It's hard not to get personally involved with Gabriel Feenberg's music. Once you hear it, you want to share it with everyone you know. You find yourself burning discs, e-mailing friends about shows. You find yourself saying "You gotta check this guy out; he's incredible" so much that you inevitably start to feel like his manager.
"I wasn't trying to be subtle," explains Feenberg in the backyard of his La Jolla home. "[My music is] all personal, but because it is so personal, I don't want to come off sounding cheesy."
Working under the moniker Old Man Hands, Feenberg makes an ethereal, yet soothing, brand of indie-folk that, if anything, is certainly cheeseless. His parents realized early on that their son with the strange hands (hence the name) had musical tendencies. By the time he was 6 he was already playing songs on the saxophone.
"I was kind of like a novelty act, like, Let's bring the 6-year-old up."
Nowadays, Feenberg plays everything from accordion to piano and even sojourned at the Berklee College of Music in Boston to study trombone. While he's consistently played in bands, he says that it was alone with a four-track recorder that he started to realize he had something to offer.
"For whatever reason, whenever I would pick up the guitar by myself, it was always more mellower and prettier than the bands I was playing in. It naturally did that."
After recording and playing some songs for friends, which he later compiled into his first self-titled album, Feenberg mustered the courage to do some open-mics. But it wasn't until the release of his new album, Under the Weight of Night, that people really took notice.
With the multi-layering soundscapes similar to Sufjan Stevens, songs like "Just Dust Blowing East" and "Retrograde" have the feel of acoustic Eels, while "Let Me Be" and "Slip Away" recall Harvest-era Neil Young. It also sounds astoundingly professional, especially considering he produced and played virtually every instrument on the album.
"It's still not perfect," he says, "but I feel like it's getting better."
Old Man Hands plays at Lestat's, 9 p.m. on May 14. 619-282-0437.