Watch the Feeling 's debut video "Sewn," and you might get the impression that this new English import is a band of brooding Brits rather than a collection of pop devotees. But give a full listen to their debut album, Twelve Stops and Home, and you quickly find that these dapper young men -- who perfected their sound while playing cover songs in Swiss ski lodges -- teeter somewhere between the smart pop of Squeeze and the catchy bombast of Queen. So when singer Dan Gillespie-Seals and bassist Richard Jones participated in our blindfold test, we hit them with a combo of piano-pop, bona fide hits, and obscure American rock. How'd the lads fare? Suffice it to say that the Feeling was definitely feeling it.
Jones: Nada Surf! We used to tour with them. Actually, before we supported them I knew their name, but had never heard any of their music.
VH1: When I saw them recently, the bassist played an entire song with a cigarette in his mouth while singing backing vocals, and he didn't touch the cigarette once during the whole song. I thought it was one of the most impressive stunts I've ever seen on stage. Do you guys have any tricks like that?
Jones: We tried that once, many years ago. The whole band decided we were going to try to record with cigarettes hanging out of our mouths, and none of us lasted more than the first bar of the song, actually.
Gillespie-Seals: It was hell on the eyes.
Jones: [Our keyboardist] spat his out and it landed on the key and burned a little hole in Dan [Gillespie-Seals]'s Rhodes. I put my cigarette in the end of my guitar and I burned a little mark in it. But I thought that was really cool, because a lot of rock and roll guitars have that cigarette burn on the top. But that was the last time we tried that.
Jones: I don't know this, but I like it.
VH1: It's the Raspberries.
Gillespie-Seals: Oh yeah! I recognize the sound and the voice, but not the particular song.
Jones: When it first started, I thought it was some kind of indie rock. It could have been American, and then when he started singing I thought it sounded sort of English, with almost a Morrissey sound. And then the chorus comes in and it's complete 70s.
Gillespie-Seals: It's great. He sings so high.
VH1: So what's the trick to writing a catchy pop song?
Gillespie-Seals: It's quite difficult knowing what's original. You have to have a really broad knowledge of music, because otherwise you come up with stuff that's already been done. You have to be prepared to go, "That is good, but it's not really that catchy." You have to throw away ideas all the time, even the good ideas. Because what you really want are the brilliant ideas.
Jones: I think ultimately it's very instinctive. Some writers get away with doing it very cerebrally and musically, but you need something more than that in good pop music. There needs to be some torment and just an element of a happy mistake, or a chord sequence that doesn't quite work ... just something unusual about it that isn't planned.
Gillespie-Seals: It's Keane. "A Bad Dream," right? I think they're great.
Jones: I think if they slightly lack dynamic, they definitely make up for it in good, quality songwriting. The melodies are great. They don't really have the big rock moments that you get from an arena band, but they're so sing-along. That's why people go and see them. And the vocalist is an awesome singer. I can see why people [compare us to Keane], because it's melodic music with a "band" kind of sound, and it's got pianos on it, like we do. Otherwise, though, it's really different if you actually put the songs next to each other.
Gillespie-Seals: But we don't mind [the comparison], because we think they're a great band.
Jones: Maroon 5. Big hit. Everyone knows this. Gets the ladies dancing.
Gillespie-Seals: Gets me granny up on the floor.
VH1: Did you guys ever cover this when you were playing covers at ski lodges?
Jones: No, but this came out towards the end of when we were playing as a cover band.
Gillespie-Seals: We did 80s tunes.
Jones: We did do new stuff but we'd only bring in the odd new one to please specific audiences. We did a bit of Coldplay and a bit of Radiohead. And the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers would be considered new, I suppose, even though they came out 15 years ago.
Gillespie-Seals:We did "Give It Away," with Ciaran rapping. He can rap.
VH1: How did you come up with your cover sets?
Jones: Initially we tried to do stuff that we were into and that was easy. Songs like "Brown-Eyed Girl" that you could learn in about 10 minutes. But we got very sick of them very quickly. Then we'd try to pick things that were fun, but a bit different. Songs like "Walk Like an Egyptian" and "Video Killed the Radio Star" -- kinds of things that you wouldn't normally get. Most cover bands were either doing really classic Beatles songs or Oasis covers.
VH1: How much did those early covers gigs shape you as performers?
Gillespie-Seals: All of our tricks were learned there in the Alps.
Jones: It's funny because when we were there, we were just working and experiencing it, but in retrospect it really made us who we are.
Gillespie-Seals: This is Rufus. Want One. This is great. I love him. He's from that whole New York scene with Antony and the Johnsons and the Scissor Sisters. They've all done so well; a bunch of complete misfits, you know? What Rufus does is clever and beautiful and it's not simple pop music. Most quirky voices do get on my nerves after a while. There are certain people that I wouldn't want to listen to a whole record of their music, even though they supposedly have an "interesting" voice. It's kind of like the James Blunt voice, I just couldn't bring myself to listen to it. It grates.
Jones: I can actually get past the voice if there's something in the song or the lyrics that I can connect with. Then, even if it's the weirdest, most horrible voice, I might still like the song.
Jones: Never heard of it. [Laughs]
Gillespie-Seals: Great tune.
Jones: Massive, huge hit. This was one of those songs that come along every few years where it was just undeniably great. You couldn't stop it from doing well.
Gillespie-Seals: It's so simple. There's not much to it. All great pop songs are like that. There's something about pure pop music that's dead simple, and every musician thinks, "Oh, I could've come up with that." But they didn't.
Jones: It's exactly that. And it's got amazing vocal performance and amazing production. It has some real emotion to it.
Gillespie-Seals: Like Marvin Gaye. Hugely tragic elements underneath all of that shiny pop music.
VH1: Do you think they'll have another hit?
Gillespie-Seals: They'll be very lucky to come up with another hit as big as this. Who does that twice? Nobody.