When you take a listen to Future Feat‘s songs, there is something inherently familiar and fun about them. Led by singer songwriter Josh, Future Feat’s sound is this big burst of joy coming from energizing New Wave synths and modern pop ideals that make you just want to dance. But after taking a closer listen, deeply personal lyrics about very rough points in Josh’s life reveal themselves, completely changing the way you take the songs in. I had the opportunity to talk with Josh from Future Feats (who will be playing with Tokyo Police Club and Matt & Kim at the Riviera on April 17th) about his band, digging into his storytelling songwriting and what pushes him as musician.
Josh and Future Feats are no strangers to the Midwest; playing iconic local venues including Schubas, Beat Kitchen, and Lincoln Hall while touring with the likes of The Colourist, Young Blood Hawk, and Betty Who. Before heading out to Los Angeles, Josh was originally based in Chicago, whit certain songs having been directly inspired by his time in the city. “The first song we released, ‘Cities in Wonder‘, the city that I’m talking about is absolutely Chicago.”
Before “Cities of Wonder”, Josh’s songwriting wasn’t always as personal as it’s become. “I’ve writing songs since I was 15 years old. Most of the time you sit down, write a song, and you kinda make it up. ‘I’m gonna write about a break up’ even though you might not going through a break up. But for ‘Cities of Wonder’ I was going through a major transitional turning point in my life. I thought that music is over, I’m gonna give up my dream, all this stuff. I was gonna go back home, but I didn’t want to do that. I was crashing on my friends couch on the 21st floor of this apartment downtown and working with a different producer at that time. I was panicking. I called my manager. I was looking for any kind of means to keep writing a song. He talked me off a ledge so to speak.”
In that time where everything seemed to be going wrong, Josh’s manager suggested to look out at what he was doing and to write about what exactly was going on. “So that’s exactly what I did, I started writing in the moment. It started to piece itself together and ‘Cities [of Wonder]’ happened very quickly lyrically. After I was done with it I was like: wow, so this is what a real fucking song about something real is supposed to not only sound like, but feel like! That was really the catalyst for all the songs moving forward. So what I did was I just started mining my past experiences. When you go after a music career you’re going to have a lot of downs, hopefully some ups, but it’s definitely a roller-coaster.”
This shift to much more personal lyrics inspired the composition for what will be his debut album. “I collected all those down moment and tried to put them together in a cohesive concept album.” While some people might shy away from being so revealing and honest about the low points in their life. Josh feels that it’s worth speaking about and delving into. “I’m pretty open about everything. ‘Same Mistakes‘ was about a night I got arrested and thrown in jail. They had to take me to the hospital to get stitched up first because the cop slammed my head into the pavement and my forehead was split open… That was a really low point.”
Mixing together his life’s trouble, his journey as a songwriter, and the alternative pop soundscapes he’s harnessed, Josh’s intentions for Future Feat’s debut are pretty novel. “I don’t believe that the concept album is dead. That’s exactly what I want to do with this debut, is create a record that tells a story from start to finish.”
In their original demos, Future Feat’s songs sound cozy and warm. Josh’s lyrics are the clear focus of the acoustically driven versions, the music acting as a natural background to the almost expected confessional stories. They went hand in hand. But when they are expounded to the exuberance of their latest form with the anthemic pop instrumentation giving off joyous vibes, the dark lyrics become even more hard hitting. Their reality hitting you in the face as you dance around to rousing melodies. “That’s the juxtaposition I was going for, I wanted the music to sound uplifting and happy but I wanted to also tell a story and kinda talk about what I was going through at the time.”
That pop rock sound came from collaborating with his new producer “I got into the studio with Justin Warfield [from She Wants Revenge]. We just explored a lot of musical styles that I was into and that Justin was very familiar with and it was one of those things were a song like ‘Same Mistakes’ came together and it’s much more influenced by 80s New Wave bands like Simple Minds. ”
While the synth influence is very apparent in Future Feat’s sound, Josh’s songwriting inspirations are far more diverse. Having covered “Without You“, David Bowie’s influence can be felt on some of Josh’s work. “On ‘Same Mistakes’ there is a guitar riff leading into the second verse that is very inspired by China Girl.” The inspirations of other artist are more subtle, presenting themselves in the way that Josh wants his music to feel like. “The Beatles. Stevie Wonder is hands down one of my favorite songwriters. The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Prince, those are the artists that push me. That make me say I want to be like you. I want to rock out with a purpose, have songs that mean something to me and hopefully other people can connect to.”
You can check out Future Feats’ latest singles, “Cities in Wonder” and “Same Mistakes“. Future Feats will be playing The Riviera along side Tokyo Police Club and Fader labelmates Matt & Kim on Tuesday, April 17th. Tickets are still available.