Interview: Paul Sprangers (of Free Energy)

on November 16, 2010, 12:01am
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When I first saw Free Energy back in July, they were busy opening up Saturday at Pitchfork Music Festival. Not 30 seconds in, I noted that they sounded like headliners. After their show at The Metro, Mr. Roffman mentioned that they were “acting less like a third billing host and moreover like rock gods from the ’70s.” They’re fast shedding the skin of a debut band, already playing like they’ve been around for, well, decades.

After the interview, I mentioned to Paul Sprangers that I hardly even see Free Energy as a new band because of the confidence and grounded nature of their shows and music. But Free Energy have in fact been on the road for the better part of the year supporting their DFA Records debut album, Stuck On Nothing. It’s one of my favorite records of the year, and recently I had the opportunity to speak with with the group’s frontman about musical paths, dream venues, and what happens when you shove two CDs into a CD player while drunk.

You and Scott (Wells) grew up in Red Wing, MN. Did you go to concerts in Minneapolis?

I did, but Scott went to way more. I went to a few towards the end of high school — Pavement, John Spencer, Hammerhead — but Scott started going way earlier.

What do you wish your influences were? Do you ever wish you were into something as a kid that you discovered later?

I think you’re meant to be into whatever you’re into at a given time. You wouldn’t necessarily…In high school, I wouldn’t have been into Fleetwood Mac, but now its my fav. And in college, I didn’t listen to The Rolling Stones, but, after you process enough music, some things just click over time.

You’ve spoken a lot in interviews about leaving the indie scene and going mainstream.  What, to you, is the difference between the two, and how do you hope to achieve mainstream success?

I think, realistically, that division is totally gone nowadays. I really think there is no difference. Merge records has the same access to media outlets as Universal. When I was growing up, it wasn’t like that. And Sub Pop is partly owned by Warner. There are so many subsidiaries, so that division or definition is more or less irrelevant. But there’s a connection between indie and willfully sloppy and polished rock music, not something just done on Garage Band.

You guys have toured with, to name a few, Hot Chip, Titus Andronicus, Foxy Shazam, and now Hollerado. How has the dynamic changed throughout these months of touring?

You have no fucking idea. I’ll tell you the similarities: All these bands, no matter what kind of music, they’re all incredible people, really down to earth, grounded, and they love what they do. The dynamics between the actual bands always work, and it’s just a connection between people that is the best. Mates of State, they’re parents and have their kids with them on the road, but they can party. Titus can throw back a few. Miniature Tigers are young and hungry. Hollerado just plain like to get drunk.

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