The Felice Brothers, a folk band from the Catskill Mountains, are not your average musical group. While the members began their musical careers playing in Manhattan’s subways, the band worked its way up to famed performances at the Newport Folk Festival and an appearance onstage with Bright Eyes last year at Radio City Music Hall. The group is made up of the three Felice brothers, James, Simone, and Ian, and Farley, who is unrelated, plus a man named Christmas they picked up on the road. After performing there last April, the Felice Brothers are returning for a live show tomorrow at Castaways. Contributing Writer Haley Davis recently spoke with James Felice, the accordion player, about New York City, the band’s inspiration, college towns and performing in Ithaca.
Haley Davis: You guys have been all over the world. Where is your favorite place to play?
James Felice: I’ve got to say New York City is always a great time. If you make it there, you can make it anywhere, right? Actually the last time we played in Ithaca was an amazing show, I had a great time. We played at the same place we’re playing this year, down at Castaways.
HD: I was at your show in Rochester last year where you played with Bright Eyes. Who is your favorite artist to perform with?
JF: I like these questions! Playing with Bright Eyes was really fun, I learned a lot just watching [Conor Oberst] play. So we love playing with him anytime we get the chance. Our man A.A. Bondy is opening for us at this show, he’s great and we love playing with him.
HD: What is it like to be in a band with your brothers?
JF: It’s really fun. We screw around a lot, laugh around, make trouble and get in fights with each other. It’s all I ever really wanted.
HD: And now you are touring with A.A. Bondy, your brother-in-law. What is that like?
JF: It’s great. I’ve never toured with him before so I’m really excited. We’ve played shows with him before but have never been on the road together. He’s a really great guy and a great songwriter and musician, so I’m excited to play with him.
HD: Where do the Felice Brothers find inspiration?
JF: Playing our shows, seeing the people that come out. I think that, really, is the biggest inspiration. But also from our father too, he is a really hardworking man.
HD: What is your writing style? Is it collaborative? Do you all sit down together?
JF: It’s different for different songs. Sometimes we just go our separate ways for a few days and write music, then come back and share ideas, and sometimes we sit down and write together.
HD: Do you have a favorite song of yours, or a favorite one to play?
JF: No, I like playing them all. They are all fun for me to play. I like playing “Glory, Glory” at the end of shows, we do that sometimes. It’s really fun, people get up onstage and dance with us.
HD: I heard you guys used to play at Sunday barbecues at your dad’s. I know you already said your father inspired you, but how did your parents influence the band?
JF: Neither of them were musicians, but they are just really hardworking people. I guess just watching them live their lives and knowing you have to work hard, no matter what you do. I think that’s the biggest influence. My dad is a no-[nonsense] kind of guy. If he didn’t like the music he would say so, but he actually likes the music, which is a wonderful thing for us.
HD: How do you feel about performing in Ithaca and playing in college towns in general?
JF: We were only in Ithaca for a day in April, so I didn’t really get to spend too much time in the town itself, and I had never been there before. It feels like a great town, the crowd was awesome. I love playing in college towns because people love to dance and have a good time. It’s awesome. This time we are definitely going to check out Ithaca.