The Feelers
It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday
by Kevin J. Elliott

The expiration date of a punk band is usually measured in months. In a culture dominated by youth and aggression, when one bites the dust, there’s another group of glue-sniffing cretins right around the corner to cure the withdrawal shakes. For Columbus, Ohio’s Feelers, who end their tenure with a final shebang August 16, it was either a matter of wearing out their welcome or welcoming in worn ideas and grinding them down to a dull edge. I prefer to believe in the latter: instead of a sputtering implosion, they’ve decided there’s simply no where else to turn. From their humble beginnings, pressing up the (now) ultra-limited Fuhrers New Miniskirt 7-inch all by themselves, to the inevitable last gasp, the Feelers were constantly tethered to the classic “get-in-the-van” spirit of their heroes Crime and the Catholic Boys, while simultaneously scrawling their name onto the wall of weirdo-scuzz rock that has made a presence recently through higher profile, almost bourgeois bands (but made up of the same guys they’d toured with in the salad days). The Feelers never raised their noses, preferring to keep them deep in the muck of touring, frequent line-up changes and a laundry list of suspect labels.

Still, they managed to leave an indelible mark on the Columbus landscape, even if they rarely inhabited the confines. And though they’d like to be remembered more for their chaotic live shows across the globe, the Feelers only LP, Learn to Hate the Feelers, is certainly a worthy document for those interested in what those morning-after bruises and scars looked like. Despite a stunted history and a general ambivalence towards their rank in the annals of Columbus music, for a brief rift in time they were capable of transcending the stock punk model and shredding off one for the ages.

You were all in other punk bands before, so what was the intent of the Feelers?

Dan Riffe: Basically we just wanted to play at (Columbus dive, in the most extreme definition of the word) Bernie’s and drink a lot of whisky—and high-five babes.

So after being in Eric Wrong and the Do-Rights and the Nurses what did you want to do differently?

Aleksey Shaulov: Actually the band started because I hated being in the Nurses, and I had to vent. I said, “Hey, let’s start a band,” to which they replied, “Hey, we don’t play anything.” I said, “You’ll just scream a lot.” That’s how it started. The Feelers came before the Do-Rights.

How were you so quickly indoctrinated in the underground network of punk bands that were on Contaminated Records and Dead Beat?

Joe Riffe: It wouldn’t have happened if those guys hadn’t taken our first 7-inch up to Chicago. Shawn (the old bassist) was in the Reatards and he was really into it and that’s how it got passed around. Then Darius from Criminal IQ was also into it, so having both of those people into it kind of got us into that crowd. That’s how we met pretty much everyone we know now. We didn’t really know anyone until Aleck and John went to Chicago and tried to set that up.

You’ve toured much more than any Columbus band, and it seems to have done well for you. Was that something that you wanted from the start?

Jonathan Bruce Gray: We just got a hold of friends’ bands and set up shows wherever we could play.

AS: At first we would just go out on weekends, but it was Darius who set up the first tour, and he based that on an unfinished demo. We were hellbent on playing out of town. Our third show was an out-of-town show.

JBG: As far as touring and such, it was mostly because of that first 7-inch that we did. It got a lot of good write-ups and because of that we could get a lot of shows.

I’ve seen you many times in town, but (besides the reports of touring all over) it’s hard to research anything about the band other than the record, Learn to Hate the Feelers, and reviews of that record.

JBG: I think the general consensus of the band is that the album is the worst thing we’ve ever put out.

Really? I don’t think that at all.

DR: So we put out a lot of really shitty stuff?

No, not at all.

JBG: Usually we finish songs. The way the record came out, we were really excited to be on Dead Beat because they do a lot of great stuff, but he wanted to put it out before our upcoming tour. And we just didn’t get to finish the songs, and I don’t think anyone was comfortable with the songs.

Despite that you found a crowd as far as Eastern Europe and managed to book a tour pretty far-out. What was the farthest east you traveled?

DR: We went to Zagreb, Croatia and Belgrade, Serbia.

And when you went there did you find it strange that people had your record or knew about you?

JR: Sometimes it would be strange because seven people would show up, but a guy in Zagreb would know all the words. But other people would just come because there was an American band, and they’d seen the Clorox Girls before.

DR: Then you’d go to Thessaloniki.


DR: It’s a city in Northern Greece. It’s a region that Greece and Macedonia have always disputed, and the Macedonians have always been pissy about it. But we basically showed up in a town that was made of six schools that make up a city of complete cement. It was almost like a Lego Land. But there were older people there, in their 40s, which would only talk about the history of the city and the history of American rock and roll. And they would discuss with us the difference between our record and the Clorox Girls record. They had a strangely academic way of appreciating music.

The New Bomb Turks have always had a presence over in Eastern Europe. Did you find anything there that nurtured this kind of music more than here?

JBG: I think a lot of the places we played in Eastern Europe were accepting because we were just an American band playing. There we pretty much just played in squats. And most of the bands we played with were just angry, gnarly, retarded hardcore kids. So we fit in there.

DR: We’ve found that the more impoverished the area, the more they are into gnarly music. There’s kind of a funny disconnect, like no difference between hippies and punks. There’s only one subculture to them.

AS: It’s like that in Russia, it’s all counterculture.

DR: There’s subculture in counterculture. It’s like a black and white divide.

JBG: What I found funny is that everyone there loves the Cheater Slicks. I talked to one kid in particular and when I told him that the Cheater Slicks weren’t huge in America he was completely shocked.

What brought you to this point?

AS: There’s nothing more to accomplish. We’ve done everything there is to do for a band of this stature, a small underground band. We did whole lot more than we first expected. Granted there is one minor thing that we didn’t get to do, which was to get signed to Capitol and have them shit out the money.

A full discography for the Feelers can be found here.