more to offer than the “Live Music Capital of the World,” which, great as it may be, has become undeniably saturated. “We’ve all lived in Texas our whole lives, so we don’t want to stay here forever,” he says. "We want to live a bunch of different places, just keep making music.”
Catch one of Featherface’s upcoming local shows, the first being May 2 at The Empire Control Room & Garage, where they will play alongside two of Kenny’s “favorite bands in Austin,” Ghostbunny and Holiday. They will also be playing at Hotel Vegas on May 8, Mohawk on June 4 and at the X-Games during the first weekend in June. Stay in the loop with Featherface by visiting their website, Facebook, Bandcamp or YouTube page.