Interview: Free Energy
If Free Energy were a font, the band might very likely be Helvetica.
“I like it because it’s so used,” said frontman Paul Sprangers. “It’s so, like, absolutely almost generic at this point…[absent] of any character of meaning.”
In a way, his take on the modernist font is fairly on par with what Free Energy undertakes to do. While rock and roll is nothing new, its genericalness works in the bands favor, as they group is able to take what rock and roll has come to mean and help redefine it.
The group’s debut album, “Stuck on Nothing,” came out in May, but from the time Free Energy was signed to DFA Records up to now, Sprangers noted that it had been “a pretty long-scale time frame.”
Free Energy is essentially the same band as Hockey Night, in that the same two members who wrote for the latter–Sprangers and guitarist Scott Wells–also write for the former.
“It’s weird, cause in a lot of ways, there’s no difference,” Sprangers said. “It’s just a natural part of our growth or process. What we’re doing now is everything we’ve learned in the past.”
But where the difference truly lies–aside from a change of location and an addition of members–is that somewhere along the way, the band got serious about music. Setting aside impractical goals and ideas, the band quit trying so hard and instead began directing its energy more efficiently.
“I don’t think we practiced enough at home and worked on making the band good,” Sprangers said, speaking candidly about Hockey Night. “We did a lot of touring without the band being prepared. We were kind of misfiring in a lot of ways.”
One major change in the band’s approach is that it plays unpretentious, straight-on rock and roll, with the music and the lyrics working together in a synergetic relationship.
“You get a riff or melody [and] you kind of go back and forth, like teeter-totter style. We try to articulate whatever feel exists in the melodies,” Sprangers said of the songwriting process. “The music to me feels really positive and inspirational so I feel the lyrics should be like that, even if they’re to the point of being cheesy or simple.”
And while the band is receiving a lot of attention for “Stuck on Nothing,” they don’t find the prospect of coming out with a sophomore album that lives up to the hype particularly daunting.
“We’re not too worried,” Sprangers admitted. “We have a couple albums almost kind of done [and] tons of stuff that’s been written.”
And little-by-little, the band is beginning to roll out that new material for audiences, to test out the response. But for the most part, fans seem to not only ‘get’ what Free Energy is going for, but eat it right up.
“I can tell people come to the shows and are psyched,” Sprangers said. “[They] completely get it.”
Free Energy recently returned from playing the Reading and Leeds Festivals, which was a bizarre experience for the band, as they played to thousands of people alongside the likes of Blink 182 and Paramore. Funnily enough, bassist Mark Hoppus is a huge fan of Free Energy.
They didn’t, however, camp.
“We all kind of noted that the way it’s setup is like some kind of dystopian nightmare,” Sprangers said, likening the walled-off tent areas to the camps in the movie “Children of Men”.
Next week the band embarks on a month-long national tour with Titus Andronicus, and plays San Francisco on Wednesday at The Independent.
Sprangers said that while he feels like he is constantly on the go and never able to really settle down or make plans, he is lucky to be doing what he’s doing.
“Being able to play things that we make for people is pretty incredible,” he said.