The Buzz on Featherwood Bee: Jams, Duality, and Handsomeness
This weekend, there’s a double-header—not by the baseball team, but by campus rockers. Comprised of Kelly Lee ’14 and John Ryan ’14 on guitar and trading off on vocals, Ben Gottesman ’13 on bass and the occasional vocals, and Adam Johnson ’14 on drums, this rock band began with just Lee and Ryan this September. Since then, it’s doubled in size and changed it’s style. This weekend, the fearless foursome will be playing a show in a LoRise (following Aaron Burr and the Hamiltone’s guerrilla show trend perhaps?) and playing Cinco de BuHo at BuHo (of course) with the Apple Daughters, Yeomen’s Omen, and a new funk band called Skybars.
The band’s name comes out of clever bit of musical mining: its pulled from the song lyric, “We’re snuggled up together like two birds of a feather would be” from the holiday carol “Sleigh Ride.” Despite their name’s wholesome, seasonal roots, Featherwood Bee hardly sounds like Christmas music. The two main songwriters for the band are Lee and Ryan, although the music doesn’t stop with them. They usually write a song—sometimes with complete orchestration, sometimes not—and workshop it with Gottesman and Johnson. The band will play the songs over and over again, doing it a little differently each time and writing the song as they go along.
“We’ll just play stuff and be like, ‘Wow! Holy cow! That sounded way better when we did it there,’ and we’ll just kick that old part out and put that there,” Johnson said.
“It’s a very group-oriented process,” said Ryan.
With two principle songwriters and a lot of input from the two other members, the band has created a unique sound. In fact, their sound races between laid-back guitar work and loud, screaming rock passages. That strident side can get pretty intense: Johnson recalls one time he actually broke a drum set by repeatedly banging it with a steel pipe.
“Sometimes before a show we have to decide whether or not we’re gonna let it all out, because in the wrong circumstances it can sound like much," Johnson said.
“We’ve had a couple different kind of shows,” Ryan explained. “[At] the show we played at 64 Fountain last week, I was a bit less inclined to scream a lot because not that many people were there and it was kind of close quarters.”
This weekend, you can get a preview of both sides of this band.
“This is going to be a really loud rocky one," Lee said of their LoRise show, which also features Smacky Brown.
However, at BuHo there will be more of a festival feel. There might even be barbeque. People will be milling about, and it’s going to be a more relaxed atmosphere. Accordingly, Featherwood Bee will be playing their more low-key tunes.
Although the band does try to balance complex songwriting with eardrum busting, they don’t see it as a dichotomy or a result of having both Lee and Ryan writing the majority of the songs.
“I don’t think it’s a division between band members,” Johnson said. “I think that the ditchtomy exists in all of us. Like we all want to be able to put together a great organized song, but we also want to make some noise.”
“It’s like one head with two faces," Gottesman said of the band's flexibility. "It’s like Voldemort and Quirrel.”
“It might be more like one head with four faces,” Ryan added. “My songs wouldn’t be anything without the rest of the band, and neither would Kelly’s songs.”
Regardless of how many heads this band has, you’re certain to have a good time at either of their shows this weekend. You’ll be seeing two pretty different sides of the band, but that’s a good way to get the whole picture on their dynamic style. You might even discover these different facets in yourself. But aside from personal growth, the band has some other more important reasons to come see them this weekend.
“My bass playing is very much inspired by Bill Gates,” Gottesman said.
“[There is] definitely a high average standard of handsomeness,” Johnson added.