Six Questions For ... Free Energy

free energy

If you're like me (pray you're not) sometimes you get so obsessed with a song that it takes over your life. This happened to me recently with the song "Free Energy." Which is by the band Free Energy. Clever. The song is a perfect introduction to a new band. When your first single is named after the band, that's sort of the point, right?

In the first 45 seconds of "Free Energy" (video below) you get the following: big, bright classic rock guitar riffs right out of the Cheap Trick playbook; dueling, doubled-up guitar solos that scream Thin Lizzy; constant cowbell; carefree, slightly slackerly vocals from Paul Sprangers, starting with the lines "We're breaking out this time/Making out with the wind/And I'm so disconnected/I'm never gonna check back in." A little later the hand claps come in. There's nothing subtle about it -- this is a proud homage to whatever those kids in "Dazed and Confused" were listening to. And it's one of the best songs of the year.

The single is out on DFA Records, the mostly-dance music label run by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, who also produced Free Energy's upcoming album. That makes the band a somewhat odd fit, but just confirms Murphy's fine taste. Sprangers and guitarist Scott Wells used to be in Hockey Night, a nifty little band that did '90s indie rock homage almost as well as the new band pays tribute to '70s album rock. But if the first single is any indication, the decision to break out of that indie rock shell was a no-brainer. I talked to Sprangers about that transition, working with Murphy and the dudeness of his band, which you can and should catch at the Black Cat Wednesday night.

"Free Energy" -- that songs seems like a mission statement. Is it?
I think it has become one, yeah. It probably always was. We ended up naming the band last, after everything was done and it seemed to fit. It kind of sums up everything. It's supposed to be the opposite of indie rock. It's straight ahead, with an almost Krautrock beat and just plows forward with big simple riffs. Everything is streamlined. We made choices that aren't really made in indie rock, where things are more complicated or confused. It's simple and direct. So it's kind of an about face.

What's it like working with James? Is he a good producer, collaborator, person to bounce ideas off?
Yeah, all those things. Producer, in that he has a bigger, global perspective on how things sound and how sounds affect a song. The mix of the songs, the melodies, the sounds he gets complement what we've written, that's a huge thing. And he just pushes us to make those direct choices that we maybe weren't totally confident to make sometimes. His experience helps. Sometimes what may seem like cheesy choices, well, it's easier to take risks when someone's got your back.

(More after the jump.)

Is it weird at all to be out on the road before the album comes out? Do you get the sense that people see you as a bit of a curiosity because you're this rock band on a dance label?
It just feels like the same old. Every show just feels totally bizarre and for a totally different audience that's not necessarily there to see us or even knows who we are. I don't feel like any of the shows we've played people really know who we are. We kind of have to win them over just based on the merit of the live band. Honestly, I don't know how many people are that big of record fans to have that sense to know what DFA is, to know the catalogue and that we're different. I know the people who read blogs and listen to lots of music know the story and that it's sort of a curiosity but I don't get the sense that most people at the shows are aware of that. But I could be wrong. I don't have a good sense of that.

I'm not sure how this will come out, but you guys seem like a very "dude" band. Does that make any sense? [Ed. Note: I mean come on, look at that picture and watch that video.]
(Laughs.) I mean, I guess it's supposed to sound tough. But there's also a pretty huge feminine aspect to it between the melodies and background vocals. There's also a simplicity that we aim for. It's not as cerebral, which is what I think of a lot when I think of guy rock. Real cerebral, intellectual indie rock is often made by dudes. Like math rock. But yeah, it's definitely full-on dudes party rock. And the whole '70s thing, you know. There were a lot of dudes making rock in the '70s. There's just no question about it.

It's been a while since you've put out an album, so that must be exciting to finally get around to doing that again.
Yeah. I don't know what it means, exactly, to have a record anymore. I mean, once everybody knows the songs that could make the shows better. I don't think everybody should be making albums. Not all bands need to make full length albums. Some bands should put out one single, some bands an EP, some people should put out double-live.

That's what you're working up to, right? That would be the ultimate '70s move.
The doube-live's in the works. (Laughs.) I can't say much about it at this point. But, yeah. Look forward to that.

By David Malitz |  August 26, 2009; 11:58 AM ET Interviews
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