Felsen has its insightful finger on the pulse of a harried, busy generation that lives life online, out of touch and constantly between a state of here and there. The title track on Felsen’s newest album, “I Don’t Know How to Talk Anymore,” is frontman Andrew Griffin’s response to a 20-year-old who refused to look away from his cell phone during a heated argument. “I’m afraid of conversation. I’ll text you and try to explain. I’m afraid to know you. I’m afraid you might want to know me, too.”
Felsen’s sound, a modern indie rock informed by ghosts of Beatles and Beach Boys, filtered through a colorful prism of Wilco and XTC, comes to life in a live setting. Expect participatory hand-claps and chorus sing-alongs. Griffin himself, along with his guitar and a very long cord, steps off the stage and into the audience, leading listeners by the hand, literally and figuratively, to the front of the stage, for a more up-close and personal experience with the band.
“Though it’s in grave condition, rock and roll’s not dead,” insists Griffin on another of the latest album’s songs, titled, appropriately enough, “Rock and Roll’s Not Dead.” He continues, “I’ve gone electric, do you feel your eardrums blown?” Felsen’s reaction to “fear of technology, loss of identity, loss of self,” is a hopeful song of the return of humanness.
The band Felsen — German for “rock” (of the boulder variety) — hails from Oakland, Calif. and comes to Jethro’s in the Ranchos on Friday. Guitarist Dylan Brock, singer/guitarist Griffin, bassist Christian Hernandez and drummer Art McConnell are embarking on their first big national tour, with stops in Salt Lake City, Denver, Wichita and St. Paul.
Griffin explained the band’s affinity with our smaller-market Northern Nevada town.
What exactly is the Felsen/Gardnerville connection? You’ve played here at least twice now in recent memory. What compels you to include our tiny burg on your tour of fairly large-sized cities this time out?
This will be our third time performing in Gardnerville. We got lucky connecting with Jethro’s. They have been super supportive of us. They feed us, it pays pretty good and they always try to put together a good show with local bands that will bring out their fans and friends. We’ll keep coming back as long as they’ll have us.
You ran a successful crowd-sourcing campaign to fund your latest tour. Would you do it again? Is this the future of music? Would you recommend it to other artists?
We’ve now actually done two successful crowd-sourcing campaigns in the past two and a half years, raising almost 17K in total. It takes a lot of work to get the word out there and encourage people to chip in, but our fans, friends and families have been extremely generous and supportive. I would encourage other bands to not be afraid to ask for help. People are aware of how hard it is to be a musician and they want to help out. I’d like to believe that many people are aware of the need for art and music in our society and would be willing to kick down to help keep the good ship rock and roll afloat.
What is it about this new CD that sets it apart from your previous albums? What’s different?
Our new album was a real group effort. The combination of players and personalities makes it sound more like a band than any of the previous Felsen albums. We also had a concept. We started Jan. 1, 2013 with one song written, “Rock and Roll’s Not Dead” and that sort of set the tone and vibe for the other songs. We knew we wanted to make something cohesive and tell a story with it. A good album should be like a novel. The album is about how, on some level, we’re all feeling like we’ve traded in our humanness for technology. We’re losing more and more all the time and we here at Felsen Inc. aren’t willing to give up on rock and roll.