The Features, 2023

The Mahaffey Sessions 1999

A little history; I’ve been a fan of The Features since I saw them in high school, way back in 1996, 1997. I specifically recall they played the original incarnation of RocketTown in Franklin, TN – a Christian venue owned by Michael W. Smith that later relocated to downtown Nashville. I don’t think the venue vibe was for me but as a youth, it was eye-opening to see a local band that had such an impact.

When I went to college, I somehow ended up working at a small indie label in Murfreesboro, TN called Spongebath Records. The label’s roster consisted of a bunch of great local bands including Self, Fluid Ounces, The Katies and… The Features. In hindsight, The Features never really got much of a chance to prove themselves as they only released an EP and a 10″. However, since I worked at the label I also knew that they had recorded a full-length record* as mixes made their way around the office.

From 1997 to 2001, I saw The Features play in Murfreesboro countless numbers of times. I regularly listened to my CD-R of “The Mahaffey Sessions” recordings and looked forward to the official release.

I was a diehard fan of the band and had a huge affinity for the songs. I was as shocked as anyone when it hit me that the album was never going to be released. Around the time I left college the band released The Beginning EP, and it seemed they had moved on.

A CD-R of The Mahaffey Sessions from my time at Spongebath Records

I kept those recordings with me. From CD to MP3, Winamp to iTunes to streaming; they’ve always been close by.

Cut to 2022 and I have been steadily running yk Records since 2009. I’ve got ninety plus releases out in the world and the 100th release is on the horizon. As anyone would, I wanted to make it into somewhat of an event. Something extra special.

So, I wrote up a Hail Mary of an email to Matt Pelham asking if he’d be interested in releasing the recordings from twenty-four years prior. The Features went dormant around 2017, so I really wasn’t sure what level of interest (if any) they would have on revisiting such old material.

By some miracle beyond my comprehension, Matt wrote me back and was more than happy to mine the archives of the band for some new releases. I got to work right away and started gathering the proper materials.

The Features DAT recordings from Matt Mahaffey
Sam Smith’s artwork, in progress
The Features contact sheet

Matt Mahaffey dug up the original recordings and entrusted me with them. It sounds over the top but it was a rush to walk into his home studio and receive these DATs because I’d revered the album for so long. I got them over to John Baldwin at Infrasonic Sound; a longtime friend of the label, an actual friend of myself, a huge fan of The Features himself and the absolute right person for the job. If you look at the inner matrix etching on the vinyl, you’ll see his handwriting etched in there as he mastered the record and cut the lacquers.

I reached out to Sam Smith to see if he’d work up some artwork for the release. He was game and requested we fetch photos of the bands equipment from that era so he could whip up a bit of a Xerox tribute to the 1999 era. I also talked to Kneill Dietz, whom I consider the foremost Spongebath Records historian, and he delivered a load of live photos on contact sheets from the era. Together, Sam whipped up a killer LP package.

By incredible happenstance, a new vinyl pressing plant opened in Smyrna, TN right around the time that I was looking for a manufacturer; Physical Music Products. If you aren’t familiar with the geography of Middle Tennessee you are forgiven but know that Smyrna is about 10 minutes outside of Murfreesboro; where the band had recorded the album. It was meant to be.

The response to the release of the album has been fantastic. The Scene & The Tennessean both covered it. Lightning 100 carved out a special premiere broadcast of the album. Grimey’s had a listening party; for a 24-year old lost album! It even won a Best Of Nashville award.

To promote the record, I sat down with Matt Pelham, Roger Dabbs and Rollum Haas to discuss the album track by track. It’s an entertaining and enlightening interview if you are, like myself, curious what happened back in 1999.

The press coverage was nice but, most importantly, fans of the band were extremely pleased to have proper, non-bootleg, recordings of an album that really should have gotten more of a chance back in 1999. Unsurprisingly, these songs have remained in heavy rotation for the duration (and likely for the foreseeable future).

Mahaffey Sessions 1999 vinyl; literally Matt Mahaffey’s copy

Some Kind of Salvation (2023 Remaster)

The success of The Mahaffey Sessions 1999 was an excellent kick in the pants to keep exploring the archives of The Features recorded material. It just so happens that 2023 is also the 15-year anniversary of the band’s second full-length album, Some Kind of Salvation. With that in mind, we set forth to see if we could make something special of it.

Brian Carter, one of the producers & engineers on the original album, unearthed 3 new b-sides from the sessions that had not ever been previously released. He mixed these new tracks and, again, we entrusted John Baldwin at Infrasonic Sound to master the album. In order to fit the new bonus tracks all together on one side of the double LP, the side breaks of the album had to be altered. I’m biased but I think it flows even better now.

Tom Burns was responsible for the original album artwork and was kind enough to deliver a massive Google Drive of raw materials, artwork, photos, videos and layouts for the project. His original artwork files were used in the creation of the new gatefold jacket 2xLP.

Once again we connected with Physical Music Products (PMP) in Smyrna, TN to manufacture the artwork and vinyl. At this time, the job is in the queue and should be ready to mail out in early 2024.

That is to say, the promotion cycle isn’t over yet for Some Kind of Salvation! There will need to be a follow-up post here to capture everything that comes from the release.

All told, I’m absolutely flabbergasted that The Features were open to working with yk Records. I’m proud of it and, moreso, I’m excited for what we’re going to do in the future. We have some great plans for 2024 and I can’t wait to see them come together.


One response to “The Features, 2023”

  1. […] *The Features were also signed to Spongebath. Read a bit more about that over here. […]

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