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.“

Don't Stop or We'll Die

Don't Stop or We'll Die is a piano-pop trio featuring Michael Cassady, Paul Rust, and Harris Wittels.

The Rebel Light

The Rebel Light are a Los Angeles based Indie Rock Band

“Hazy, retro-sounding Southern- Californian indie” Alfitude - Scandinavia

“This LA-based band has the horn section of Sufjan Stevens, a voice like Matt & Kim, songs like an electric Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, but a sound all of their own” Rating 9/10 In Your Speakers

The Black Apples

The Black Apples, a band that began three years ago and has lived in at least as many cities, have spent their time in Los Angeles building an impressive resumé. They've performed at the Silverlake Jubilee, Sunset Junction and Conjunction Junction music festivals; they've shared the stage with Guitar Wolf, Cap'n Jazz and Mark Sultan (among many others).The band recently headlined an impressive month long residency at LA's popular music venue, The Echo, and toured the American west. They have been featured in major music publications and blogs including, LA Record, Brand X, LA Weekly, OC Weekly, the Deli and Brooklyn Vegan.

The band has its roots in brotherhood—Campbell and Andrew Scarborough grew up in New York in what Campbell describes as a creative household. The brothers honed their skills at various venues in the five boroughs. In 2008, the Black Apples found themselves living together in Fort Collins, Colorado where they began to define their own brand of music, selling out local venues and gaining a loyal local following. Over the summer of 2009, they gathered the band in a rural, lakeside barn to record their self-titled EP as homage to the mountains. Continuing west to Los Angeles, the Black Apples began a grueling stint of playing every venue or party in the Southern California area, often a show every day of the week (including 2am guerrilla shows in Tijuana).

The brothers continue to draw on their influences, familial and otherwise, to create infectious music laced with what they call "Psychedelic Motown Surf." It's accessible yet demanding, strangely catchy and growing in popularity. As the dust settles amid broken guitars, line-up changes, marathon recording sessions, blown out amps and sold out venues, the Black Apples look toward a broad horizon. Their debut self-titled album is available now on iTunes and is also scheduled for release as a limited-edition vinyl. Plans for the future include more writing, recording, releases and, as always, shows. The Black Apples are just getting started.

D.C. Pierson (M.C./Comedian)

DC Pierson is a member of the comedy group DERRICK whose film "Mystery Team" went to Sundance in 2009 and was subsequently released in theaters by Roadside Attractions. His first novel The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To won the American Library Association's ALEX Award. He raps, appears in car insurance commercials, and hosts a stand-up comedy show in Los Angeles called Big Money. He lives in Hollywood.

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Monday Night Residency with Free Energy with Don't Stop or We'll Die, The Rebel Light, The Black Apples, D.C. Pierson (M.C./Comedian)

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