There are concept records and there are concept bands. German theatrical band Feline & Strange definitely fall in the latter category as every tiny detail of their mythos is carefully curated.
The group will bring their internationally acclaimed live show to the US this month, including a stop at Asbury Park Yacht Club on May 21st. I caught up with bandleader Feline Lang to learn more about the story behind and that makes up the Feline & Strange.
You identify your genre as “Cabaret Soulpunk”. Tell me more about what that means to you.
The Cabaret: The theatrical part. The stories, the aliens, the costumes. It’s not just the music.
The soul: Did you have a go at our songs? It’s The Voice. And a good helping of 60s sound.
Punk: Like in “Steampunk”, it’s the not-fitting-in attitude, not the mohawk. Though I wear Docs with my ball gown.
How did you come up with the concept behind the band? Did you have an idea of where you wanted this all to go from the very beginning or do you keep adapting as you go?
It just happened. Well, we ARE aliens, but only realized that step by step. So our story unfolds while we go along.
Ok, now the truth. While producing Science Fiction I wrote, in a little more than two hours, the story now in the booklet. It just fell into my head. Then I went back to the band and told them, guys, we are aliens now, and will present ourselves to the world.
So the story was clear, and it keeps unfolding all by itself. Making me waking up at night and wondering if the alien-remembering-former-lives isn’t the REAL truth, after all…
You encourage fans to keep up with all of the band’s affairs as it is all part of an unfurling narrative. Are there any artistic mediums you would like to incorporate into that mythos that you haven’t gotten to yet?
Yes! I would love to make a real theatre show, like a musical, but with an opera orchestra. With artists, and a real lightshow.I AM a theatre person.
And of course, there’s the movie…! With a space ship in it!
…and did I tell you about the book I’m writing??
The size of the band has shifted over the years. Was that due to circumstances or did you find those lineup changes necessary to stay true to your vision with each release?
The 5 piece was the most consistent, as I wanted from the very beginning: Piano, Brass, Bass, Percussion, and Electronics. So it wasn’t that that changed. Only when Uli the horns left I realized that we had gone the wrong way, blowing up something weaker instead of reducing to the necessary.
I think most bands come to that point at some time in their history. So we started all new with new arrangements and me pplaying the piano, and it turned out surprisingly well. Now we play, depending on the venue, as 2 piece or 4 piece, and love it.
On your latest LP you got to work with “Brian Viglione (Dresden Dolls, Violent Femmes). How did he help to shape the album’s sound?
Oh Brian is incredible! He is not only the best drummer in the world, but also the nicest person on Earth. He at once got what I wanted with those songs, even more than I did myself, and what he did on them was energetic, rocky, fantastic, big big big, and completing the music in a way I had never dared to imagine.
Right now we are working on the successor “Truths” and it is working even better – me in the control room pantomiming and singing the song, Brian on the drum kit, the connection is intense, we make music together like on a stage. I can’t describe how great that feels.
Your music has a beautiful, gothic sound to it. Who do you cite as a chief musical influences? Who would be a dream collaborator?
This ranges from Opera composer George Bizet (who wrote Carmen, the most intense piece I know, in a transparent, concise, storytelling way I adore) over the sarcastic, sad music of Kurt Weill, to the punch-in-the-face swing of John Barry for the James-Bond movies, to the biggest and most transparent pop ever written as by Depeche Mode, to filling a grid of theory with energy and allusion the way Daft Punk do it. The latter would be the dream cooperation, as I had my first dream fulfilled with Brian Viglione!
You have a connection with the Steampunk community. Were you always interested in that culture or did you find it as a result of interest in the band?
We experimented a little with costumes and roles, but got stuck (as it fitted best with the music, and our personalities) with ballgown, flight cap, and top hats. (And I am only doing this job because I always wanted a profession allowing me to wear ball gowns.)
Several weeks after Science Fiction was released, I got a pingback from a Steampunk forum titling “I discovered a totally weird new Steampunk band…” I thought: what the heck is Steampunk? had a look at the website and found we had been Steampunks all the time without knowing it. Science Fiction nerds, science lovers, book fanatics, and eve metal workers and engineers among our crew.
You say that the new LP will be delivered in a “in a luxury steel box” along with a graphic novel. Tell me a more about what the packaging will look like?
This goes for the 2nd part, Truths, actually. Lies delivers the questions, in a coded pop-out paper box with a code disc in, and a scrapbook hinting at a conspiracy. Truths will contain the graphic novel I wrote during preprodution, telling more about the aliens, their mission, and delivering some answers to Lies. The steel box will be the blunt instrument to deliver them to everybody else who didn’t buy the album yet!
You’ll be in the US for three upcoming shows including a few with Emily Grove who will be your tour mate later this year. How did you come to meet/find out about each other?
Emily is a “child of the Seventh Wave family” too! This is the family our producer Jason Rubal created, named after his Seventh Wave Studio. He loves to connect people from all over the world, with surprising results! I loved Emily from the first moment on, she’s a great person and a big musician. Can’t wait to show her around in Berlin!
You’ll be in Asbury Park for a show on May 21st with Grove and Homeless Apians. Have you ever been to Asbury Park before?
Simple answer: No. It’s our 2nd visit to the States only, and we were stuck in the studio most of the time, no time for sightseeing!
So the biggest question is, in your own words, what can our readers expect from a Feline & Strange show?
Theatre! We don’t deliver our music mumbling a few lines about how-i-wrote-that-song-when-i-was-sad”. We telephone to our homeworld, and need the audience as assistance, and witnesses.
So we describe how we, as aliens, see the world, and mankind, wearing what goes for a spaceship uniform in our minds, and bickering a lot as a spaceship crew is prone to get cabin fever. And there is always, in every show, this one person right at the stage crying his (most are male) heart out.
I love that more than I can describe – that’s what music is about: emotion!
Emotion that can’t be expressed it any other way.