Arts and Culture

Broke Ass Band Interview: Free Energy

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Free Energy is one of those bands that makes even the most jaded New Yorker get up and shake something. Their fresh take on 70’s rock is bringing dude-rock to the dance floor. After their former Minneapolis band , Hockey Night, broke up; singer Paul Sprangers and guitarist Scott Wells formed Free Energy and moved to Philly. They were then scooped up by dance-rock giants, DFA Records, and the rest is history. Even though their full-length album doesn’t come out til March,  the band has drummed up quite a buzz already touring all over the country. After working with producer, James Murphy, their self-titled single became the anthem of the summer.

And while Hockey Night’s “Battlestar Scholastica” will always have a permanent spot on my playlist, Free Energy’s earnest vibe and sunny chords make me want to throw on some high-waisted jeans and move somewhere warm.  I was lucky enough to chat with the whole band over the thundering sounds of crashing balls and drunk cheers at Brooklyn Bowl.

Laura SI know you guys are originally from St Paul,  and you moved for your music, what made you choose Philly?

Paul Spranger, lead singer:  The three of us are from Red Wing (Minnesota), a small town and moved to Philly two years ago. Geoff has been living in Philly for a year and we met Nick in St.Paul. Geoff lived there and he knew people. He showed us around. It’s a lot cheaper than New York and we needed to live somewhere cheap so we could keep recording.

LS: How do you think the music scene there compares to the New York music scene?

Geoff Bucknam, guitarist:  We were actually just talking about this at dinner. The one thing Scott and I were saying we like about Philly, is that there’s a lot of overlap. We end up meeting friends who know all these musicians who are in pop rock bands, or like psych-folk. It’s smaller, but the one thing that’s nice about it, is that people see more of each other’s stuff.  Where as I feel like in New York, there’s so many musicians and artists that are more segmented into different scenes.

LS: That’s true, 'œIndie rock' is now broken down into so many different categories, with their own adjectives for each.

GB: There’s nothing else like New York

LS: I know you guys are so busy touring all over to promote the album, do any of you still have other jobs and if so what are they?

PS:  We don’t work right now, we’re scraping by. Before that, we all had odd jobs. It’s gonna be a long list to get into that. The last one I had was data entry, it was very memorable.

LSSo you’re tour schedule’s pretty crazy right now, do you guys have any memorable moments from the road?

Nicholas Shuminsky, drummer:  I had my credit card stolen by the women who checked us into our hotel.  A cop came poolside while we were lounging, and took our depositions.

GB: I ran away when I saw the cop. I didn’t know he was on your side.  The night before, Scott and Nick and I were doing a bunch of shenanigans sneaking in the pool and Nick was doing some Ninja work trying to hide from security cameras he thought might be there.

NS: To break into the sauna

GB: And so when I saw the cop walking towards the pool, I was convinced that they had security camera footage from the night before. I took off.

NS: I just didn’t want to get kicked out of the hotel and have to leave the pool. In fact it  worked to our advantage, they extended our stay and our pool time, and the manager said we could stay there for free anytime we come through.

LS: So where’s one place you’d love to stop on tour?

PS: Mexico City

Scott Wells, guitarist: Anywhere in South America really

LS: So being on the road a lot, have any tips for saving money while touring?

SW: Free coffee at road stops like Roy Rogers. A lot of those places are buffet style so you can just walk in and walk back out since you don’t have to pay til the end. They always have free coffee there, you know dispense your own.

LS: Do you guys have any favorite dive bars in New York and Philly that you like to frequent?

GB: Lost Bar in Philly. Atlantis the Lost Bar, in Fishtown on Frankford Ave

PS: I’ve been going to Blackout in Greenpoint. it’s pretty cool, they have Pointer Sisters on the jukebox.

LS: So you play Jump for my Love over and over again?

PS: Ha yeah, and those bars with free pizza too!

LS: What’s your favorite cheap place to eat in Philly?

SW:  I like Paesano’s, it’s not necessarily cheap, but it’s really good.  It’s a Philly Italian sandwich shop you know, tons of meat, broccoli rabe, sharp provolone.

LS: If you guys weren’t doing the music thing, what would you doing for a living?

SW: We’re all pretty into food. Evan’s (bass player and Scott Wells’ brother) done some herding, cheese production. And maybe farming, everyone sort of has an interest in taking care of animals. We’re all very entrepreneurial.

LS: What do you think is something all broke-ass musicians need to know?

PS:  Stick with it, you’re probably not gonna make money even if you think you are going to. We thought it would be a little easier once we got on a record label and stuff, it’s pretty much the same thing, there’s more people helping you out but as far as money goes, you’re still broke.  But sometimes you get to call your practice space home.

Free Energy will be back in New York playing Mercury Lounge on March 11. Their album, Stuck On Nothing, comes out  March 9.

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Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe

Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe

Laura S, left the "sixth borough" three years ago to settle in Brooklyn. After working at some daily rags, she now does writing on the side but still eats more Ramen then necessary. When she's not moving residences every 6 months, eating her way through every neighborhood, and trying every microbrew known to man, she is unsuccessfully rediscovering home economics. With her binging days behind her, she's now exploring new projects and rediscovering the city that she loves (although is still prone to sliding on her knees during a Prince karaoke set).