The grubby-chic setting of Curtain Road in Shoreditch is currently playing host to five well-spoken American boys: Geoff Bucknum (guitar), Nick Shuminsky (drums and wood chopping duties), Evan Wells (bass), Scott Wells (guitar “and vocal pipes!”) and the impossibly slender front-man Paul Sprangers, who comprise Philadelphia up-and-comers FREE ENERGY. Wide-eyed and earnest, they chew over questions thoughtfully before presenting articulate responses. Each member honed their craft in various bands before finding themselves in London, a thousand miles from Philly, promoting their JAMES MURPHY-produced album. Scott explains how it came together: “We sent demos to DFA and they liked it. We were continually coming up with different ideas of how we were going to make this record. For ages we planned to self-produce. Then James announced that he wanted to do it himself, and it was just a question of waiting for him to have the time.” Paul goes on: “It’s been such a long time in the making – we signed in 2007 and finished the record this year. But it’s been positive for us because in the meantime we’ve just practised and practised and gotten everything as tight as possible.”
FREE ENERGY are not what you might expect from DFA – their skin tight, riff ticking tracks resemble classic rock like STATUS QUO, THIN LIZZY or even BON JOVI far more than any of the current crop of indie-turned-electro-heads around currently. I ask about Philly and the boys relax into their favourite anecdotes, painting quite a picture of their rock ‘n’ roll life back home. The video for single Free Energy (download it above) “is pretty autobiographical. It’s like our perfect afternoon hanging out”. It features the boys lazing on bikes against water shooting from a fire hydrant. To the best of my knowledge, we have no such contraptions in the UK and I want to know more. Can they just create rainbows at will? “I wear this bandana to keep my third eye covered up, out of which I have the capacity to shoot rainbows,” says Geoff. “For the occasion of the video though the cameraman managed to find to find that one. Kids just come out into the street and pop open those fire hydrants and the water shoots out everywhere.”
Entranced by their tales of back home, I have one last question. What do you call a rock band that has to have all their equipment set out just so and a perfectly tidy dressing room? Geoff: “Free Energy?” No. Scott: “Is this a joke?” Yep. “We don’t know.” OC/DC. Seriously though, are they really that obsessive? “Well, we’re very meticulous about our sound and how we achieve it,” says Geoff. “We might take a while for us to get to a certain point but we will do it.” That attitude, backed with corresponding beat-perfect performances, might well mean they conquer us yet.
If you’re into James Murphy, check this interview from the Dummy vaults.