THE FEATURES: On the Horizon

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Songs are not always what they seem; never confidently infer meanings of a lyric from a band’s bio. For instance, on the sensitively swinging boogie “Off Track,” the 12th song on Nashville band The Features’ Some Kind of Salvation, vocalist and primary songwriter Matt Pelham sings “we’ve been told/that we’ve been close/that all is won/but mostly lost.” Salvation is the first release since their abrupt separation with Atlantic Records, and Pelham’s words seem mindful of being off-label, but also hopeful, when he sings: “We gotta get back in line/We’re off-track again.” Explaining the song’s significance, Pelham tells us, “It’s definitely not about the record label at all… it’s more of a relationship thing.” Whether or not being with a label can resemble the wavy, peak-trough pattern commonly marked by a romantic relationship, Pelham admits, “I suppose…with any type of relationship, one with a label can be as trying as one with a girlfriend.” Pelham validates my question politely and I understand clearly that Some Kind of Salvation is no poison dart aimed at label chiefs. Not that there’s no danger in his songs, the menace is just not in one precise direction; “Foundation’s Cracked,” “G.M.F,” and “Temporary Blues” rock diffusely, power pop that neither exploits nor hides their Southern, rural roots. Asked whether or not the band might venture into darker, more experimental directions in the future, Pelham informs me that “most of these songs are five- to six- years old and when making the record we just wanted the songs to fit together… ultimately it comes down to being cohesive.”

Another six-year-old track, “Temporary Blues,” recalls Pelham’s soul-crushing experience as a Pillsbury factory worker; on it he sings, “An occupation… they say it should be something you like/But hard times don’t allow a poor boy to choose how he provides.” Asked whether or not ex-co-workers might be listening to the new record now, Pelham suspects not: “I highly doubt any of them have ever heard it; when I left I kind of never looked back… although I imagine the feelings on the song were mutual for lots of the workers.”

Pelham’s focus on how he provides stems from his family. Despite living near Nashville, seeing local shows is not a priority. “I’ve always kind of wanted to get out more and see a lot of local bands and support the scene but I’m always extremely busy with work [as a printmaker], our band, my wife and two kids. It’s always a juggling act to go out and see bands or even a movie for that matter; it’s not easy.”

Despite the hard work evident on Salvation, it’s often light-hearted and summer-appropriate due in part to Pelham’s falsetto-prone voice. This style, evident on the sunny chorus of “Lions,” Pelham “developed over the years from what I enjoyed listening to; when I was really young I liked John Lennon vocals so much… and he was imitating Little Richard so when I was younger I would overdo it, and do it all the time. Hopefully now I keep control of it.”

Another song on Salvation, “Baby’s Hammer” is a soft ditty that compares a destructive tool to “a significant other’s displeasure… trying to please someone and never quite doing that; the hammer is her temper for not making it to church or not making enough money.” Could this hammer possibly contain providence? “I definitely think it’s good to have someone to keep you in line, it’s not a bad thing.”


Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee

Matthew Pelham
Age 34
Favorite songwriter albums: John Prine, Sweet Revenge, Bob Dylan, Desire

Rollum Haas,
Age 29
Enjoys Randy Newman’s songs, particularly “Sail Away” & “Good Old Boys”

Mark Bond,
Age 28
Favorite Songwriters: Elvis Costello and Brian Wilson

Roger Dabbs,
Age 34
His Favorite Songwriting Duos: Rod Argent/Chris White of The Zombies and Dave Clark/Mike Smith of the Dave Clark 5


Leave a Reply

MASTERWRITER > Masterwriter 2.0

The Top 20 Jeff Tweedy Songs: #16, “I Can’t Keep From Talking”