Onward And Upward
Birthed from an unsightly band breakup, Free Energy have joined forces with LCD Soundsystemâ€™s James Murphy on their debut album. When one door closes, another door opens - just ask frontman Paul Sprangers.
Propelled by carbonated guitars and rhythmic cowbell, the opening track of Free Energy's debut album, 'Stuck On Nothing', declares: â€œwe're gonna start a new life, and see how it goesâ€ - which is exactly what Sprangers and guitarist Scott Wells did when they left Minnesota indie band Hockey Night.
â€œWhen the band ended, Scott and I just kept writing and working on stuff like we always had. At the time, we didn't know what would happen; we didn't have a live band, a band name, a producer or anything. Free Energy definitely evolved from the Hockey Night days - the mistakes we made, the lessons we learnt and the experience we gained,â€ Sprangers says.
The band - which also includes Evan Wells, Geoff Bucknum and Nicholas Shuminsky - was named Free Energy after the debut single of the same name. Sprangers humorously discusses other tracks from the album with â€œband name potentialâ€.
â€œWe were actually thinking of calling the band Bad Stuff for a while,â€ Sprangers laughs. â€œThe message of Free Energy pretty much sums up everything we're about, which is basically that you are always free to do whatever you want to do.â€
Having recently signed with DFA Records, Free Energy may seem somewhat out of place amongst the disco-heavy label lineup.
â€œI guess our relationship with DFA could seem a bit weird - not to us or to anybody on the label, but probably to outside observers. It makes sense to me though, because they totally get what we're doing. As a label, they have aspirations to tell a story with the music they put out and they want to have a spectrum of different acts,â€ Sprangers says.
Free Energy strive to challenge the norm and break free of typical rock stereotypes, something that was evident in their decision to recruit dance music heavyweight, and DFA label owner, James Murphy to produce 'Stuck On Nothing'.
â€œI swear to God that no one else could have produced this album - I honestly mean that. James is awesome; he is a complete music fanatic and insists on everything sounding good. He totally deserves all the accolades he gets,â€ Sprangers explains.
â€œIf we had a producer who typically worked with rock bands all the time, it just wouldn't have been the same - he would have tried doing all the same by-the-textbook shit. James definitely brought a fresh approach to our music. He pushed us, but I think we're better for it.â€
Sprangers, an aptly labelled pop-timist, says there is a lot of positivity in the music, with the band further describing 'Stuck On Nothing' as "one giant stack of Get Out of Jail Free cards". Snippets of glam, power pop, bubblegum and arena rock all filter into the mix and reflect the circuitous path the lads took through modern music to arrive at the Free Energy sound.
"We make exactly what we want to hear and are not concerned with being cool or sticking to whatever is popular at the time. When we were younger, we listened to punk and a lot of 80s and 90s indie bands; we would see a verse/ chorus/ verse progression and feel like we had to defy it in some way. Now I listen to old-man rock with big driving choruses, and that is okay - it took me a long time to realise that though."
While forced to deal with genre-related criticism and the preconceived opinions of audiences and critics alike, it would seem that Sprangers is frustrated, yet unaffected.
"It's a shame that people are so quick to disregard something just because it is popular or accessible. I have seen people call our music 'corny' and 'cheesy', but I think we are all at a point in our lives that we are old enough to not give a shit what people think," he says.
"We have been getting a great response to the songs at our live shows - actually, a better response than what we have been getting with 'Stuck On Nothing'. People hear the album and think that we're a bunch of stupid dicks, but then they come out to a show and see that we are sincere and passionate about what we do."
As they approach the half-way mark of an intensive six-week tour of the US with Mates of State, the Free Energy boys show no sign of slowing pace.
â€œWe're working on stuff for the next album and already have a lot of new material. We're huge fans of AC/DC and can't wait to get out to Australia.â€
â€˜STUCK ON NOTHINGâ€™ IS OUT NOW THROUGH EMI MUSIC.