Inner west art-core ensemble Feick’s Device are in the business of experimentation, be it sonic, visual or personal. Recently they’ve garnered some attention through the release of their bolshy long-player Biting the hand that feeds you bullshit, a record steaming with the band’s powerful political intent.
Eager to dive into the machinations at the heart of this act, we caught up with frontman Michael Aiken.
Wage slavery, political distrust and a call to action: we dissect Feick’s Device with singer and guitarist Michael Aiken.
HAPPY: Give us a run down of Feick’s Device back story.
MICHAEL: The name is a reference to the fact that the thing you’re best known for isn’t necessarily the best thing you’ve done. The band had a few false starts early on, originally as an acoustic duo! Gav then joined on bass after I auditioned as singer for his band but he was the only one who got where I was coming from, and he then insisted on making Feick’s a bigger enterprise by joining on bass. We then recruited Tim (drums) off the internets, the very week he moved to Sydney. I knew Caz (guitars, vocals, keyboards, other random stuff) from when we’d played in bands together in Wollongong (The Useful Box, Serviettes), but she had been claiming she was retired from playing live. After much lobbying from me over several years, and seeing us live a few times, she agreed to step up, at which point the sound became complete.
HAPPY: Biting the hand that feeds you bullshit tackles some of the bigger within the world: minimum wages, western misconceptions and political affairs in modern society. What’s the reason behind crafting songs with such heavy meaning?
MICHAEL: I guess foremost because that’s what’s on my mind. Wage slave was written in a moment of utter despair at being trapped needing to work in a meaningless job in order to pay the bills; it was a kind of catharsis, albeit hollow because it didn’t get me out of the job! These songs are about the things I can’t ignore, I guess.
HAPPY: What stemmed an interest in political and social injustices?
MICHAEL: I think it’s as much self-interest as anything, to be honest. Sure the particular issues we’re singing about are various social injustices, but the recurring theme is about how fucked it is that people (including myself) allow themselves to be duped, into believing particular narratives that make it easier to sleep at night. So I say it’s self-interest because I think my own world would be far more enjoyable if there were more self-critical thinkers out there, and if I myself could reflect a bit more on my own preconceptions.
HAPPY: Each song from the new record is different from the next, exploring different tempos, singing styles and themes. What is the intention behind creating such diverse songs, and does the sound resonate with the songs thematically?
MICHAEL: I don’t like to sit still! I do think though that the music of each individual song usually connects quite meaningfully to the point of the song, or contrasts for effect. Huggy, hush was originally written as a lullaby, literally telling the baby to stfu and go to sleep (gently), and it worked as a lullaby so I kept playing it, then took it to the band and made it a bit more rock! Another example, Temporary Happiness is one of the real signature songs on the album – it’s about the false sense of fulfilment people get from buying stuff, or from locking themselves into a romantic relationship in order to avoid facing the world alone. And the music for that song is mostly quite gentle, almost like a ’50s pop song, it actually puts me in mind of Chapel of love, which as my mother once pointed out to me is a classic illustration of the Cinderella Complex: “once I get married, everything will be happily ever after.” And of course that’s not necessarily true, so at the end the song suddenly explodes in abrasion and then quickly dies out.
HAPPY: Describe your version of an ideal world.
MICHAEL: I’m so wary of ideals, but a good place to start would be a world with a few less fuckwits pushing other people around. I think a lot of people would view my ideals as quite socialist, but right now I’d even settle for a genuinely capitalist world. The big businesses running things these days are so cowardly, so utterly anti-capitalist in that they never take a risk, never genuinely invest in anything, just hoard wealth away and collude with government to keep the scam rolling. It’s not a venture if the outcome is written into law before you buy in! Fuckers like MQG are a disgrace to the notion of true entrepreneurialism.
HAPPY: With a title that says it all, what reaction do you hope Biting The Hand That Feeds You Bullshit will trigger from listeners? Is there a call to action?
MICHAEL: I guess the call to action is directed as much at ourselves as at those around us. Don’t settle for what sounds plausible just because it sounds plausible; always look for the money trail; and don’t trust anyone who says they can magically make everything easy.
HAPPY: Digging the self-created new video clip for Into The Arabian Sea. How and why did you come up with the idea of a sea monster devouring human prey?
MICHAEL: Thanks. The video idea arrived independent of the song, so the two aren’t directly connected but I could see they would work well together. Really, the video is a loose allegory for how poorly mainstream Australia treats “others”. Pushing people into the jaws of a monster out of sheer spite seemed like the most logical comparison. That, and of course violent spectacles make for compelling viewing.
HAPPY: Can we expect more home-made animations for future Feick’s Device videos?
MICHAEL: Yes, but don’t ask me for a deadline! Our multi-instrumentalist wunderkind Caz made all our really pro clips, but I’ve been really getting into the medium lately and having a bash. Our next one will be another homemade from me, though not an animation. I’m super keen to do more animations, but I’m like a rhino making origami – no fucking idea, and really not fit for purpose.
HAPPY: What are your plans for 2018, any upcoming gigs or festivals on the horizon?
MICHAEL: We’re getting much more selective about what shows we play – really into the idea of a sense of occasion rather than yet another pub show, so you may be lucky to see us much at all after we launch this album. We’ve all got lots of other stuff we do, so we tend to come together, do something fun, then go off on tangents again. I’ve got a book coming out in June, so that’ll take up some of my time. Tim is playing shows with a several other bands and will doubtless also continue to explore and develop digital and electronic technologies, as he does. Caz does a million things – paints, makes films, writes and records heaps of her own songs and is also a graphic designer – and Gav is working on a new musical project based around his prolific songwriting. As a band, what I’d really like to see is for us to get our third album done a lot quicker than this one took. The third is already half written, so hopefully by early next year we’ll finish the writing, and record it late in the year for a 2019 release. But in terms of seeing us all live in the same place at the same time, those events will be very few (and hopefully very special).
HAPPY: Describe what a live performance from Feick’s Device entails in five words.
MICHAEL: I think I’m too verbose for that! Can you just deduct marks from me for going over the word limit?: “Blood on the fretboard, gnashing of teeth, and up-tempo self-deprecation.”
Feick’s Device will launch Biting the hand that feeds you bullshit at The Annandale Hotel on Saturday November 18th. Grab all the details on their Facebook event.