The Feelers “Weapons Of War”

2004-the-feelers-weapons-of-warIt’s night time. In an anonymous office building, bass player Matt strides out of a lift, disturbing the all-Asian office staff. They direct him to a bland corner office and he struts over to the window.

We discover that the other two Feelers are also standing at the window of neighbouring buildings, playing their take on the old “love is a battlefield” theme. This high-rise trio doesn’t seem to bother the other people in the offices (all Asian). Perhaps it’s a standing arrangement the band have – an alternative to renting proper rehearsal space.

It’s been filmed by the Vero building on Shortland Street in Auckland, and sometimes we see the band playing outside, evidence that the three-building technique isn’t the result of a feud.

Office buildings are pretty bleak places, bleaker still when they’re empty. The presence of a rock band could either make the building seem more rockin’, or it could make the band members seem more dull. I think the latter happens in this instance. The scenes filmed outside with the band together are far more dynamic than the band in an empty open-plan office space. Even when the song’s tension is building, the dull setting just seems to bring everything down. Maybe they should have got David Brent to do some dancing.

Best bit: the guy happily working while Hamish plays the drums at the other desk.

Next… cube dudes.

The Feelers “Larger than Life”

2003-the-feelers-larger-than-lifeOh, the Feelers. Along comes “Larger than Life”, the first single off their third album, Playground Battle, and yet another top-20 hit. These boys did not stop working.

The song is kind of a love song, but it came right in the middle of the 2003 Iraq War and all the anger and societal turmoil that came with that influenced the Feelers when writing their album. So the song has a lot of testosterone and aggression behind it, sounding less like a sweet love song and more like a caveman dragging off his equally savage cavewoman for some cavelove.

The video gets even more macho. The Feelers are performing outside at night, with an air force helicopter circling them. It’s obviously a cold night – the band’s breathe is visible. Maybe the air force are there to throw them thermal blankets and energy bars.

Then it starts raining and the band don’t look happy. They actually look really uncomfortable out there in the cold and rain, but are channelling that discomfort into dramatic rock faces.

The video looks fabulous. It’s shot in black and white with a golden-brown tint – like a non-nostalgic sepiatone. The choppers and the lights and the rain all look very rock and dramatic. I just hope that when the video shoot was over, there were some hot mugs of Milo waiting for the band.

Best bit: the close-up of a wad of duct tape wrapped around James’ guitar. 4 real.

The Feelers “Anniversary”

2002-the-feelers-anniversaryThe “Anniversary” video is filmed at a backyard party, with the Feelers rocking out on a small suburban deck, next to the barbecue. But despite the modest setting, this is not a modest affair. The place is absolutely packed and there doesn’t really seem to be much room for people to move. It makes me wonder if this performance was the result of a competition to have the Feelers play at the lucky winner’s house, with the music video production being thrown in as a two-for-one.

So the video is packed full of lively 20-somethings, all decked out in plastic leis and holding cups of non-alcoholic punch. The huge crowd obviously made it hard for cameras to film the band, because much of the video footage shows the band as distant figures through a sea of partygoers.

In the middle of all the chaos, the Feelers seem to be having a great time. There are fire-breathers, drunk-girl dancing and even a moment where – super lol! – the Feelers’ drummer uses jandals to play the drums.

The of adventures the backyard gig give more life to the song. The lyrics are about a failed relationship, the sort of thing that would more traditionally get a video involving a girl in a cafe. But this video turns “Anniversary” in to a party anthem. And I think that’s part of the magic of the Feelers – they could turn all these straight MOR tunes into hugely popular drunken shoutalong experiences.

Best bit: the brief glimpse of the face of a chilled-out, eyebrow-ring-having party bro.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

The Feelers “Fishing for Lisa”

2002-the-feelers-fishing-for-lisaTell me what (oh!) ever happened to Lisa. It’s a summer of heartbreak and the Feelers have a theme song for it, a lament for the long-lost Lisa. The video sees the band enjoying a summer holiday. They have a Kombi van and have been joined by three model-like women, one of whom we can assume is Lisa. The six of them drive around, enjoying a stereotypical outdoorsy summer, partying like it’s 1969.

The footage varies between video and old film, giving it a grainy home movie look. There doesn’t seem to be any relation between the type of film and the scenes. Just whatever. We even see one of the models holding a camera on the beach. But that camera is filmed by another old camera. Things were so complicated before Instagram came along.

Much of the vintage camera footage involves the six mucking around at the beach. And there’s Lisa walking around with a surfboard, sitting with a surfboard but not actually surfing. We see a dude surfing, though. Perhaps Lisa was just minding his board.

The sextet also end up having a picnic by the beach, complete with a singalong. They also all end up crammed inside the Kombi, where the singalong continues (with Lisa tooting along on recorder). James Feelers doesn’t take his sunglasses off while he’s in the van, which makes him look more like a dad with Transitions lenses, rather than a cool rock dude.

Despite all these fun times, the video ends with Lisa cheerfully being dropped off on a deserted, bush-clad road. It seems like a dick move for the lads in the van. I mean, couldn’t they have at least driven her to the nearest town? But if she’s happy and the Feelers are happy, why is there such lament?

Best bit: James Feelers’ singalong lei, for that authentic tropical vibe.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a scratchy drive.

The Feelers “Communicate”

2001-the-feelers-communicateAw yeah, the Feelers are back with the title track from their second album. Since their previous album, things had changed. The band were a couple of years older, but seem to have ditched the rock star trappings of their previous videos. In fact, this video marks the moment when James Feelers adopted the more casual look that would see him compared to political one-hit wonder Aaron Gilmore a decade later.

The video begins with a bleak hazy orange landscape, struck by sinister bolts of lightning. And I’m thinking, ok, is the video going to be set on Mars? But no. It’s earth and here comes James Feelers walking towards the camera in a t-shirt, baggy jeans and a cap, like someone who’s heading back to the car after making a pee stop on the Desert Road.

The video then alternates between James walking around some sand dunes and the rest of the band putting in a low-energy performance of the song. How low energy? The bass player is sitting down.

Finally James stumbles across a door in the middle of the sand dunes, opens it and discovers his lazy-arse band set up in a makeshift room. Crazy! Surreal! Etc! There is a TV in the room. And – get this – it has a pot plant on top. And just in case things didn’t seem weird enough, it then starts raining.

It’s like because the Feelers have ditched the eyeliner, silver trousers and giant killer punks, the music video has to pick up the slack. But I suspect that the Feelers are actually more comfortable with this casual look. After all, the chorus proudly asserts, “We communicate without any style.”

Best bit: the slow-mo O-face of James Feelers in the rain.

Director: Matthew Metcalfe
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… charge up your batteries.

The Feelers “Astronaut”

2000-the-feelers-astronautWhen this video first came out, I saw a making-of item on some youth TV show. This is what I remember: it was filmed at the Mandalay in Auckland, and the big crowd up on the balcony was achieved through digital copy and paste.

The sound is more than reminiscent of “Where is my Mind” by the Pixies. And while the Feelers did have a Pixies sound on tracks from their first album, “Where is my Mind” was also hot from its inclusion in the 1999 film “Fight Club”.

So anyway, the Mandalay is full of fans of the Kiwi Pixies Experience and there on stage are the Feelers, rocking out with such powerful force that it creates a wind-machine like effect on the audience’s hair.

But that’s not the limits of their rock power. Soon the ceiling of the venue starts to spin, opening a portal to another dimension. What’s up there? Anal-probing aliens? No, it’s giant version of the Feelers, dressed up like they’re going to a punk-themed fancy dress party. It looks like they went through several $1 jars of off-brand hair gel from Rendell’s.

The band aren’t sure what to make of this, but they realise they can’t out-rock their 50ft doppelgangers and so leap into the other dimension. From there they gleefully watch the giant James do an ill-fated stage dive.

The lesson learned from this video is that a little bit of the Feelers is ok, but too much Feelers will just end in tears. Also: only the Pixies can do the Pixies.

Best bit: The wild eyes of James Feelers as he surveys the bizarre goings-on while keeping his rock cool.

Next… upsizing a shipping container.

The Feelers “As Good as it Gets”

2000-the-feelers-as-good-as-it-getsSo, this is an interesting video. “As Good as it Gets” was a non-album single, the first new release after the run of singles from their debut album “Supersystem”. The song addresses “my honeymoon child”, but it very much feels like the honeymoon is over.

“As Good as it Gets” is laden with digital effects. The video is colour graded to the notorious teal and orange palette, but this was years before teal and orange was a big annoying thing. So there’s some cutting edge visuals from the Feelers.

There’s also lots of CGI with a the video being set in a stylised high-rise building with each room containing an interesting person from the world of music videos. Let’s do a roll call: interpretive dancer, schoolboy writing lines, hula hooper, a tap-dancing amputee, a mechanic working on inflatable pool toy cars, an aerial silk performer and a martial arts practitioner. All that’s missing is an old person doing something outrageous.

Whereas previous videos put the Feelers at the centre of all the action, it seems like this video marks the point where the Feelers have given up trying to do the big sexy rock star thing. The energy of “Pressure Man” is a distance memory. In this video they’re wearing sensible jumpers and all look like a band of dads, leaving the crazy to the hired hands. This, the Feelers are declaring, actually is as good as it gets.

Best bit: the giant orange shorts the interpretive dancer wears.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… skater dudes.

The Feelers “World Away”

1999-the-feelers-world-awayHere’s a video in a nutshell: the Feelers perform the song “World Away” live in Helen Young Studio while a camera crew film them. And that’s it.

It’s a curious thing. The concept seems like it should be fairly interesting at a bare minimum, but it’s strangely dull. There’s no magic, no buzz, no showbiz. It’s literally just four guys in a recording studio performing a song.

I think the set-up is part of the problem. It’s a band and a film crew crammed into a recording studio. Everyone has to stay in their own space to avoid messing up the playing or the recording. So the Feelers are rooted to the spot, daring not to move too much. The camera crew is likewise hiding in corners or sliding back and forth on a dolly track.

Whatever you think about the music of the Feelers, they usually make pretty entertaining music videos. But the “World Away” video feels like it’s gone to great lengths to show us a side of the rock experience that bands don’t normally make public. It’s the dull routine of recording a song in a studio. There’s none of the vibrant live energy we saw in their “Pull the Strings” video. It’s kind of boring.

But here’s the funny thing. This song reached number nine in the pop charts, making it one of the Feelers most successful singles. Perhaps this video shows a side of the band that very much appeals to its fans.

Best bit: the random arty out-of-focus camera shots.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… deep sea skiving.

The Feelers “Pull the Strings”

1998-the-feelers-pull-the-stringsWhat happens when a band is too busy touring to make a new music video? They make a music video cobbled together from footage of life on the road. But somehow the Feelers’ version of this ends up being kind of crazy.

The video starts with The Feelers having a Backstreet Boys moment, disembarking a small aeroplane. Only it’s not a Learjet. It’s an Air New Zealand Link. There’s a lot of footage of the band on stage, but it’s the off-stage antics that are more fun.

The boys sit in a DeLorean, squirt each other with water guns, hoon around rural Canterbury, through the Mt Victoria tunnel and they sign autographs. Autographs! Remember when the Feelers were teen idols? When young women would thrust their t-shirt-clad bosoms at the Feelers and demand a signature?

We’re also treated to the sight of a young man with a theatrical circular saw slicing into a Feelers’ guitar. And then we see a newspaper article about the incident (which includees the phrase “capital hard rockers Shihad), proof that the incident wasn’t just extreme but it was also notorious.

The most revealing vignette is where James Feelers puts on a superhero eyemask. He wears it for few moments, smiles, then shakes his head and takes it off. Because wearing a superhero mask is silly.

But despite all the shenanigans, at the heart of the video is the Feelers playing to a stadium of people who love them. There’s real joy and excitement on the faces of the fans, and that’s something worth capturing in a music video.

Best bit: the grid of cops.

Director: Duncan Cole
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… hair, heavies and huh?!

The Feelers “Venus”

1998-the-feelers-venusThe “Venus” video is seemingly about a girl who’s on the run from the law. She’s James Feelers’ sweetie, and while he sings his song for her, she’s escaped a greasy cop who’d been holding her at a sleazy motel room, run away to a remote gas station, stolen a car and driven to the Feelers gig.

But here’s the curious thing – the Feelers gig is at the Hastings Municipal Theatre (now called the Hawke’s Bay Opera House). The theatre has an elegant Spanish Mission-style facade, an extravagant art nouveau interior and is a Category I listed building with the Historic Place Trust. And the video loves it.

This isn’t just a random gig. The camera relishes the theatre’s lush interior, swooping all around. Sometimes it’s just an excuse to show the balconies packed full of Feelers fans, but other times the camera lingers on features of the lush interior decor.

Because I’m a bit of a building nerd – because I spent half an hour googling too figure out where it was shot – the theatre shots are more interesting to me, to the point where the plot fades into insignificance.

Except the ending is still powerful. Venus enters the theatre and smiles at James Feelers. He sees her but he cannot react as the greasy cop is standing off to the side. Venus runs off. Is she running because she realises his lack of reaction means the cop is there? Or does she take his blanking to be a cruel rejection, casting her out onto the mean streets of Hastings? sniff Don’t worry, Venus. Napier’s only 20 minutes away.

Best bit: the lingering glimpse of the fancy ceiling.

Director: Duncan Cole
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a very easy chair.