Monday Night Residency with Free Energy

There are certain bands that demand to be listened in a certain way: Pink Floyd might require a bong & lazer light show; Led Zeppelin benefits from giant, wood-paneled speakers, and FREE ENERGY—a band responsible for having crafted some of the finest guitar-filled power pop this side of Weezer or Cheap Trick—should be played on a cassette deck in a Camaro screaming down the highway; stereo cranked, feather roach clip dangling from the rearview.

“Being from the Midwest definitely informed our aesthetic,” says Free Energy vocalist Paul Sprangers. “Growing up in a small town with radio and MTV—then later discovering indie rock and punk rock—really shaped the kind of music we make now. So, I had the same kind of unabashed love for Phil Collins as I did for Pavement—I don’t think I ever grew out of that. It probably shows.”

The story of FREE ENERGY, however, doesn’t begin in the backseat of a muscle car, rather St. Paul, Minnesota, where Sprangers and guitarist Scott Wells—both members of the late, great Hockey Night—were signed to NYC powerhouse DFA records based on their homemade demos. After signing and spending a year writing and demoing they moved to NYC to record with James Murphy. As the record neared completion, Sprangers and Wells moved to Philly, brought in their Minnesota friends to fill out the band, and toured relentlessly behind the release of 2010’s Stuck on Nothing.

While it might have seemed an odd fit for a power-riffing pop rock act to put out a record on a West Village disco label, the euphoric vibe of Free Energy—embodied in tracks like “Free Energy” and “Bang Pop”—was actually a perfect compliment to the roster of artistically different but equally accomplished bands, such as Black Dice, Yacht, The Rapture, and LCD Soundsystem. The record spawned nearly two years of solid touring and a pile of accolades, including a Best New Music nod from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone’s assessment that the band “totally fucking rules.”

At a time when a lot of indie rock is mired in gloom or coated with layers of reverb, FREE ENERGY is interested in sounding like Thin Lizzy or Fleetwood Mac: old-school juggernauts that made clear, well-crafted hook-laden singalongs; songs about love, truth, and the journey within. It’s a time-tested formula, but clearly one that can still sound fresh in the right hands.

As the band began work on album number two they flirted with a couple different producers. They cut an unreleased track with Jeff Glixman (the producer responsible for Kansas’ classic rock staple, “Dust in the Wind”) before doing a trial run with John Agnello. Agnello’s work with the likes of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and The Hold Steady made him a good fit for the band, but it was his formative work in the 80’s with the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Hooters, and Bruce Springsteen that sealed the deal.

“He really produced,” says Wells. “He came to band practices in Philly. He helped us shape the songs and get the sounds that we needed. He helped us get more clean, digital drum sounds like The Outfield used, which was a priority for us. We wanted to make the biggest, brightest rock songs we could. ”

The resulting album is Love Sign, to be released on the band’s new imprint “Free Energy Records” in January of 2013. Much like it’s predecessor, the new record flirts with hysteria-inducing pop songwriting and classic rock production. Tracks like “Electric Fever,” “Hey Tonight” and “Girls Want Rock” demonstrate the band doing what they love—condensing handclaps, harmonies, fist-pumping choruses, and lazer guided guitar leads in such a way that the songs always feel vaguely familiar. These are songs that demand to be blasted in a car as one sings along at the top of one’s lungs. These are songs crafted by young men who clearly have an understanding of pop music’s DNA; the way a good melody can be more catchy than the common cold. Given their go-for-broke vibe, It makes sense that the band keeps a framed photo of Van Halen in their practice space.

Ultimately, Free Energy occupy their own interesting niche. Are they an indie rock band? A classic rock band? A power pop band? Even the band isn’t sure (“I wish someone would tell us what we are,” says Sprangers, “because we’ve been described as everything!”), but in the end it doesn’t matter. The tracks on Love Sign flirt with the great themes of lasting rock music—the search for truth, falling in and out of love, and the quest for happiness—without ever sounding like retreads of a bygone era. Love Sign proves that there will always be ways to reconfigure the rock and roll archetypes into something fresh and —for lack of a better word—rocking.

“When I think of great songs by Peter Gabriel, or Tom Petty, I hear the them almost like hymns. They speak to something greater than ourselves. Even the simplest rock music—songs about partying and girls—can be transcendental,” says Sprangers. “I hope people can relate to what we do on some level. I hope kids like it. I hope moms like it. I don’t care about being cool, I just want to connect. I want people to know that no matter what, life is good, and every experience is meaningful. Maybe that’s weird. But we definitely feel like weirdos and we always have…maybe we always will, which is totally fine.“

The Ten Thousand

At UCLA In 2011, we started getting together to make music we liked. Turned out we were lucky enough that our neighbors didn't call the cops and they even liked it too. Eventually we conned enough people into liking us that we got to play with some pretty awesome bands (Portugal. The Man, Shiny Toy Guns and Haim) within a few months. Now we've self-released our first EP, Nobody Gets Hurt, the first of three to be released leading up to our first full-length. We're pretty damn excited.

But honestly, you should just come see us live.

Welcome to Happy Valley—an oddly untouched neighborhood in the corner of Los Angeles, that has served home over the decades to wild buffalo, an ostrich farm, a racetrack, and now, CILLIE BARNES. In a house carved into a hillside of land time has forgotten, is where Cillie, a musician, songwriter, and supernatural psychic, resides…

The house is a mystical artist’s denizen, with walls covered in hanging tapestries, shelves filled with crystals and other apothecary, a garden where you’ll stumble upon a ceramic effigy among the succulents and ferns, and an ever-shifting group of nomadic inhabitants. Inside lays a modest recording studio where Cillie concocts her self-described “gyp-hop” music, which embodies the eclectic, multi-faceted nature of herself. The enchanting Newport Beach native – daughter of convicted bank robber father and art teacher mother – moved to Los Angeles at 17 and has been here ever since.

In her house in the hill, Cillie and musical co-conspirator Joe Keefe wrote and demoed the songs that appear on her debut, a five-song collection, that recounts her time and experiences. It's the first in a series of four collections, each with its own feel, like chapters in a much longer narrative.

Cillie and Joe developed the songs over the course of a few years, each showcasing her gravelly yet charming voice, hip-hop flow, and literary, but conversational, lyricism. The opening number, “Hey Hi,” takes the listener on a journey from smoky LA bars to the crisp country air in Woodstock, New York.

Using Jordan Kolasinski’s music as a backdrop, she explores feelings that arose when she returned to her favorite ride at Southern California theme park, Knott’s Scary Farm, ‘Blood Bayou,’ as an adult (“Halloween Haunt, Halloween Haunt/You don’t thrill me like you used to”).

“Mr. Brainwash” slowly builds “like TNT and Dy-no-mite” to explore the emotions after being tied up and robbed in a Hollywood apartment owned by the infamous street artist. She fittingly describes her feelings after the event (“We be like Cleo and Marc Antony/Way we’re going down”).

“Solstice” delves into her Wiccan spirituality, singing, “I’ll be bringing in my solstice/In my Stevie Nicks Dress/Channeling my Energy to make my life/Less of a mess,” while “Veranda” explores the heartache of forbidden love.

And then, fittingly, there’s “Happy Valley.” While it’s a song about a place, it’s also about what she’s created and experienced since moving there, including this collection of music.

Much like the ‘Fool’ in her deck of Tarot cards, is the spirit of Cillie—exuberant, clever, and ready to take on the first steps to a long unknown journey ahead, whatever it may be…

Black Hi-Lighter

Black Hi-Lighter use guitars, bass, drums, smoke and lights to create upbeat, epic, sexy, intelligent and catchy songs, and deliver them with the passion and fun that rock is all about.

The band was created in 2010, by original members James Poulos and Mark Reback in the creative hub that is Los Angeles' eastside. They've since added bassist David Wright, and guitarist Eric Liljestrand to the line-up. The band has been getting radio airplay on KCSN 88.5 FM in SoCal (and online), as "Local Anesthetic" Band of the Week by DJ Julie Slater on "Out On A Limb", along with appearing on Kevin Bronson's "BuzzBandsLA" program on Moheak Radio and KCSN.

The band's new full-length record "Bite The Bullet" was released on 3/19/13 and was produced by Grammy-winner Eric Liljestrand and mastered in analog by the legendary Joe Gastwirt. Bite The Bullet reflects BHL's love of early '70s glam and late '90s alt rock, throwing Bowie, T. Rex, Queen and Badfinger into a sweaty, dirty backroom with The Verve, Guided By Voices, Queens of the Stone Age and Radiohead.

Amoeba Music describes Bite The Bullet this way: "Highland Park's own glitter-garage contenders bust out with a tuff slice of classic stomp n' roll! James' vocals channel the sneer and howl of Bowie or Suede, while the band churns out pummeling, no-nonsense trash riffs in the engine room. Hot stuff, could be big!"

Andre Hyland (M.C./Comedian)

Andre Hyland is a performer, writer and director specializing in comedic characters that interact in real-world situations. He is a regular performer at LA’s "alternative" comedy venues, and on Fuel TV's The Daily Habit. He recently created a half-hour pilot (The Untitled Andre Hyland Project) for Comedy Central with Bob Odenkirk.

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Monday Night Residency with Free Energy with The Ten Thousand, Cillie Barnes, Black Hi-Lighter, Andre Hyland (M.C./Comedian)

Monday, September 16 · 8:30 PM at The Echo