Felt & Fur's practice space plays home to a myriad of peculiarities. It's in an upstairs nook at Denton's premiere combination business: Sprockets Bike Shop and NV Cupcakes. It's painted baby blue and has a strangely low ceiling. Oh, and it used to be the daycare for a church that existed in this very spot.
But for the four members of Felt & Fur, it seems like a natural home. Kicking back and enjoying a few post-practice drinks, the four of them radiate an air of satisfaction at their practice, with that feeling that they're on the verge of something great.
As strange (and almost haunted sounding) as the practice space is, the location works out perfectly. Sprockets/NV Cupcakes is just half a block away from the Denton Square, where Abbey Underground, Hailey's and J&J's Pizzaare all located. Only a couple blocks and one train crossway more and you're at Rubber Gloves. The band managed to swing a deal with the owners fairly easily since Brandon Dupre and Randall Minick both work at Sprockets.
Dupre plays guitar in the band and Minick plays synth, bass and a sampler. Alizsha Pennington sings, plays electric ukelele and does vocal processing to layer her voice and also plays guitar. Jarrod Estes plays keyboard, guitar and operates the drum machine.
Though the other members of the band were more familiar with performing in other music projects, Felt & Fur is one of Pennington's first times performing her music in front of people after being roped into the band by Minick via text at a water park.
"I hadn't had any confidence to play music in front of anyone," she says. "So I agreed, and we recorded the first practice, which now I go back and listen to and humor myself because it was pretty awful."
Felt & Fur's snowball effect all started with a drunken ukulele performance by Pennington in front of Richard Haskins, who coincidentally was the sound guy at Hailey's. One year after that infamous first jam session, the band has managed to find its footing, write a solid cache of songs and perform at the Denton staples: Hailey's, Rubber Gloves, even Oaktopia.
"It almost falls in our lap, just from playing a couple shows," Estes says. "We're not going out thinking we have to book a bunch of shows, we just join up with our friends' house shows." Pennington agreed that the Denton environment lends itself to these stepping stones. "You go to a show and it's just bands hanging out with bands," she added. "We know a bunch of people in a bunch of bands."
The band's dense, electronic sound is tricky to balance properly. While they definitely want to include a bunch of different tones and layers, they run the risk of the mix getting muddled up and overlapping each other when they're in similar ranges. But each song has gone through multiple iterations and changes to create the organized chaos they've mastered.
In keeping things organized, though, Dupre says that they're also careful not to fall into a cookie cutter pattern. "As critical as we all are, we don't want to keep to a formula," he says. "We're very open to new ideas and new persuasions of weirdness."
The eclectic nature of the band's sound is a product of the member's varied influences coming together. Estes was in a metal band, and Minick and Pennington are in a side project called Waveswinger, which Dupre said is the "distilled darkness" of Felt & Fur. In bringing all those sounds together, it creates a rich and multifaceted genre that escapes labeling.
"Our own experiences with previous bands definitely allows more of a dynamic range," Dupre says. "If we all came from the same musical background and we were all post-hardcore it would be totally different. It just happened that our opinions led us to work so well together."
Three of the band's members studied photography at UNT, and as such the importance of aesthetics, both visual and sonic, weighs heavily on the band as a whole. Pennington has been painstakingly working on a video element to complement the band's music, set to be triggered by MIDI inputs that sync up the video to certain parts of the song. This aspect of the band's performance will be unveiled soon, likely at a house show on Friday, they said.
"I want it to be a very important element to our live performances," Pennington said. "All of the visual stuff has got to be created by all of us."
With about six songs recorded, the band's prospective first record should be underway later in November, Minick said. They've got a couple sound guys to work with and are deliberating on a release format until then.
If you're in Denton next Monday and craving eclectic electronica and pizza (or at least one of the two), stop by J&J's Pizza to catch their performance with Prom Date starting at around 9 p.m.