Just where, oh, where in the world would anybody be without them? They glide along with us through the highs, and of course, pick us right up through the lows.
But record an album with them, let alone take of all that family stuff on the road? Well, that thought alone is enough to drive a person crazy.
Philly’s debut alternative rock trio, The WizBangs, are defying all of those odds as Jim Feenestra (vocals) and his two sons, Charlie (vocals, guitars, keys)and J.P. (drums) are coming together to put the drama aside and cook up some killer tunes, most notably with their rockin’ debut ditty, “Common Enemy,” which will be followed by the release and tour in support of their freshman set, Life, Love and Other Mishaps, a little bit later this year.
I got the chance to break some local music tea mugs with Jim and Charles (J.P. had a prior work commitment and wasn’t able to spill), and the three of us chatted about New Year’s goals, yoga, how they make the family dynamic work in the studio, and most importantly, which album would be by their music side if they should ever be stuck on a deserted island.
Let’s break some music mugs and show our love to Philly‘s very own, The WizBangs.
Kicking of our spill, how was your holiday season, gentlemen? C-It was great. I went down to Philly to spend some time with my brother. Went to check out Longwood Gardens...that was super nice. It was a good time. Then I stayed at home and practiced yoga and music for the rest of the time.
Speaking of yoga, I’m actually just getting started in it. Have you been practicing long? My Dad introduced me to it at a gym in high school. I kind of got away from it [for a while] and then I started it back up again about six or 7 years ago and I’ve been doing it ever since and its awesome. I feel great.
Thanks! Very inspirational for someone who’s just starting out, I appreciate it. Speaking of inspiration, what goals are you guys setting for yourselves in the New Year? J-For me, it’s focus on the band and the shows. We have a CD we’re ready to release as well. I should also preface that with health and happiness to all of my family, and we’re going to have a new addition because James is going to be a new Daddy in April. Being number one Grand-Dad and Grandma is one of our top goals! We have a lot happening all around and also in regards to the upcoming album and upcoming shows, that’s where my focus is and it’s all fun stuff!
Okay, so most anybody would probably think that starting a band and recording music with your family is a crazy idea, let alone going on the road with them and possibly driving each other crazy. What do you guys do if tensions arise in those music situations? C-I usually walk out of the room and then come back! We usually push through in those moments unless it’s not possible to do so and then we’ll revisit it later. There’s a book called Non Violent Communication [by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg], it’s enormously helpful in terms of dealing with any kind of emotionally charged situation. And even just learning [how] to empathetically connect with other people. I employ that daily.
J-I think from my perspective, I think Charlie’s right. But first of all, I don’t think we’ve ever had that many what I would call “tense moments” on something because we’ve worked on the songs that we want to play. You know there might be little tensions when we’ve worked through something, but we’ve always landed in a happy place for lack of a better word. If there is tension there, either Charles will walk away and I’ll walk away and we’ll say, “let’s shelve that” and we’ll come back and address it later, So, I actually think the dynamic has worked very well. But the hardest part for me, but what was actually kind of rewarding, was that I had to stop being the Dad. I’m not only a band member, but both boys have a lot more experience than I do, so it was kind of like “stop being the parental figure in the room,” and listen, take advice and at the end of the day, it’s about making the songs as best as they can be. That was an evolutionary process I think, but we’ve got it down by now.
Now, Jim, you used to work for Penske Truck Leasing as a marketing officer. Why the sudden change of tune to dive into music? I would say the first part was that it was time to go do something else. I’d been their chief marketing officer for over twenty years and it’s kind of like I would make an analogy of an athlete who knows when it’s time to retire, that was my feeling. So, I retired, I moved, but kept on three different boards with non-profits, so [they keep] me busy as well. But from the music side, before I retired, Charlie and I were already kind of working on songs and kind of playing around with the concept and then [Charlie’s] girlfriend got sick, so they came to live with us, so that was the real [turning point] of where we got serious about doing songs together. I would bring him songs and he would bring me melodies. So, it happened really kind of organically.
Let’s spill about your track, “Common Enemy.” What was the inspiration behind it? C-Inspiration for that was basically my whole life–we grow up in public education, at least most of us do. [It’s about] how we’re all kind of taught the same thing and culturally we’re all kind of programmed to want, to achieve. It’s always just about being in state of wanting more. Even when we get what we want, one month later, we want something more. Why can’t we just be happy with whatever we have? And that’s just a process of being, and it has nothing to do with wanting a better car, or whatever comfort we can get, [it’s] that kind of consumer culture that is America, not totally America, but what we’re kind of led to buy into has programmed us to want, and that’s kind of the common enemy. What I think many of us are starting to understand is….that’s a lie. We’ve known that it’s a lie–the Beatles told us that this was a lie. And we all kind of have to ban together and acknowledge that this is an issue and then look for the solution, which is personally I believe, connection with other human beings, that’s what matters most.
Honestly, man, I couldn’t agree more, and it’s a topic we could certainly discuss all damn day long. But I want to get to the really, really hard question, the not so-so-elusive, “desert island” question and what is the one album you would have with you if you ended up like Tom Hanks in ‘Cast Away.’ J-I’m going to cheat a little bit if you don’t mind. I’ll give you a 1A and 1B because it’s a double album–I’d bring [Beatles’] Rubber Soul and Revolver, but [Rubber Soul] would be my top one. C-I really love The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin. It’s great and I’m an absolutely a huge fan of everything they do.
One last spill, your debut album is certainly going to be a big part of year. So, tell everyone a little bit about it as we anxiously await us arrival..J-It’s been such a journey because we live apart, so we have to bring everybody together. It’s been a fairly long process but this is the fun part for me to get it out and to have people actually start listening to it. It’s like you’re in the final toll gate where you push the button and all of a sudden its streaming and people can buy it. What was interesting to me is that I’ve given a copy to maybe ten, fifteen people who are either friends I know, or [people] I trust and they all come back and say, “I can’t pigeon-hole you guys on this album because I don’t know what genre you are,” and my response is “perfect,” because we didn’t want to be pigeon-holed because we have a lot of different flavors on the album.
For much, much more on all of the flavors of Philly’s The Wizbangs, including where you’ll be able to catch them in the City of Brotherly Love this year, stay tuned to Philly Mixtape and be sure to grab their album, ‘Life, Love and Other Mishaps’ when it takes over your headphones this upcoming spring!