Feick's Device
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Feick's Device

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia | SELF

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia | SELF
Band Alternative Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Feick’s Device: The thing you’re best known for is not necessarily the best thing you’ve ever done"

I first experienced a live performance by Feick’s Device a few months ago, sitting in a doorway in a crowded hallway in Globe Lane as part of the Pop-Up exhibition program. They played in a tiny room that was more akin to a fishbowl than a stage, with at least half of the audience watching them from outside the windows. Singer/guitarist Michael lurched from one foot to the other in a powder blue suit that wouldn’t have been out of place in Elvis’ dressing room, while Caz (guitar), Gavin (bass) and Tim (drums) filled the space with a melodic cacophony reminiscent of the Violent Femmes on better drugs. Friday 30th Dec sees Feick’s Device return to the Gong for a gig at Yours and Owls. I caught up with Michael in the leadup to the show to chat about recording, artcore, and why the hell anyone would want to play live music.

Feick’s Device began life as a two piece. It was “me and a drummer (AK) – which worked ok but highlighted to me that bands like Buggirl only get away with that setup because they’re such amazing guitarists” says Michael. “I never really got away with it. We ended up only ever getting to play all-acoustic ‘solo & duos’ nights, which we were always too loud for. AK wanted to get a bassplayer but I was against it, so we foundered for about a year. AK joined about 6 other bands who were all more active, and I tried out for Bored of Directors as singer. BoD didn’t want me, but their bassplayer insisted on having a go at playing with Feick’s Device”. The band then began to solidify their sound, but “by the time we were ready to play as a 3 piece AK had gotten sick of hanging around and quit the band. Through a stroke of immense luck Tim had only just moved to Sydney from Melbourne, and no other band had snapped him up yet. We were the first band to answer his ‘drummer available’ ad and he fit in right away. As for Caz, she had recorded some of my solo stuff for me to use as demos years earlier and had added her own flourishes which I loved, so back when AK first started pushing to add a 3rd player I had asked her, and kept asking her ever since. She’d semi-offically quit playing live and didn’t like the commute to Sydney, but eventually I wore her down and she finally decided to join not long after the EP came out”.

photo: Dan Turner

Wollongong locals will likely recognise Michael and Caz from previous Gong-based projects including the Useful Box and Dreamgirl and the Motorist, as well as their solo performances. “The Useful Box was six people who between them were playing in about 8 bands; it was horrendous, just organising weekly band practice everyone would have to get out their diaries” recalls Michael. “Caz and I also played in the Serviettes together (brief but memorable). Our bassplayer, Gavin, was a founder of Bored of Directors, who broke up as soon as they showed any signs of popularity. Tim is a kiwi who has played in bands in Melbourne and Brisbane, and he now also drums for The Fires”. The combination of musicians all from different backgrounds is reflected in an interesting way through the reference to the band’s namesake Otto Feick. “There is quite a long story behind the connection. The shorter version: Otto Feick is the inventor of the rhönrad (the big wheel people get rolled around in in various circuses) and wheel gymnastics, the accompanying sport. The basic idea behind the name is that the thing you’re best known for is not necessarily the best thing you’ve ever done”.

The band have recently emerged from recording their first full length album “What is to be undone?” at Damien Gerard Studios (“plus some extras at Tim’s place (Anderson Lane) and a little in Caz’s house”). “We just finished recording it Dec 19 and will mix and master in Jan/Feb. It probably won’t be released until May or June because we’re doing most of it ourselves and want to do a good job of it”. The recording process was “a pretty transformative experience for the band (me in particular)” states Michael. “We started with 3 days back in October 2010, which resulted in a 5-track ep ‘Still busy storing away fat for your trial by fire’. We’d hoped to record everything live but it quickly became apparent that we weren’t really tight enough as an act to do that. Having an engineer staring at you from the control room saying “Can’t you hear you are out of time?” while the rest of the band smirks on was a pretty good impetus to go and improve my musicianship. We were very lucky to get anything finished in those 3 days, but as a result we became much better playing as a band. Our live show improved noticeably as a result, and coming back a year later to record the rest of the album we had a much better idea of what we needed to do, how to do it, and how to realise when things were going wrong”. The band put the songs through their paces in their recent residency at Sydney’s Excelsior Hotel, which was “a bit of a stretch for us to pull off six months of regular shows at a venue with zero walk up audience, and we did have one quiet night, but overall it was a big success and achieved our aim of raising awareness of us and other highly original bands, as well as boosting the idea of the Excelsior as a place to go for good live music”.

Photo: Nina Kourea

Feick’s Device describe their music as artcore – a term that has multiple interpretations and by nature is hard to pin down. From their perspective, artcore is “music that draws on diverse influences and aims to recombine them in original and creative ways, hopefully with a bit of intelligence. Artcore isn’t afraid to use a bit of abrasion to get the message across, but it’s not characterised by any single particular sound. Feick’s Device artcore is acoustic-based but quite heavy and percussive, with melodic bass and lead instruments that add dramatic emphasis rather than shredding through scales or repeating hooks ad nauseum”. This ethic fits well with alternative spaces like Yours and Owls, who are catering for music and performance that takes a more experimental approach, and offering something different to the traditional pub rock environment. “To me it makes far more sense to play places like Y&O where our performance is occupying the same market space as other art (visual art works in particular) than playing a pub where a band’s success is measured in beers bought” Michael says. While pubs have traditionally been the space for live music performance, Michael doesn’t believe that needs to be exclusively the case now that alternative or niche spaces are becoming more prolific. “I love that venues like Y&O aren’t driven by alcohol sales. Live music and booze peddling are no more natural business partners than live music and cigarettes were, and a big bonus with many niche venues is that they’ll let under 18s (teenagers and kids) attend shows, even if alcohol is on sale. I should point out I’m not utterly opposed to venues selling alcohol, or seeking to make a profit, but the modus operandi of pubs and clubs is so entirely dominated by profit-seeking and beer sales that it blinds them to their relationship with the community, including potential for other profit-making ventures that might actually give something back. Particularly with grassroots and artist-run venues I like that money made by the venue goes back into other art ventures. They also seem much more willing to honestly split profits with the performers, unlike more mainstream venues, and to support music that gets overlooked elsewhere”.

Photo: Dan Turner

Feick’s Device are interested in the WHY of live music as a performance, and see it as an artform that goes beyond a live replication of the recorded music. “I’d really like to know why people perform live music, and why others keep going to watch. I ask this question of myself all the time, and am constantly struck by the mediocrity of going to watch someone do live what you can hear so much better on their website, especially when their performance consists of standing still and looking uncomfortable. I don’t have the answers here, but I’m working on them. Live music is a viable artform, but no one I know seems to know why. Still we keep going (performers and audiences alike). Obviously there’s scope for dressing up and committing various shocking acts on stage, but none of that is actually part of playing the music, in a sense. I’d encourage anyone coming to our show at Yours and Owls to demand more of us if we don’t appear to be actively seeking these answers, and I’ll demand the same of the audience”.

After a heavy performing schedule during 2011, the Yours and Owls gig might be your last chance to catch the band live for a while. “We’ll go a bit quiet on the live scene between Feb and May and then hopefully tour the east coast and maybe adelaide as we release the album” said Michael. “Meanwhile we’ve got a stack of songs we’ve been holding back from playing live until we had the album done, so what few shows we do before the album launch will doubtless have some of those exciting little gems on show”.

Feick’s Device play Yours and Owls Friday December 30th with the Merchants and Mr Asshole.

Check the band out at: http://www.feicksdevice.com/ - www.heltersmelter.com


Still busy storing away fat for your trial by fire - ep (physical release April 2011; digital release May 5)

The bone boiler - self-released single (2010)



Feick's Device don't sound quite like anything you've heard before. With a simple setup and a vicious approach, Feick's Device pound out heavy folk one minute and solemn dirges with a twist of pop the next. Combining musical courage and sensibilities inherited from artists like Nick Cave, the Dead Kennedys and Violent Femmes, Feick's Device scream, sing, wail and shriek out polyrhythmic melodies of intense beauty and abrasive charm.