I have to admit when I first heard Free Energy‘s “Dream City” I was enamored by it’s T.Rex-ian opening, and also a bit annoyed by the bubblegum flavor. But after finding itself on almost all of my playlists last summer, I decided my subconscious was trying to tell me that DFA’s Philly-based rocker boys were a crew to keep an eye on.
Since then, the band has released their debut full-length, Stuck on Nothing, and I’ve accepted that I want my classic 70’s rock to come back in a modern way (√† la high-waisted everything). The bottom line is, Free Energy knows who they are and exactly how they want to sound– bringing classic rock hooks and guitar riffs together with the pangs of indie-pop. No summer BBQ or nap in McCarren Park would be complete without them.
I got a chance to chat with two-fifths of Free Energy after they opened for the legendary Iggy Pop at last week’s Ray Ban party at Music Hall of Williamsburg about rock ‘n roll mythology, Bob Seger, and how it’s nice when buzz bands are actually good.
Check out the rest of the interview, as well as Free Energy’s video for “Bang Pop” which premiered on Myspace today, after the jump… And be sure to catch them at Bowery Ballroom with Jukebox the Ghost on 5/29.
If you had to explain your music to someone who has never heard it, what would you say Free Energy is all about?
Paul Sprangers: I just tell people Rock ‘N Roll or Classic Rock, I guess.
Geoff Bucknam: It’s kind of back to the air of Rock ‘N Roll as an expression of joy and lust and love. I think it’s Rock ‘N Roll stripped down to emotional drive. No? [looks at Paul] Is that too much for you?
PS: I mean, it’s pretty slick. It’s pretty composed and thought out, but as far as what we tell people it sounds like or what we describe it as… It’s just Rock ‘N Roll. Like, that’s what I tell my mom. I wanna add, too, that moms really like this band.
GB: And we love moms.
Opening for Iggy Pop tonight, you chose to cover “Success”– why?
Paul Sprangers: It was the only song that really sounded closest to what we do naturally as a band– sonically, melodically.
Geoff Bucknam: And it’s a good mantra.
PS: Yeah, and then also it’s pretty funny. It’s a little…
GB: Tongue and cheek?
PS: [laughs] Yeah, possibly.
GB: Or maybe not. Maybe it’s totally serious, you’ll never know now.
Out of all of the bands you guys have played with, who has been your favorite?
PS: I really like Foreign Born, they’re incredible.
GB: Slash Fool’s Gold.
PS: Yeah, Fool’s Gold… Delta Spirit are amazing. Those guys are about to do their thing, they’re really good.
You guys have been touring a bunch, any upcoming cities you’re really excited about?
PS: Glasgow. I’m really psyched to go there. The party atmosphere there feels kind of lawless but it’s really beautiful and old. It kinda reminds me of Philly a little bit, actually. You just feel like anything goes, the people are cool.
How do you think that differs from the party atmosphere here?
GB: Uh oh, that’s a loaded question.
PS: I don’t know too much about the nightlife scene here. I only go to shows, so I don’t really know about cool places in New York. I mean isn’t that what the nightlife scene is here? What place is too cool at that time…
GB: We’ve played a bunch of shows at Santos Party House, a bunch of shows at Brooklyn Bowl, Pianos… We tend to have a good time wherever we play and that’s really it for us.
Where do you like to hang out when you’re in town?
PS: I really like Coco 66 and Lulu’s. I just really like all the places in Greenpoint– Blackout and Brooklyn Label too.
GB: Brouwerji Lane is awesome too, over on Greenpoint Avenue. Kombucha on tap, as well as a bunch of fine beers.
Was it a big deal for you guys to play a show with Iggy Pop tonight?
PS: It’s cool because it’s kind of surreal, you know– movie stars and Iggy Pop. I guess it’s a big deal but for us, I don’t think he was really a part of our musical growth or what inspired us.
GB: I think his attitude is exciting.
PS: Yeah, totally. He’s an awesome guy and he worked with people we like, like Bowie and Eno. I’m really into Brian Eno. We kinda dropped the ball. Ray Ban was kind of bummed that we didn’t have better answers about how much Iggy Pop meant to us. We were kind of like, we know about him and we know he’s a big deal and very important in music history but he doesn’t necessarily inspire us.
It’s funny because you guys aren’t the first musicians that have said that tonight. Yes, Iggy Pop is really cool but no one has really sited him as an influence yet tonight. Why do you think that is?
PS: I think that’s a really interesting point because there are musicians that are canon, you know, people who you’re supposed to know about and that are important but that maybe aren’t necessarily actually important to musicians. Like, they’re really important in music publications, they’re really great to write books about, they have really great stories but their music doesn’t really inspire other work. That’s really interesting, that there can be a different kind of music that reads better than it sounds.
GB: Well, he’s a great part of Rock ‘N Roll history and mythology. There’s a trajectory that goes from Little Richard, Jerry Lee Louis, Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop, and then countless Punk and Rock bands that act wild. So I think his persona is very significant for what a Rock ‘N Roll character is but the actual music isn’t that groundbreaking.
PS: Like this song. [R.E.M.’s “End of the World” playing in the background] This is a pretty old song right? Not as old as some Iggy Pop songs, but you don’t really hear his songs on the radio all the time. But R.E.M. is still on the radio, so what the fuck– that’s makes R.E.M. mean more to people. But Iggy reads better because R.E.M. are kinda nerdy.
GB: Like I said, it fits the mythology… And Rock ‘N Roll mythology is not something to scoff at, it’s a really important part of what we do but we wanna have a responsible relationship with it and not just fall down into worshiping the idea of what it means to be a rockstar. We wanna play the music we wanna play first, rather than worry about the persona.
So thirty years from now, do you feel like Free Energy will be a part of that history?
GB: Yes. [laughs]
PS: I don’t think so. I don’t think Free Energy will be cool like Iggy Pop, I think it will be more like Bob Seger or something like that…
Woah, careful… I love Bob Seger! I drove cross country with my mom once and he was the only thing we could agree on that entire week.
PS: That’s crazy! No, I love Bob Seger too but Bob Seger isn’t cool, right? He’s not like Iggy Pop in the way that he’s some hipster icon.
So you guys don’t think you’ll be remembered as a part of our generation’s music scene?
GB: No, I think this band will be part of history, but I don’t think it’ll be tied to something like the Brooklyn scene or specifically the Williamsburg scene. if this band goes down I think it’ll be because of strong song writing and strong performances. You know, that hopefully lasts longer than a trend or a hot moment in a geographic area.
Is there any music that you’re listening to right now that you really love?
GB: Peter Gabriel.
PS: We just heard the new covers record and it’s pretty good, it’s pretty heavy.
GB: The cover of [Paul Simon’s] “The Boy in The Bubble” is really intense.
PS: I’ve been listening to a lot of Delorean… they’re just so good. That song “Seasun” I’ve just been listening to on repeat– I mean, holy shit. Stuff like that, like Washed Out, stuff that’s cool that you’re supposed to listen to that is actually good, you know. I’m psyched on new stuff like that. Memory Tapes, obviously. The new Yeasayer is fucking awesome, at least half of it is awesome.
I think there were some Yeasayer guys in the crowd tonight. Was there anyone you were excited to see at the show, celebrity crushes maybe?
PS: I just saw Justin Long when we were done playing. That was cool, I think he’s funny.
GB: I don’t know who that is…
PS: Kate Bosworth was here, which is crazy.
She’s a fan now.
PS: I don’t think so. [laughs] I don’t think so.