Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Q&A with Free Energy

My interview appeared in the North County Times and can be viewed at:

The band performs at the Roxy in West Hollywood on Friday; The Loft, UC San Diego on Saturday. 

Free Energy makes good time classic rock music rooted in the mid-1970s. The Philadelphia-based quintet formed four years ago from the ashes of Red Wing, Minn. indie rock combo Hockey Night. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy was intrigued by their demos and produced debut disc 'Stuck on Nothing,' which arrived last spring on DFA Records. Effervescent single “Bang Pop” and their namesake song propelled the album into the top 10 at college radio. Following tour opening stints with Weezer, Mates of State and Titus Andronicus, the group is currently on a headlining tour. We caught up with vocalist Paul Spranger before a show at Minneapolis’ First Avenue club.

Q: How would you describe a typical Free Energy gig?
We’re the hosts of a really awesome party.

Q: Are you satisfied with how 'Stuck on Nothing' turned out and has been received?
We’re surprised that people were puzzled by us. We kind of expected it, but I don’t think we’ve been taken seriously by the media. I really can’t complain. We’ve been very fortunate.

Q: What did you learn from working with Murphy? 
To treat every component of the recording as a puzzle piece that needs to be clear and well-defined, so it can find its proper place

Q: Does the band always start with a rhythm and work up from there?
The foundation of every song is based on the groove. We were lucky that James is a drummer and really knows how to get them to feel right.

Q: Free Energy celebrates such classic rock influences as Thin Lizzy and Sweet. What drew you toward that era of music?
There’s an utter sincerity and fearlessness to express simple sentiments - whether it’s James Taylor or Jackson Browne – that is lacking now. There’s candy coated, simple sentiments in pop music today, but it’s so slick and polished that it’s hard to take seriously. In the ‘70s, a lot of pop music was well-crafted, meaningful and honest. We respond to craftsmanship in every facet of the art.

Q: Do acts like Steve Miller Band and Journey unfairly get a bad rap?
Yeah. Last year, Journey suddenly found a second life after being [featured] on “Glee.” Once there’s enough distance, they don’t have that stigma of being cheesy or bloated rock.

Q: As a teenager, you listened to indie rock such as Pavement. When were you first exposed to classic rock bands of the ‘70s?
It really wasn’t until after college and I’d go to buy $1 records…We used to laugh when we listened to Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” because it seemed so hokey. Then we got a little older and thought, ‘this is the deepest, saddest song I’ve ever heard.’

Q: Do you think being only rock band on a respected dance label like DFA (through Astralwerks) helped attract people to your music?
Having James produce the record opened a ton of doors and gave us so much exposure. DFA has such a great reputation. It’s an honor for us to be part of that. They’ve encouraged us to do what we want.

Q: Some songs have brass and string arrangements. Whose idea was that?
Those were production touches at the end that James suggested…If you’re inspired while performing, that comes through in the recording and people want to listen to it over and over again. If you have something totally processed and auto-tuned and scraped of all life, it becomes harder to listen to that.

Q: Who formulates ideas for the band’s satirical “Power Hour” episodes on YouTube? Were they inspired by “Saturday Night Live” skits?
I’m a huge comedy nerd. I like Monty Python. They’re characters and ideas we come up with in the [touring] van. 

Photo courtesy of DFA Records

No comments: