The Felice Brothers - Biography
The Felice Brothers are an alt-country band from upstate New York, who combine booze-soaked folk, mountain porch sounds and jam elements into a sort of roots rock jamboree in the vein of the iconic group, The Band. Comprised of brothers Ian (vocals/guitars), Simone (drums) and James (accordion), along with friend Christmas Clapton (bass) and Greg Farley (fiddle), the band first began playing and cohering together for tips in dim-lit New York City subway stations before deciding to take their burgeoning revivalist sound overground. Since forming as a unit in 2006 as itinerant buskers, The Felice Brothers have released four full-length albums to go along with rampant touring throughout the United States and Europe, often sharing a stage with acts like The Dave Matthews Band, Bright Eyes and Taylor Hollingsworth. They have also became a fixture at some of the big outdoor music festivals, such as Bonnaroo, the Philadelphia Folk Festival and All Points West.
Hailing from the Catskills in New York, only about 20 miles from the fabled town of Woodstock in the Hudson Valley, the three siblings of the Felice Brothers were three of seven children, their father a carpenter in Palenville. In the mid-2000s, with James living out of his car and Ian living in a tent and Simone budding as a novelist—and all the brothers playing music disparately—it clicked suddenly to make music together as a collective. As such, they took to busking the streets and subways of New York City while living in Brooklyn. Soon people who’d see them busk invited them to play parties and barbecues, and eventually they were playing coffeehouses and venues. With an influential musical range from Bruce Springsteen to Bob Dylan to Chopin, the brothers made intuitive music together, often as sharp as beat poets, combining their song-pool to perform an all-guts Americana music with busy, incredibly honed instrumentation which included James’ signature accordion at the fore.
After putting together a long out-of-print album called Iantown (mostly Ian with an acoustic and harmonica), The Felice Brothers self-released their more-official debut album Through the Reins and Gone (2006), which generated enough buzz that it ended up on Radio Woodstock WDST’s top 25, and the band toured in a vehicle they called “the short bus.” The album also paved the way to signing with European indie-label Loose Music, where they would record and release Tonight at the Arizona (2007), which drew favorable comparisons to The Band and Bob Dylan for its many folk ballads and sincere story-telling. That same year they also self-released Adventures of the Felice Brothers: Vol. 1 (2007), which featured the band’s most known song, “Frankie’s Gun!” The album was recorded in a chicken coop, a place they said made sense to them and felt right, and was available through the band directly or at live shows.
After touring with Bright Eyes and graduating from 200-seat venues to 2,000-seat SRO ones—as well as making a name for themselves at some of America’s biggest festivals, where their frenetic live shows were legendary—The Felice Brothers signed to Team Love, Conor Oberst’s label. In 2008, they released their first “brick and mortar” full-length album, The Felice Brothers, which contained five tracks from the little-heard Adventures disc as well as 10 new songs. The album alerted the rest of the world to the band, and soon tours in America and Europe helped to make The Felice Brothers one of 2008’s greatest buzzbands.
The group’s fourth LP, the 13-track Yonder is the Clock (2009 Team Love), was met with almost unanimous praise in the press. It climbed all the way to #20 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart, and featured the ramshackle song “Run Chicken Run” and the track, “Cooperstown.”
Simone Felice—an established novelist with books entitled Hail Mary Full of Holes and Goodbye Amelia—left the group in 2009 to begin his own band, called The Duke & The King. In 2010, he underwent open-heart surgery as a result of Aortic Stenosis. The remaining quartet making up The Felice Brothers continued on, touring with The Dave Matthews Band that same year. in 2010 they released Mixtape, followed by Celebration, Florida in 2011, and God Bless You Amigo in 2012.