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Free Energy originally started when two brothers, Scott and Evan Wells, and their friend, Paul Sprangers, left their home of Red Wing, Minnesota after the breakup of indie rock combo Hockey Night. They guys landed in Philadelphia, where they eventually joined up with Geoff Bucknam and Nick Shuminsky to form the deliberately and unironically heavy-jamming, guitar-blasting, hook-worshiping, feel-good rock band Free Energy.
The group wear their love of 70’s classic rock like a badge of honor and are fervently committed to taking the music world by storm. Although they seem largely unconcerned with the trends and styles of indie rock, they ended up getting a boost of hipster-leaning attention when James Murphy’s (of LCD Soundsystem fame) label DFA Records released their debut album, Stuck On Nothing earlier this year. Currently, they’re on a nationwide tour with Mates of State and comedian Todd Barry that swung by the 21st Century Theater in Cincinnati on June 21st. Lead singer Sprangers recently spoke with Each Note Secure about how the band has reached this point and why all the work leading up to now has been totally worth it.
[Each Note Secure] There are a lot of “positive vibes” and feel-good tunes in your songs. Is there a central theme, message, or general mantra behind Free Energy?
[Paul Sprangers] The central theme is that we live in heaven; that everything around us is paradise. And that the only thing stopping us from seeing it is ourselves. So a lot of the songs are about letting go, being free, doing what you want to do and not worrying about what cynics say, etc. We are alive for such a short time that it seems like a waste if you don’t follow your dreams.
[ENS] Free Energy has gotten a lot of attention for Stuck on Nothing. What’s this period of exploding exposure; including glowing write-ups, television appearances, and expanding tour schedules; been like for the band?
[PS] It is super fun and it is an insane amount of hard work and traveling. We’ve been working for a long time, so it’s nice to see things happen outside of our “bubble.” But to us it doesn’t feel like an explosion. It feels like a steadily increasing intensity of fireworks accompanying our growth as a band.
[ENS] Your music has garnered a lot of comparisons with 70’s rock like Journey and Grand Funk Railroad. How do you feel about these comparisons?
[PS] Love them! Grand Funk is a good one. “We’re an American Band.” These comparisons are really good and benefit our band because so many people still listen to classic rock radio and they want to like new rock bands, but there seems to be a lack of new rock music that expresses a love of melody and inspiration that is ubiquitous in the canon of rock n roll–what we now often call “classic” rock. So people either listen to country or keep listening to the oldies and buying re-mastered versions of records they already own.
We live in the most musically exciting time in human history. There should be 3D rock music that completely blows people’s minds. We aim to do this. We are just at the beginning. We are growing and learning and want to contribute to our culture that has both inspired and repulsed us. We are American. [Classic rock] is our folk music and our cultural heritage. It is in our blood. It has informed all “modern rock” music since.
[ENS] How is a Free Energy song written? What’s your collaboration and songwriting process like?
[PS] Scott [Wells] and I write the songs. Sometimes one or the other has a nearly finished song, or sometimes they write the song together, sitting down with guitars.
We write songs around melodies and riffs. The core of our music is melody and from melody all new musical information is generated, whether it is the pacing of the song, the feel, the lyrics, the guitar tones, etc. Scott and I collaborate completely on these songs. We trust each other and try to push each other and the songs into unexpected places.
[ENS] Free Energy has gained a lot of attention in the “indie world,” but your songs are filled with a lot of unabashed melody, catchiness, pop sensibilities, and classic-style guitar riffage. Do you ever feel torn between the “indie” and “mainstream” rock worlds?
[PS] Not really. We feel like we’ve left the indie world behind. The indie world doesn’t really need us. There is so much good indie music, and I listen to a ton of [it]. There is so much good electronic/dance/noise music out there, but the mainstream world really sucks. There is a complete lack of new and interesting rock n’ roll, so that’s where we’re headed. We’re here to clean shop and suckers are going to get served.
[ENS] Just checking out your website and Myspace page, I’ve noticed a lot of Twitter updates and other kinds of social media outreach. Is it important for you to maintain a connection with your growing fan base this way?
[PS] It’s really important and pretty rad. Connecting with people is such a huge part of what Free Energy does. Our live shows live or die based on the degree in which we connect to the audience. So Twitter and Facebook are extensions of that, and allow us to communicate with our fans. It’s wild to see people hearing our music across the world and posting on our Facebook page.
[ENS] What’s next for Free Energy?
[PS] We are gonna tour our asses off for this record. We have a lot of songs and raw material for the next record–like, a ton, but we’re patient and we’ll take our time.
-John Crowell @terriblesounds
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