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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Felice Brothers come to U

By Rachel Hanson, Red Pulse Writer

After starting out playing in the subway and recording their first albums in a chicken coop and an abandoned railway car, The Felice Brothers are bringing their accordion, washboard, banjo and ragtag mix of music to the Post Theater at Fort Douglas on Monday.

The band’s earthy, eclectic sound is compared to Bob Dylan’s in every review and bio, a link accordionist James Felice doesn’t reject but doesn’t dwell on either.

“Everything sounds like something,” he said. “We grew up listening to the same things he did, and our craft of songwriting is similar to how he went about it. But I was flabbergasted the first time we were compared.”

This isn’t the first stop in Utah for the band, which hails originally from the backwoods of upstate New York. The Felice Brothers most recently played at Kilby Court in March.

Songs with titles such as “Whiskey in My Whiskey,” characterized by raspy vocals and laced with horns, tinkley saloon-style piano, organ rhythms and occasional hand clapping might seem a far cry from the poppy punk that so often fills Kilby’s garage-turned-intimate venue.

“People are tired of the same old bullshit,” James Felice said. “It’s pretty bad, pretty glossy. It has no soul.”

Felice said he was initially taken aback by the teenage crowd at Kilby, but made it clear that the band gauges the success of a show on one thing: how much fun the crowd is having.

“Salt Lake was really fun, definitely,” he said. “If people are jumping and dancing, we enjoy it.”

The five-man group started out with brothers James, Ian and Simone Felice. Raised in a musical family, all play multiple instruments and collaborate on the songwriting. They were working with their father as carpenters in 2004 and getting together to play casually when they decided to take their music to the street.

After a short period of living in his car8212;”It got too cold,” James Felice said8212;the brothers rented a small Brooklyn apartment and began playing in the subway. During this time, they toured in a special needs short bus and a new band member, Christmas, was added to the group.

“Christmas is a friend,” James Felice said. “We needed a bass player. He couldn’t play the bass, but we really liked him so we taught him how.”

Another friend, Farley, later joined the group in much the same way.

The Felice Brothers self-recorded and self-released two albums before signing a deal with Team Love Records in early 2008. Some tracks from their early imperfect recordings8212;which took place in unlikely places such as the aforementioned chicken coop and railway car, as well as an abandoned theater8212;made their way onto March’s wide release, The Felice Brothers.

The Felice Brothers’ narrative songs are infused with murder, drugs, cabaret dancers, heartbreak and of course, a healthy dose of whiskey. Although some tracks are appropriately sparse and haunting, most are rousing and energetic without losing their gritty flavor. You can smell the sweat and appreciate the danger involved in yet another drug trip to Chicago with Frankie, but you feel happy about the situation nonetheless.

In the middle of a full tour schedule and working on a new album slated to come out in March, The Felice Brothers might not have much time for booze, women or side trips to Chicago.

“What do we do when we’re not making music? Nothing,” James Felice said with a laugh. “We have very little time when not making music.”

But, he concludes, “We love it more than anything. Being able to play it for a living is the greatest.”

The Felice Brothers are playing at the Post Theater on Monday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. Tickets will be $8 at the door.

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