Right from their beginning in 1996, The Features were revered as one of the most beloved bands in the greater Nashville area. Their earliest release, a self-titled EP from Spongebath Records in 1997, captured a band already fully capable of delivering emotionally earnest lyrics layered over a unique blend of fuzzed out guitars and playful keyboards. Never satisfied with settling into a particular sound, the band constantly reinvented themselves sonically throughout their multiple decade tenure. The instruments evolved, the hooks got catchier, and thankfully, their music never strayed from embracing relatable experiences.
Their prolific exploration of sound and style occurred during a time when music distribution was still primarily controlled by major and indie label gatekeepers. The iPod wasn't released until 2001, Spotify wouldn't launch until 2006, and Bandcamp was barely a glimmer in the creators' eyes. These factors resulted in recordings, even brilliant ones, occasionally being made without ever finding a proper home.
The Mahaffey Sessions 1999 is one of those collections of recordings fated to be an orphan. Recorded in 1999 by Matt Mahaffey (sElf) in his home studio in Murfreesboro, TN and mixed in Los Angeles in early 2000, these tracks captured the immediate evolution of the band after their debut EP. The lineup had changed with Don Sergio and Jason Taylor departing and drummer Rollum Haas joined behind the kit but the newly formed quartet played with a boosted confidence gained from their consistently buoyant and electric live performances. This new energy shines through in the recordings.
Anyone that saw The Features play live during this era knew these songs inside and out. Audiences screamed along to Matt Pelham’s refrain in “Exorcising Demons”, danced wildly to the questioning chorus of “Serious” and swooned deeply to the magical refrain of “33⅓”. Every song on The Mahaffey Sessions 1999 lives somewhere in the heart of all Features fans but the recordings were not to be. Spongebath Records, the indie that released their prior EP and a 10” for the song “Thursday,” slowly fizzled into dissolution and stopped releasing albums. Digital distribution was still in its infancy and not a viable option for a working band. The album was shelved with the hopes to revisit it later.
The band moved on to release The Beginning EP independently in 2001 and their full-length Exhibit A via Universal Records in 2004. Some of these tracks showed up as b-sides or on compilations over the years but the formal recordings have never been brought together until now. The Mahaffey Sessions 1999 captures a special moment in The Features history that bridges the gap between their debut and The Beginning. Twenty-three years after its inception, fans can finally enjoy these tracks any time.
The Mahaffey Sessions 1999 was sourced direct from the ADAT tapes stored deep in the archives at Matt Mahaffey's studio, carefully remastered by John Baldwin at Infrasonic Sound, artwork by Sam Smith (longtime fans themselves) and pressed at Physical Music Products - a vinyl plant in Smyrna, TN that's as close to The Features homebase of Murfreesboro as you can get.