Listen to a Free Energy song, and try not to sing along. It’s impossible.
It’s classic rock, power-pop and a little bit of glam all mixed into one. But overall, it’s feel good music – the kind of music that makes you want to roll down the windows, put your feet on the dashboard and start drumming along. The ‘70s-inspired rock ‘n’ roll quintet combines big hooks, nimble guitar riffs and a cowbell to create a sound all its own.
Front man Paul Sprangers and guitarist Scott Wells left Minnesota and moved to Fishtown – home to many members and venues of the Philly music scene – to form Free Energy in 2008. The band’s first record, “Stuck on Nothing,” has received attention from Rolling Stone, Spin and many other noteworthy companies in the music industry.
Free Energy returns to Philadelphia on Feb. 18 for a show at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia at 2125 Chestnut St. While the band was in Portland, Ore., Sprangers talked to The Temple News about touring with Weezer, the beauty of cassette tapes and the band’s next record.
The Temple News: You opened for Weezer in December. Can you tell me about that experience?
Paul Sprangers: Yeah, it was really cool. It was a really big production. We played in a big theater in Boston and a giant ballroom in New York. It was cool to see Weezer play live. And to have Rivers [Cuomo] say that he really liked our band was pretty surreal.
TTN: Do you have a favorite Weezer song?
PS: I had never heard “Pork and Beans.” I thought that was a good song.
TTN: You’ll be playing in Philly next week. Have you played at the [First Unitarian] Church before?
PS: Oh, yeah. We played there two or three times, I think.
TTN: What was it like?
PS: Awesome, crazy, sweaty.
TTN: What do you love most about performing in Philly?
PS: The fanatical fans – they’re pretty awesome – seeing our friends. That’s fun ‘cause we’re on tour so much.
TTN: Anything really crazy ever happen at a show?
PS: Well, we always like it when people take their tops off and show their boobs, but it doesn’t happen very much. Nothing too crazy – couple stage dives here and there, a couple crazy guys getting on stage and singing with us.
TTN: In your song, “Free Energy,” you sing “We’re gonna start a new life and see how it goes.” Is this about moving to Philly?
PS: It was actually written before we moved to Philly. It was more about leaving Minnesota. Certainly Philly enters into that equation, but I think it was more of a premonition than commentary.
TTN: How do you think the new life is going so far?
PS: It’s pretty cool – I mean I’m sitting in the hot tub while I’m talking to you right now. It’s pretty awesome.
TTN: How do you define your music?
PS: Melodic rock ‘n’ roll. Every part of the song is supposed to be somewhat melodic and “feel good” – literally. Figuratively too, but it should literally feel good.
TTN: What do you think is the most important part of your song-writing process?
PS: Probably just acting on ideas when they come. Like, if I get a melody, then I’ll write it down or record it instead of just letting it go. That’s primarily the biggest catalyst for actually having songs in the band – just acting on the initial impulse.
TTN: I heard you put out a mixed cassette tape called “Pump It Volume I.” What was that?
PS: That was kind of like a promotional thing before the record came out. We just put together a mixed tape on Garage Band. It was just inspirational rock songs that we like – kind of dancy but with guitars and stuff. I think we’ve given all those out. They went pretty fast. We just gave them to people at shows and on the street.
TTN: Why cassettes?
PS: We just love cassettes. We still listen to cassettes. It’s a good way to get old albums cause they are still readily available at thrift stores. We really don’t like CDs at all. Vinyl, tapes, and MP3s are where it’s at.
TTN: Can we expect to see Volume II?
PS: Yes, you can. It might not be ‘til the next record, but we’ll definitely make Volume II.
TTN: Will you be starting the next record after your tour ends?
PS: Yep. We just started, but we’re playing two new songs on this tour. Hopefully by the end of March we’ll be ready to record.
TTN: What can we expect from the next record?
PS: It’ll be the same and different. It will be a stronger version of what we’re already doing on the first record.
TTN: Why should Philly come out and see you next week?
PS: Pretty much just ‘cause it’s like a giant party. So I mean, if you like parties, you should definitely come out and hang out.
Tracy Galloway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.