Feelings Hijackers toy with ‘acoustadelic’ sound

Feelings Hijackers toy with ‘acoustadelic’ sound

Ernest A. Jasmin, The News Tribune
Published: June 3rd, 2005 12:01 AM
Many diehard fans of Sir Mix-A-Lot and the Presidents of the United States of America probably wonder what happened to Subset, the rap-rock ubergroup that united them a few years back.

Subset played several live shows, and there was talk of an album. But five years later, it has yet to materialize. What’s up with that?

I asked Mix what gives last year when I stopped by his Auburn crib to hear some new tracks he’d been working on.

“I think it’ll come out because people are startin’ to realize that it’s more important to put this (stuff) out than to let it sit because of some petty differences,” he said. “That’s really what stopped (it) on the managerial side.”

It didn’t sound as if those tracks would surface any time soon. But it was during that visit that I also met Mix’s protégé, Mike Singleton, aka Outtasite. He filled me in on the Feelings Hijackers, the real gem to emerge from the Subset fiasco.

That group is Singleton, who performed with Subset, and Presidents singer and basitarist Chris Ballew. “I just got to know Chris. And he’s a great guy and really down to earth,” Singleton said when I called him this week. “One thing I realized really quick is that we had a lot of common ground musically.”

“We just have a real shared interest in everything beat-related and rock-related and pop-related,” Ballew said during a separate phone interview. “And somehow we’re mashing all that together.”

After almost a year’s wait – mostly due to the work the Presidents had to put in promoting their indie release “Love Everybody” – a Feelings Hijackers disk showed up in my mailbox. Fans will be able to buy one beginning next week on the Presidents’ Web site, www.presidentsrock.com.

It’s sort of the cheery flip side to Chino Moreno’s new Team Sleep release. Lazy guitar melodies coexist with funky drum loops and raspy synthesizer, among many other ingredients.

As vocalists, Ballew and Outtasite are great foils. Singleton sounds sly and sharp in contrast to Ballew’s dreamy singing. And while Singleton’s rhymes generally follow a coherent theme, Ballew spouts nonsequiturs galore. (“Snakeskin and mahogany, I know you’ve been good for me,” he sings, apropos to nothing apparent, during the opening track. Still, it works, and you want to sing along.)

The concept of “psychedelic hip-hop” came to mind as I listened. But the name Ballew uses does it more justice: “acoustadelic campfire rap-along.” Nice. I like.

Many of the songs began as odds and ends Ballew had recorded over the years. “I have been writing these kind of slightly dark, groovy things for 20 years and didn’t know what the purpose of them was,” he said. “It’s really great to find a collaborator that gets the body of work that I already had.”

Ballew attributed part of the reason the Presidents broke up in 1998 (only to re-form) to feeling restricted. And while he still thinks his main gig is a lot of fun, he compares it to a cumbersome hammer. “It drives the nail,” he said. “But Feelings Hijackers is more like a Swiss Army knife with everything on it,” he said.

Both men express excitement and apprehension. “I think it’s gonna be a breath of fresh air to a whole lot of people,” Singleton said. “It’s mellow, but it’s intense.”

The duo has already begun recording a second album with plans to perform live after the Presidents finish touring abroad in November.

“Right now our plan is to just kind of pepper the universe and try to come up with a live version of it,” Ballew said. “The Subset thing kind of crumbled under the weight of its expectations. We want to be careful not to expect too much. … If people respond to it and it kind of has a life of it’s own, then we’ll go with it.” Ernest A. Jasmin: 253-274-7389

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