Secret Feelings

Black Feelings Intrigue With Secret Show

Owain Lawson, of local noise rock outfit Black Feelings, would like to assure you that his band is not nearly as gloomy as its name suggests.

“The songs are usually kind of morose in theme, but not really grim,” Lawson said. The band is mostly about having a lot of fun. We sort of chose the name Black Feelings as a joke and, since then, it’s come to define us.”

Comprised of Lawson on drums and lead vocals, Brian Mitchell on bass and Kyle Fostner on guitar and synth, Black Feelings have been a prevalent facet in the local indie music scene for a mere decade. They’ve worked closely with Blue Skies Turn Black, a successful Montreal-based record label and concert promoter, since its inception in 1999.

Much to their credit, Mark Lawson (no relation to Owain), the it-producer best known for his work with Arcade Fire, produced Black Feelings eponymous first full-length self-titled album released in 2009.

Black Feelings record in a low-profile residency at the old Hotel 2 Tango recording studio, an exclusive spot for musicians and artists to create and practice. The locale’s exact location is kept relatively secret, though it is hinted at in the name. H2T are the first three characters of a zip code in the Mile-End.

“The ‘Old Hotel’ has always had people living in it and bands practicing in it for the past 15 years,” Lawson said. “We’ve been in the space for a year now. We have our practice space in there. We’re actually in the control room of the old studio, so it’s a small room, but it’s so sound-proofed and [everything] sounds amazing in there. It’s the best practice space we’ve ever had; there are all sorts of artists in there. Basically, I proposed [the show] to them because the space needs money for repairs.”

When faced with the question of who to ask to join them for the show, Black Feelings decided to invite two acts they had not yet played with but whose style they admire: Toronto-based experimental performer Doldrums and local bizarre-electronica soloist Grimes.

Besides playing shows and hanging out in what has essentially become a secret artist commune, Black Feelings have been hard at work recording new material. The band is set to release a new EP later this month produced by Sebastian Cowan, head of Arbutus Records, on local underground cassette tape label Pasalymany. The cassette tape as a means for distributing music may seem even less practical than the persistent vinyl trend, but it is certainly an appropriate medium for Black Feelings’ fuzzy, lo-fi sound.

“For our self-titled record, […] we were recording with Mark Lawson, who brought a ton of really fancy recording gear, and then when we mixed we made it sound crazier. That’s pretty much the same thing we did with Sebastian, too—we recorded them really clean in the studio and then ran them through really shitty reverb and lots of distortion,” Lawson said.

This somewhat unconventional recording process of achieving an authentic-sounding vintage lo-fi sound through hi-fi equipment allows their hazy, heavily reverberant sound to maintain depth and dimension, in spite of what Lawson described as its “broken tape deck” aesthetic.

“It’s like in movies—they say that you want to make sure that all of your shots are perfect so that in post-production you can make them look as crazy as you want, because if all the information is there you can do whatever you want with it.”

Black Feelings are playing a secret show sometime this week at a secret location. Use the Internet, use your resources and figure out where it is.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 22, published February 8, 2011.