I first heard about The Feeling on Monday 9th May 2005 when I interviewed Duncan Fleming, the singer/songwriter behind War Against Sleep, before their gig supporting them at the Water Rats. I asked him, in passing, what the headliners were like and he sneeringly categorized them as “tie rock” (like “hair rock”).
Fleming was a dull interviewee (I had been induced to speak to him by a zealous press officer) and a ne’er do well musician with a messy album, but I hung around to hear them. Good thing too, because only four other people made their way to the bar to watch. It was, I rationalised, Monday night.
Clutching my lime and soda, I twiddled my thumbs for a while before engaging in conversation with a posh girl who had come to see the headliners. She told me that she had first seen them at a ski resort and that they had built up quite a following just through their live shows. I asked what they sounded like. She said that some people had accused them of copying 10cc and Supertramp.
As I raised an eyebrow, I noticed a woman who looked exactly like Sophie Ellis-Bextor. I stared, wondering if it was her. Then Janet Ellis, the former Blue Peter presenter, came and stood right next to her and all doubts were resolved. According to my source (the aforementioned fan), Sophie was the bassist’s wife. Apparently, the drummer was attached to Sinead Quinn, but I didn’t know who she was, so didn’t pursue the matter.
The keyboardist walked on wearing a fedora and chicago bulls vest over a longsleeve T-shirt. The singer wore a waistcoat and spats. They exuded cool and confidence and charm. The concept of guilty pleasures had been bubbling away for months and people were listening to 70s commercial rock again. All it needed was a band to legitimise the genre for a new generation. I knew as soon as they started playing that they were that band. I said to the girl next to me, I am sure they will be the biggest band in the country in a year’s time, though I’m not sure if it is a good thing or not. I plotted my cover story and thought about how I would claim them as my own.
Time passed. I couldn’t think of anything to say about them. They got signed. Press attention came their way in The Times and The Fly, all saying the things I predicted. There was such a grim predictability about the way they became big; never had the cogs in the machinery of the music industry been so well oiled. I saw them again in Glasgow and chatted to the band. They were charming and professional, well understanding the hoops they had to jump through after years of being session musicians. Yet still I couldn’t bring myself to write anything about them.
The album emerged and was beautiful, but there were no words in my pen to describe their songs. The music industry is, I know, an industry but when we think about it we don’t think about chimneys and production lines. Sometimes we don’t think at all, all we need to do is feel; and the feeling I had about The Feeling was suitably irrational. Yet, it was haunted by the nightmare of the industrial processes, which, though subtler, are just as violent to one’s sensibilities. And so, unable to write about music, I stopped writing about music (some journalists continue even after their passion has been spent: they call themselves press officers).