Photo by Strangers in a Fire
Carrie Gillespie Feller
Carrie Gillespie Feller has a thing about eye contact. That is, she doesn’t like it all that much. In the hour or so that we’ve spoken at the Whistle Stop, she has looked everywhere but at me, her eyes darting back and forth between her glass of Sauvignon Blanc and the dark corners of the South Park bar.
“Naturally, I’m a pretty shy, pretty introverted person,” says Feller. “One-on-ones make me kind of uncomfortable, but I don’t know, I just make myself do uncomfortable things because this is me, this is what I want to do with my life so I have to make it work. I can’t half-ass it.”
Just a few feet away from where we sat, I recalled Feller playing with one of her bands Høurs, a progged-out, almost stoner-metal sounding outfit that sometimes sounds like Fiona Apple fronting Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys. Contrary to her soft-spoken demeanor in person, the La Mesa native had a commanding and banshee-like presence at this particular show. At one point, she crouched next to one of her amps, guitar in hands, and began to pace her guitar back-and-forth in order to create a wall of distortion. It was clear in this moment that Feller, in addition to being the frontwoman in three San Diego bands, was also becoming one of the San Diego’s best performers. Anyone can start a band and play a show, but not everyone can put on a performance.
“I did the musician thing and I’m confident with myself with that, but it’s taken a lot longer to be confident as a performer,” says Feller. “I don’t want everybody to come to my shows and be like, ‘Oh that was pretty good,’ or ‘She can play well blah blah blah.’ I want people to feel something when they come to my shows.”
While Feller might claim she’s doing “just enough” musically, she’s actually quite prolific. In addition to Høurs, who play a Valentine’s Day show at The Casbah, Feller also plays guitar and keyboards in the more synthy, darkwave band Hexa and recently started another project called Pleasure Model with Mitch Wilson of No Knife fame. This is in addition to working a regular nine-to-five job at an SEO agency, but Feller is quick to point out that she likes being involved in multiple projects.
“At least three nights a week I have a band practice of some sort and then probably every other weekend I tend to have a show,” says Feller. “So it’s busy, yeah, but it’s good and it’s what I want.”
Feller has been busy throughout her musical life. She took guitar and piano lessons as a teenager, but says that after a particularly disastrous performance with a friend, she said it took years before she was comfortable being in front of a crowd.
“That first time I just froze and it was the worst feeling in the whole world.” Says Feller. “But I had to keep doing it, and I wanted to keep going and the next time we played together I just nailed it, and it was redeeming.”
Her first band, Street of Little Girls, mostly skewed toward agreeable piano-based pop but had shades of Feller’s predilection for all things dark. She incorporated more of those elements in her work in bands such as Ilya and Lunar Maps, but it wasn’t until Hexa—which started as a solo project but has since morphed into an all-female trio—that she brought her dark side to the forefront.
“I’m blank inside, but if that’s your thing, I’m as good as good has ever been,” she sings on the broody creeper “Chloe.” Recorded mostly while living with her husband in Spring Valley (“it was very isolated,” she says), the EP is as stellar a debut as I’ve heard in a while. Feller thinks the new music, which she hopes to release this year, will only be darker and more introspective.
“I think that first EP was a lot more kind of reactant to my environment and now I guess it’s probably going to go in the same direction, but probably inspired by our political climate,” says Feller, who is not a fan of the new president.
Høurs’ music is equally dark, but is much more assertive and blatant in both form and delivery. Feller cites indie metallers Chelsea Wolfe and Muscle and Marrow as influences, but stops short of classifying Høurs as a metal band.
“I love that kind of music. It’s cool and I like that, but with Høurs, it’s really important to me that we don’t get lumped in with, like, dude metal.”
She doesn’t go on to classify what exactly she considers to be “dude metal,” but for Feller, it’s important to her that she proves her mettle as a woman playing in what is still sadly a largely male-dominated scene.
“I think there’s sort of something maybe about being a woman musician where you kind of have to show that you deserve to be there,” says Feller. “It’s important to me to be very technically proficient and be able to say, ‘I can play this and I can play this.’”
As her eyes dart back in my general direction, the otherwise reserved Feller becomes more assertive when asked whether she actually has any spare time outside of music.
“Oh, it’s my life!” she exclaims. “When I was working a retail job and doing music on the side, I just realized this is not the life I want. Any free time I had, I had to clean my house, I have to buy the groceries, I have to just be a fucking housewife and that’s not what I want to do. I purposely had to make a change in my life so that I could do what I want to do, and this is what I want to do.”