The Story Behind Fellaheen's New Album, You Either Get Hands or Get Wings
For help with naming Fellaheen’s new album, You Either Get Hands or Get Wings, group leader and songwriter Bruce Hanson found inspiration in an intrepid member of the Italian urban landscape.
“Last summer, I was sitting in a street café in Rome. There was a pigeon near my table, with a piece of string wrapped around its foot. It was pecking at the string feverishly, trying to free itself of it. My drinking companion observed, ‘I bet that pigeon wishes it had hands right about now.’ I replied, with a little chianti-inspired wit, ‘Well, you either get hands or get wings.’ And the waitress goes, ‘Ooooh...’"
You Either Get Hands or Get Wings offers a wide range of moods and modes, building on and expanding upon the palette of alt-rock, scratchy blues, Americana, downbeat jazz, and the lyrical, literate wit that informed Fellaheen’s 2012 release, the critically-acclaimed Death & Frolic. That album won Fellaheen a legion of new fans, and brought with it increased exposure and airplay worldwide for the band’s music.
“Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of working with incredible, fearless, and death-defying musicians,” Hanson says. “Once we began recording the new album, they all gave generously of their time and talents. I tried to write interesting songs to put in front of them, and then just let them do their thing.” Initial sessions were held at Seaside Lounge Studios in Brooklyn, with subsequent sessions taking place throughout the N.Y. /N.J. /Pa. tri-state area.
"Musically, Hands or Wings has everything that we could wring out of our instruments and the studio setting,” Hanson reports. “There are creaky two-steps, string quartet madrigals, weepy canzonets, strategic silences, a gospel waltz, a dirge arranged for field organ and criminally abused cellos, a dose or two of country twang, and a couple of nice, menacing bossa novas.”
The album features musicians from the Fellaheen live performance band , including Ben Dumbauld (accordion, percussion, keyboards), David Evan (lead guitar), Kaveh Haghtalab (drums), and Nick Sullivan (bass, vocals). Also contributing to the recording sessions are a host of musical friends old and new, including Mark Orlandini (drums), Joe Borthwick (bass), Max Maples (drums), Dave Keyes (piano, organ), Marty Cohl (pedal steel, lead guitar), Matt Clauhs (soprano saxophone), Kismet Henderson (vocals), Chris Loxley (cello), Jennifer Volmer (viola), and Jia Xu (violins),
Listeners who have discovered Fellaheen’s previous releases are equally drawn to Hanson’s idiosyncratic, heartfelt, humorous, and philosophical lyrical turns as to the eccentric yet accessible music. “It’s really gratifying to hear that people find connection to and meaning within the words—because I agonize over them,” Hanson jokes. “For this new album, I honed in on themes about the perils of the creative process—not to mention: synesthesia, metaphorical fruit, natural selection as a kind of cosmic joke, the march of folly, and (returning to thoughts of my Italian avian friend) pigeon superstitions. I’m gratified that listeners are willing to come along wherever the words lead.”
So whether you’ve wound up with hands or wings, you’re guaranteed a wild and rewarding ride with Fellaheen.