Paul Barrere on That Little Feat Feel

DESCRIBE THE DYNAMIC IN LITTLE FEAT that makes its feel so unique. Little Feat’s feel is different because it’s not as locked down as with other bands. The crux of the matter is a push and pull generated by the bass and drums. It’s based on a second-line, New Orleans, old time rock and roll approach that’s all about interlocking parts. The tempo isn’t rock solid, and the song structures are often asymmetrical. There’s a swimming effect in the groove. Our audience calls it “snake necking.” Many cover bands make the mistake of trying to play everything they hear on Little Feat recordings, which is hard to do unless you have the players, and understand how the dynamic works. Our conga player, Sam Clayton, actually holds the rhythm together.

How does that affect the guitar parts?

[Second guitarist] Fred Tackett and I are free to float in and out, and pick our spots. You can get very creative when you’re not just playing the same riff over and over all the way through Chuck Berry-style. Our old arrangement collaborator, Van Dyke Parks, used to emphasize that spaces were just as important as notes. That became our rhythm guitar mantra—find those little niches that will push and pull that shuffle along. Once you’ve captured the groove, it’s easy to fill in the blanks. The lead instrument can really soar.

How do the extended solo sections work?

We incorporate entry lines and exit lines into the solo sections, and anything goes in between. The band is liable to play anything from Dixieland jazz to headbanging rock and roll during the jams. You have to listen very carefully during your solo because you never know which bed is going to be made for you to rock on.