The journey towards The Feeling\'s second album began in May 2007, when the band landed back in the UK after a lengthy American tour. The quintet had played 30 shows in six weeks, culminating at the Coachella Festival. Now, although the band had some UK festival dates and outdoor headline shows booked for the summer, they\'d finally reached the end of 16 months of solid touring.
During that whirlwind period, The Feeling had become one of the UK\'s most popular acts. They\'d played more than 200 shows and sold over a million copies of their critically-acclaimed debut album, \'Twelve Stops And Home\'. Four of their big-hearted and velcro-catchy songs had become bona fide hit singles (\'Sewn\', \'Fill My Little World\', \'Never Be Lonely\' and \'Love It When You Call\'), helping the band to become as cherished by radio programmers as heroes of theirs like ELO, Supertramp, Queen and 10CC had been. In fact, The Feeling were the most played act on British radio in 2006, receiving an astonishing 97,436 spins (or 267 a day).
As they traveled the world, the band had enjoyed dinner with one inspiration (Richard Carpenter), been welcomed into the Las Vegas dressing room of another (Elton John) and hung out backstage in Japan with four more (Metallica). They\'d managed three appearances on \'Top Of The Pops\' before its untimely death, been nominated for Best Single at the 2007 Brits and could now count Debbie Harry, Helena Christensen and Kiefer Sutherland among their fans."We had the most amazing time with the first record," smiles frontman Dan Gillespie Sells.
Now, though, The Feeling decided they needed to take a well-earned break. "So we had 12 days off," says Gillespie Sells. "But, to be honest, even that felt like ages. We were just so desperate to get on with making some new music."
The Feeling, you\'ll gather, are not one of those bands who respond to success by getting grumpy and telling you how hard their lives are now. This, after all, was a band who\'d previously spent several ski seasons as a covers band in the Alps, playing two sets a night in two different bars (and carting their own gear between them). "That was bloody hard work, for bugger all money" says Dan. "But we did it because we loved it. And we still do."
So, a fortnight after returning from America, The Feeling found themselves traveling to Wiltshire to start work on album two. The band\'s first record had mostly been made in Ciaran and Kevin Jeremiah\'s parents\' shed. "This time," explains guitarist Kevin, "we decided we wanted to recreate the shed experience, only with slightly more style.” “And we wanted to be far enough away from London that we would not be disturbed too often or tempted to go out every night,” grins drummer Paul Stewart.
They eventually found Bradley House, a stunning, 10-bedroom Tudor manor house with a rich history (Kevin slept in a bed which had previously belonged to Henry VIII and Ciaran is convinced he saw a ghost one night).“It was the biggest, most impressive house I’ve ever been in in my entire life,” says keysman Ciaran Jeremiah. Surprisingly, it was a budget option; a week there cost less than two days in a big traditional studio.
Arriving at Bradley House, the band quickly started work on the 20-plus songs the prolific Gillespie Sells had written since \'Twelve Stops And Home\' was finished. "We didn\'t have a producer, an engineer, or caterers, or anyone from management or the label," says Jones. "It was just us. We wanted to be able to spend an evening getting hammered then start playing at 3am." "It was an instinctive, follow-your-nose way of making music," adds Gillespie Sells. "We had so much fun."
Within two highly-productive weeks, The Feeling had finished recording four songs, despite taking a day off to collect their well-deserved Ivor Novello Award for Songwriters of the Year. Progress continued throughout the summer, with the band spending their weeks recording in Bradley House and weekends playing gigs. The live highlights included their own sold out forest tour, a triumphant Isle Of Wight festival set and a show-stealing performance at the Diana memorial concert at Wembley Stadium (an impressed US TV exec invited the lads back to Wembley to play directly before the first ever NFL game outside North America in October 2007).
But despite enjoying the shows, the band were always hungry to get back to recording. "It was a really exciting time," says Jones. "With the first album, we\'d made an effort to keep the arrangements to a five-piece band, because we were playing tiny venues and we didn\'t want sounds we couldn\'t re-produce live. But that whole idea was thrown out of the window with this record. We\'d spent a lot of time on tour collecting weird keyboards, new guitars and odd music-making stuff. That all surfaced in the recording sessions."
Nothing was off limits. "I think you have to be entirely fearless when you make music," says Gillespie Sells. In fact, the album features a delirious sax solo (on \'Won\'t Go Away\') because, as Gillespie Sells puts it, "We were being perverse, trying to do the least fashionable thing that we could think of".
With the album almost finished, the band decided that two of the songs (\'This Time\' and \'Without You\') lent themselves to an orchestra. "Rock bands have a tendency to avoid being camp, so they make really boring string arrangements," says Gillespie Sells. "But we wanted something completely over the top."
The band scoured their record collections for their favourite string arrangements in popular music. "It was things like \'Sowing The Seeds Of Love\', \'Slave To Rhythm\' and \'Left To My Own Devices\'," says Jones. "I typed those three titles into Google with \'arranger\' and the name Richard Niles popped up. He arranged all three of them. So I Googled his name, found a phone number on his site, called it and he answered. Ten days later we were in Pinewood Studios with a 30-piece orchestra. He did an incredible job."After a trip to LA to mix with Spike Stent, The Feeling\'s second album was complete.
From the moment \'Join With Us\' bursts to life with the first single, \'I Thought It Was Over’, it\'s clear this richly-talented bunch haven\'t lost their touch for solid gold melodies and deftly-expressed emotions. \'I Thought It Was Over\' is a pulsing slice of dancefloor guitar-pop in which Gillespie Sells sets a love story around the fall of the Berlin Wall. Expect to hear it on the radio around 267 times a day.
In fact, rather like \'Twelve Stops And Home\', every track on the new album is capable of lighting up your radio and touching your heart. \'Without You\' is a moving tale of far-from-home yearning written when the band found themselves in Virginia on the day of the Virginia Tech shootings, while \'Won\'t Go Away\' is a deliciously jaunty lesson in karma which occupies the hitherto undiscovered middle ground between Bowie\'s \'Modern Love\' and Kenny Loggins\' \'Footloose\'. There are slices of classic Feeling joy-pop (\'Turn It Up\', \'I Did It For Everyone\'), delicate songs that find Gillespie Sells mining his rich seams of insecurity and loneliness (\'Spare Me\', \'Conor\', \'Loneliness\') and uplifting songs fuelled by hope and defiance (\'This Time\', \'Don\'t Make Me Sad\', \'Join With Us\').
Deeper and more ambitious than its predecessor, \'Join With Us\' is an album where jaunty boogie woogie pianos give way to rollicking metal guitar solos; where harmony-soaked MOR choruses swerve into duels between harpsichords and string quartets; and where there\'s absolutely no shame in unleashing a monster prog finale (\'The Greatest Show On Earth\').
"We put a lot of love into making this album,” says Gillespie Sells, “and it sounded great from the very beginning. We\'re ridiculously pleased with the way it\'s turned out."