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.“

“Two dudes, two mics. Anything can happen.”

Behold, the proclamation of Yip Deceiver, the tag-team all-analog dance duo, who broadcast sexxed-up jambox jaunts and light club floors ablaze at home in Athens, Georgia and beyond. Their debut album, Medallius, dishes out 11 tracks of rump-shaking, fist-pumping ecstaticism, from the minimalist Detroitstyle bassline and funktified guitar strums of “World Class Pleasure” to the tightly-wound dance-anthem, “Get Strict.” The sonic lovechild of producer/songwriter, Davey Pierce, and executive vibes manager, Nicolas “Dobby” Dobbratz, Yip Deceiver fills the void for music that can stoke a party-fire and eschews cooler-than-thou posturing.

Perhaps it's Italo-disco without the Italy, blasting iridescent electrofunk that howls with neon keyboard trills and 8-bit handclaps or more simply – synth-pop. “Medallius is an attitude and a lifestyle,” Dobby says of the philosophy of their made-up title. “Medallius is always keeping an elegant attitude regardless of how trashy a situation is.” The album keeps it classy. “Color Me In” could be music for an after-hours fashion show on Venus, or “Lover,” Davey postulates, could provide the soundtrack for “an ’80s or early ’90s super-triumphant fringe sport movie, where someone moves somewhere and becomes a bad-ass at karate, skateboarding, or BMX riding.” Dobby calls it “smooth punk,” Davey thinks it’s “indie R&B.”

Whatever you call their music, the result is undeniable: Motion. Emotion. Undulation and perspiration whether you're singing along in traffic jams or sweating it out in a dark, dank club. It's all by design. “Most of the songs on Medalliusstarted as completely different songs before getting to the final version,” Davey says,:“‘Tops Part II’ started as a sort of homage to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ and we decided that it would be better if Babyface produced it.”

Onstage, they’re antidote to the laptop jockeys and deejay types these days who simply sway behind a MacBook. This is a rock show you can dance to. “We try to make our live show as intimate as possible,” Davey says. “We like everyone who bothered to show up feel like they are a part of the whole thing, because they are. We wouldn't be there if they weren't there and we want them to know that.” And Yip Deceiver really works for it; they trade off wielding the mic, take turns charming the audience, and jump from keyboards to beat box and back again. “When we get up on stage and sing those songs, we mean it,” Dobby says, “but we’re not afraid to literally laugh at ourselves at the same time. It is a genuine expression of who we are and what we love without taking ourselves too seriously.”

When producing Medallius, the guys created and recorded the collection in their Georgia homes and in Dobby’s California studio, but back in the tightly knit creative community of Athens, Dobby says, is where the sound developed. They would ride bikes to mix the album with Andy LeMaster, whose studio was two blocks away from theirs. And to provide the album’s signature retro-futuristic feel, they decided o use only the most cutting-edge technology circa 1983. “We are totally addicted to analog synths, FM synthesis, and MIDI Sequencers,” Davey confesses. “We program our drum tracks on an MPC and we don't use soft synths or the like. Everything is hardware. We enjoy the process, the experimentation, and the immediacy of the machines we work with. We spend hours finding a sound and as soon as you change anything, it's gone forever. We love that.”

Dobby’s process springs from a source much less IBM and more, let’s say, NSFW. “I have a dirty mind,” he says. “I write dirty versions of all of our songs first to get it out of my head then erase the bad words and rewrite. I also tend to imagine myself as a strong Anita Baker or Chaka Khan, female R&B type when I’m writing. It’s a delusion and a weird process but Davey lets me do it.” Davey understands because he secretly strives to be the masculine side in their buoyant brand of indie R&B: “I try my hardest to emulate Luther Vandross.”

After all, their obsession for R&B brought them together in the first place, back when Dobby was crashing at Davey’s house in Athens. “One day he picked me up in his car to show me all the good places to eat lunch,” Dobby recalls, “and the radio was on and we both started singing along to some Usher song or something. We were both laughing at each other surprised. Every once in a while you find someone who’s got the same secret musical taste, they just don't talk about it. It's never who you think.”

Yip Deceiver wants to be your guilty pleasure, that secret music that brings friends and strangers together for their outlandish and irresistible brand of new New Jack Swing, post-proto synth-funk, or whatever musical box that they will never cease to obliterate. Perhaps Davey puts it best: “It’s music for a weird night of random adventure.”

Mike Krol is a band/idea out of Los Angeles, with additional members in Minneapolis, Madison, and Seattle.

Black Crystal Wolf Kids

Inspired by the audience participation of the Flaming Lips, the anything-goes attitude of The Henry Clay People, and the over-the-toppedness of 80s tribute bands like Fast Times, Black Crystal Wolf Kids are the world's first indie-rock tribute band, paying costumed, sing-along-encouraged homage to the best music of right now (from MGMT to Phoenix to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) as well as indie's storied past (Pavement; the Pixies; et al).

They're also something of an all-star band in their own right: frontman Jeff Miller, drummer Gregg Levinson, and guitarist/singer Bernard Levin all did time in the now-defunct band City Museum, while keyboardist/singer Valerie Taylor also plays with The Valley Players Club (among others) and bassist Marc Gasway also can be seen onstage with The Sexies and Candypants. "I'd gotten sick of going to see indie-rock shows on the Eastside with great, fun bands, and seeing the audience standing still with their arms crossed," says Miller, semi-ironically. "The music is great -- why not have fun and sing along to it??"

That attitude's also led to on-stage appearances from members of some of LA's best actual indie-rock bands, from Coachella main stage act Steel Train to Spaceland headliners Wires in the Walls to KCRW mainstays Oliver Future to multiple OC Music Award winners Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, with near-nightly sit ins from among LA's indie cognoscenti. "I guess," Miller says, "sometimes even serious musicians like to have a little fun themselves."

Nick Thune (M.C./Comedian)

"Nick Thune, comedian/actor/writer/bird owner, is from Seattle, Washington. Nick has been on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno two times. On both occasions, he won. Comedy Central presented a half hour of Nick’s ‘world class’ stand up comedy. It was a success for everyone involved, including the audience. Comedy Central also paid Nick to make iThunes, a series of short films for the world wide web. In his free time, Nick grows tomatoes and tours the country, touching hearts, one joke at a time. For more information on Nick, believe in yourself." - nickthune.com

"Thune has performed his comedy on “The Tonight Show” many times and according to his website, “On every occasion, he won.” Nick also has a half hour special on Comedy Central and a his own web series at nicksbigshow.com. Nick’s album, Thick Noon, was released in February of 2010 by Comedy Central Records. Nick can be seen in Mike Judge’s movie “Extract” and the independent film “Highway 61” opposite Tobin Bell. Thune’s other film credits include “Spring Breakdown”, “Unaccompanied Minors” and “Knocked Up”. Currently, Nick is a corespondent on the Tonight Show and is touring the country, changing lives one joke at a time. If you have any questions about Nick, please email them to nickthuneistall@nickthune.com. Make sure and BCC Stevie Wonder."

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Monday Night Residency with Free Energy with Yip Deceiver, Mike Krol, Black Crystal Wolf Kids, Nick Thune (M.C./Comedian)

Monday, September 23 · 8:30 PM at The Echo