The Feather Merchants
“Feather Merchant” was a term coined during World War II in the U.S. Army to refer to a person who shirked responsibility and avoided hard work or leadership positions. In the personal life of Josh Yelle, vocalist/guitarist of The Feather Merchants, it was also a nickname given to him by a youth pastor who knew Yelle to be consistently slow and late. Despite these connotations, The Feather Merchants are anything but apathetic about their music.
The Feather Merchants played at this year’s Earth Day Festival at Idlewild Park. It was hot as hell, and the band’s positive attitude stood out among the crowd. The effort and energy they exuded in a 20-minute set was inspiring.
“We try to work through positive efforts,” said Yelle. “There’s really no need to be negative, we’re just trying to share.”
The newly formed trio—guitarist/vocalist Josh Yelle, bassist Ken Shepherd, and drummer Lloyd Clark—met over a lunch table at Truckee Meadows Community College. As music students with similar aspirations, they were a perfect fit for each other and formed The Feather Merchants six months ago.
The three have an interesting aesthetic. They’ve all been musicians since childhood, and they found themselves in multiple music classes together. Through their music studies, they continue to learn and progress as individual musicians and as a band.
“The series of music theory classes at TMCC helps us keep on the same plane in a way,” said Shepherd.
The Feather Merchants experiment with a variety of different twists on classic blues rock. Influenced by traditional delta blues artists as well as infamous power trios like Cream, the band members work to create a sound that is all their own and melds their musical tastes together.
A few of the songs off their new four-track demo have a distinctly Southern feel to them. Others incorporate pop punk riffs and bluesy bass variations. The Feather Merchant’s are not afraid to push the boundaries of a genre. Yet, Yelle’s gravely, vaguely Tom Waits-like vocals and Shepherd’s solid bass lines give nearly all their songs a blues undertone.
“I like the idea that we’re a multi-genre band,” said Yelle. “We’re not too worried about playing one type of music specifically.”
Lyrically, many of the band’s songs are witty and comment on just about everything from nuclear warfare to cross country roads trips and Reno nightlife. The Feather Merchants are more inclined to assemble their songs instrumentally and then go back and write lyrics that seem suiting.
“We put words around sounds,” explained Yelle. “We have the songs pretty well developed before the lyrics even ever come into play.”
The Feather Merchants have a willingness and ability to experiment with their sound and incorporate aspects of many genres of rock into their music. With goals to start working with more electronic sound variations and synthesizers, this band will continue to evolve.
The Feather Merchants play on Saturday, May 12, at Strega Bar for the TMCC Portfolio Emphasis Student Exhibition. The artist reception will encompass the works of six aspiring artists from both TMCC and the University of Nevada, Reno and showcase almost 50 pieces. The Feather Merchants will be playing around 9 p.m. and will be debuting some of their latest material.