Interview: Freelance Whales
Remaining relatively true to its name, indie pop band Freelance Whales has spent the better part of the past year roving across the country, and showcasing its unique hybrid of pop-rock and chamber music, which manifests itself in redolently honest, intricately catchy, saccharine-infused orchestrations.
And now, one year and one day after its debut album, “Weathervanes,” was released, the New York-based quintet is back on the road for one last go at it, before work on a follow-up album begins.
Although the band officially began its tour in Washington on Saturday, the group set out five days prior in its van.
“We’re taking this as an opportunity to, you know, just have this kind of crazy marathon across the country,” lead singer Judah Dadone shared.
Once in Washington, the members met up with co-headliners, Foals, who had flown in from the UK. As for what co-headlining means exactly, Dadone explained that it’s a term that essentially puts the two bands sharing the bill on the same level.
“Really it doesn’t mean that much, except like, we get to play the same amount of time,” he said. “Whoever’s headlining, it’s their show. So it’s kind of an homage to both of your shows.”
He did admit that they also had a friendly competition about it.
“There was some Roshambo-ing across the Atlantic Ocean [before we met],” he said laughing.
While the North American tour hits major cities all over, Dadone said the band is perhaps most excited about playing a set at Coachella this year.
“We did get a first taste of American festivals last summer,” he said referencing having played Sasquatch, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands. “We really really figured what that’s all about. And that is a great way to break up a tour, and so now we’ve kind of developed a taste for it and we want more.”
He cited the best part of it as being able to see other bands, relax for a few days, and ultimately, “[mix] business and pleasure.”
This tour will serve as yet another notch on the band’s touring belt, and Dadone said in order to keep things fresh for audiences who have seen the band multiple times, they like to make certain their songs change a bit between every time they play the same city.
“We just can’t play them over and over the exact same way, so we try to find ways for ourselves to keep them evolving,” he explained. “[Our songs] are always kind of living and breathing and changing.”
This is evident in the very core of the philosophy of Freelance Whales, which got its start playing in subways and on the corner of 1st Avenue and Houston Street in New York.
Dadone said the band’s aim in those initial sporadic performances was twofold: to expose people to new music, but also to work on both playing around with arrangements of and tightening the songs.
“There’s still real value in doing that,” he said of future excursions to street corners. “It’s totally an option. I think right now we don’t do it because we feel redundant.”
He elaborated, saying that the band wants to write additional songs and have more time off the road to feel like it’s qualified to do more busking.
And where the songwriting is concerned, although the band doesn’t need to be in a particular place to write new music, the members definitely like to have a lot of instruments and other gear at their disposal to enable the process. This also allows them to make rough mixes or track ideas as they arise, as opposed to writing them down and saving them for another time.
“We’ve been so focused on just, like, doing what we’re doing out on the road, that like, working on new material has never seemed, like, really approachable,” Dadone said.
Bearing that in mind, on this tour the band decided to put forth more of a conscious effort than in the past to work on songs, simply because – with a sophomore release looming on the horizon – the ideas are a lot fresher right now.
“We’re kind of theorizing what a second record could really be about and what the views can be and what specific ideas can be,” Dadone said. “Now some of those ideas are starting to kind of become less blurry and more in focus.”
That said, as soon as the Freelance Whales return home from tour, the game plan is to hole up and work on songs for a couple months. Also high on the list is the desire to spend time with friends and family in New York.
“I think what makes it the hardest is probably…just the personal sort of tension of, like, having and loving people at home and…sort of having so many things pulling you to different parts of the country and different parts of the world but also pulling you back home,” he shared. “[But] I think, like, ultimately like, that’s like a really lovely sort of tension.”
Dadone’s positive spin is that, in spite of the difficulty of being in demand as musicians and as people, it’s probably more of a good thing than a bad one.
“You want to feel like you’re suffering from too many passions and not too few,” he said.
Freelance Whales co-headlines a sold out show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco tonight with Foals. Opening for the bands will be The Naked & Famous. The show begins at 8 p.m.