Tyler Armstrong of FEEL: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Tyler Armstrong of FEEL Interview

Tyler Armstrong of FEEL

Interview by Andrew Daly

Tyler Armstrong’s childhood dream of taking the stage in front of thousands of screaming fans has manifested in ways once thought unimaginable. As a young wunderkind, Armstrong knew his calling was to be a part of all thing’s guitar.

And as he dug deeper, absorbing the stylings of rock in all its forms, his desire to make the six-string his career grew. That desire manifested in droves of passion-fueled sessions, the last of which have come by way of the hard-rocking young band FEEL.

To that end, the music of FEEL further demonstrates the veteran musician’s innate ability to craft memorable songs through inventive guitar stylings and idiosyncratic progressions. During a break from the road, Tyler Armstrong recently caught up with ClassicRockHistory.com, running through his earliest days as a young guitarist through his continuing odyssey with FEEL and beyond.

What early moments shaped you as an artist, and how do those affect you today?

It was realized early on in my life that I had an innate draw to music and sound. The blessing of creation, I feel, is perhaps the biggest thrill in this life. The thought of, “Wow. This didn’t exist in this way, and now it does.” I suppose that’s what it’s all about, anyway. Being created, then in turn creating, is a celebration of life. So, merely creating was interesting from the beginning though I couldn’t have explained it like that when I was a three-year-old hitting pots and pans with drumsticks.

Tell me about the formation of FEEL.

FEEL formed from the ashes of another group. I was in a band, and T.J. Steinwart joined later. That band gigged around, and it was cool. I started writing most of the material, which came with a shift in sound that did not lend to that band’s original intention.

Life happened, and that band sort of fizzled out. I told T.J., “We should keep the ball rolling,” he agreed, and that’s when I asked Rodger Lenhardt to come over to the house and jam as a trio. We started to play, and it lasted three hours. Needless to say, the basis of what is now FEEL formed that night. We met up with a singer with us for the first year of our public existence.

Then this past April, we invited a new singer named Garrett Barcus to take over the frontman position. So, about a year and a half or so in, here we are.

Can you recount the band’s first gig?

I can recount that extremely well. The band’s first gig with the initial lineup was on October 8, 2021. You hear about all those legendary backyard parties in the ’60s and ’70s, people getting together on a Friday or Saturday night to watch a rock band and hang out. So, we decided the best way to have our first show would be to throw a classic backyard party—open invitation sort of thing.

We were on the shoulders of giants that night as our close friends cooked food and ran the show while we set up and played the music. We weren’t sure how many people would show up but decided to rent a porta-potty just in case. Good thing we did because about 350 people in our backyard were eating food and listening to the music. The cops showed up but were into the music, so they let the night play out. I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Tell me about the recording of your new record. How have you grown?

There are a lot of things to mention about the new release and how the band grew leading up to it. T.J. and I have studio production, engineering, and session work backgrounds. So firstly, all those experiences move you along with developing new ideas and ways of going about the recording process.

The biggest growth area related to the release of “Find A Love” is that Garrett is on vocals now, which took us to the place we envisioned those few years ago when my previous band split up. The foundation of FEEL started to come into focus.

There’s been a great response about the band roughly two years since we first released music, but with the new lineup and the teasers out about the record, people are starting to dig deep into the group. The buzz is there for sure, which brings you to a different level of creativeness, thus helping us grow with each other in that way.

What sort of gear did you have to work with in the studio?

I own a studio with my dear friend Nick Bifano called Harbor Studio in the St. Louis, Mo, area. It’s the first record FEEL has done completely out of there. Inside the walls is a plethora of music goodies. As far as instrumentation goes, I used a few different guitars and amps on this release.

The guitars were mainly a Gibson Firebird and ’59 Fender Stratocaster and a couple of overdubs with a ’69 Gibson Les Paul Custom and ’64 Gibson SG Standard. The main amp I used was a ’67 Marshall 18-watt and a ’68 Fender Deluxe Reverb. Rodger played a ’72 Fender Precision Bass through an Ampeg B-15. T.J. used a newer Ludwig Classic Maple kit with a vintage 6.5″ Ludwig Supraphonic.

Why did you make those choices?

We’re fortunate to have this gear around, making knowing what sounds we’re looking for easy. We’ve all spent so much time with our different instruments that we don’t generally have to discuss what tones we’re going for. It’s pretty much understood what vibe we’re going for, so the choice of gear is strictly based on what we want to hear and know how to achieve those sounds.

Going back to the studio experience we have already as a band and professionally as individuals, it’s a skill we’ve all developed to be able to explain our sonic intentions through what we choose to play. Definitely room for conversation and experimentation, but that’s what’s great about being in this group; I know the guys will make the best choice—total trust.

Along with all of that, T.J. and I engineered the release. We have a great relationship and communication with that process, with the end goal always being, “Let’s make this the best-sounding record we can make.”

Tell me about your songwriting approach.

It’s pretty cliche, but there’s not a strict guideline on the songwriting process for us. That said, it will generally start with a musical idea I have. I’ll develop and present it to the guys to see if they dig it. If it’s worth anything, that’s when Garrett and I will start to work on melodic and lyrical ideas.

It’s great that there are two prominent songwriters in the group, as it helps with the creative progression of the musical offering. It’s like early [John] Lennon/[Paul] McCartney that if one guy had an idea, the other would add on top of it, or bring a whole new idea to the table, maybe even leaving it alone and supporting the idea if it’s already solid.

We’re a dynamic and musically vast group in that everyone brings their own thing to the table and makes it what we are. I used to make little demos of my ideas and track bass and drums on them occasionally, but they never sounded right until Rodger and T.J. laid down their parts. FEEL is only FEEL with the right people on board, which is the sound we’ve been looking for.

What songs stick out most, and why?

We have a lot of songs finished and in the process of finishing that I’m jazzed on. These upcoming shows and releases will really show what we’re about dynamically, and we feel they will make a solid statement of who we are musically. With that, there’s no high quite like when the first release is about to drop. We’ve got a great community around us, and you can really feel the buzz, but what’s great is the buzz from the outside as well.

So, this first release, “Find A Love,” has got me excited. The track will open the door to who we are and allow the listeners to hold on and dive deeper when they hear the other tunes and come to the shows. It has an amazing video shot by Cameron Ahlvers of Shift Agency that, along with the music, brings the “it’s 1973 in 2023″ to the forefront.

What moment or moments from the sessions for “Find A Love” stand out most to you?

So much goes into a session that a lot of times, you’ll look back and not remember much from them, if anything at all. This time around, it was memorable. The most memorable moments for me come down to two occasions. The first was right after a take. We generally track live to no-click track, so it’s a total team effort from the start. We had a good take up front and went into the control room to listen; Garrett cut a scratch vocal track on top to get that vibe while tracking the tune.

On playback, we all looked at each other and collectively had an “Oh, man, this is it!” look on our faces. We knew that what we were hearing was how we wanted this tune to turn out. The other great moment was during the mixing process. T.J. and I were finishing the mixing session one night, and I gave out the idea to send a specific part of the guitar lead at the end of the song through a long, epic reverb trail.

We put it together and literally gave each other high fives, it sounds great, but the feeling I’ll hold onto from that is how connected we were in that moment and, to the few people who have had a pre-release listen, react in the same way. It sounds like what I feel Heaven sounds like. Like a perfect existence at that moment. A very cool moment of discovery and creation.

What has the response been like? What experiences have you had in terms of touring and promotion?

The response has been stellar. Like I mentioned earlier, the buzz from our community and beyond really brings it all together. The past year and a half have brought so much goodness, literally and spiritually, to the band. Every new step we take comes with an outpouring of support from all over the world, and that’s about the coolest thing.

It starts with the personal relationship with music, and we view this band as our vehicle with personal giving and an expression to everyone in general. Through that, the authentic nature of this group shines through, and people dig it. That’s truly felt and shared throughout our fanbase, making this upcoming release much more to look forward to.

Does making music in a low attention span world frustrate you?

That’s such an interesting topic. I guess humans have always been this way, but now we have more screens to feed that beast. On the one hand, yes. Very few things are more annoying than being interrupted in the middle of an important statement. And that’s how it feels sometimes.

On the other hand, low attention span forces you to dig deep within and converse with yourself, essentially saying, “Am I going to give it my all or give up? Am I going to be myself and call it quits?” It’s never been a question in our minds to do anything but keep creating, and luckily, we have great reason beyond it being our passion: to keep doing just that through the response we receive.

What’s next in all lanes?

Keep moving forward. No one knows what the next step is until it’s taken. We have plans for more releases, tours, etc., which will be shared as time passes. But at this moment, we’re enjoying the blessing of living our dreams and the dreams of our fathers.

Tyler Armstrong of FEEL: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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