Chatting with Judah of Freelance Whales before their first Lollapalooza gig. This fast climbing NyC Indie band began in 2008, performing anywhere and everywhere they could. These busking and club performances landed them with a label and put them on the touring fast track promoting their debut album Weathervanes.
How did they do it when countless others never reach this level with a lifetime of work?
You have a rigorous schedule this year?
Yeah. We started last November and we haven’t stopped. We have little week or week and a half breaks between tours. It’s been a big change for us given that most of us had never been on a tour. Some of us never really left New York…as a band that is.
You got together as a band in 2008?
Late August 2008.
When did you record your debut album Weathervanes?
We were doing it on the weekends. Pretty much as soon as the band got together, a bunch of the songs were together and essentially we started working on the core 4 songs. We toyed with the idea of an EP, but decided we needed a larger format because the songs needed and had this inner textuality, this inner dependance and we needed more of them so that it felt cohesive.
How long did it take you to lay it down?
14 days recording, 10 days of studio time, so 25 days total over the course of 4 or 5 months. It was kinda a weekend warrior record. Not the ideal way to record. If you have the money to not do that, that’s what I’d recommend.
Were you touring already?
No. We were just gigging here in New York. We were already doing a lot of public performance. We were busking in the subway system and playing in the streets. That actually helped finance the practice studio and some of the recording costs. We were trying to remain active and put on as good of a stage show as we could. We wanted to learn how to interact with people. The rehearsing and recording in home studios and proper studios were what we were trying to all get that down.
Inspiring that you busked and financed yourself-
It really does work and the whole thing with being a band, not everyone has to love it, someone just has to like it. And someone doesn’t even have to like it really, but if you’re going to pursue a career at some point, someone needs to enjoy it. Cool thing about public performances is that someone is bound to get it.
People in New York are pretty straightforward about their opinions?
I don’t know, they’re pretty reserved. Then they go home and blog.
Who are your collective musical influences? You have an eclectic sound…
It’s hard to pin down. If you look at any one track on the album you have a handful of different musical influences. Everyone in the band has this contemporary mind space that were not all into one particular genre. You used to get people into just 60’, 70’, 80’s, or 90’s music, but I think this is where Indie music stems from, Indie music isn’t really just one genre, it people who enjoy different sounds that are all still developing. We listen to electronica, pop, folk, and we try to ingest everything we can so when it’s time to make a song, we become conscious of our subconscious influences. I hope people take music like they take vitamins.
Was there any one track on Weathervanes that was difficult to lay down?
Oh yeah. They were all difficult to lay down. Recording music is like a relationship. There’s a certain portion that feels effortless. Like the first couple months of the relationship it dreamy and romantic, but it becomes ardguous because you decide to make a concentrated effort to be in it, then it gets harder as it’s 40/50 percent complete. At some point you have to step back and see how to finish it and make it full.
It’s the first time your collaborating, so it would seem your all getting that process down as well?
Absolutely. I spent most of the time writing and arranging the first record. That’s just what happened as the band was coming together. Now, everyone is bringing new arrangements and new styles and we’re just harvesting all these new parameters and boundries, not with the idea of making a new record, but just of what we may sound like in the near future.
You’ve played SxSW and now Lollapalooza, which venues do you prefer, big fests or small venues?
Both. It’s like being on the road versus being in the studio. It’s a balance. It’s gratifying not doing the same thing everyday. It’s great not being in a cycle or a pattern which is why we became musicians I believe.
Any bands you want to catch at Lolla?
We played Lincoln Hall with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Before we ever left New York, we were offered to tour with them and we weren’t ready to hop out of the gate yet. I believe we’re playing House of Blues the next day too, so we’re not going to be on the festival grounds much.
I’d love to see Arcade Fire perform their new material.
Have you seen them before?
Years ago and unfortunately not since.
How did you go from busking to having a dream career right out of the gate?
I guess I need an objective view, from an outsider almost to explain. We were busking and you want to interact with the industry. We were meeting people that were A&R from Columbia music, photographers, videographers, and they offered us opportunities. You forget that the people on the subway next to you all do something for a living. New York is very networking happy. If people like what your doing, they want to lend their help and talents. Playing in the streets was a great way to get in touch with people who wanted to help us, but people became aware of what we were trying to do. If there are bands out there that are having a hard time perforating their way into the industry, that’s ok too. That way you have far more time to develop more music and your sound. We just happen to be performing at a loft party and from Paul Hanley from French Kiss Records was there, and he thought it was cool, so we gave him a CD. We played TMJ music Festival, here in New York, and at that point a handful of labels made it apparent that they wanted to work with us. It’s a great first step with us. We’re trying to evolve and we want people to have a chance to find it. When you make a record, its about a personal process, but when that’s done, it’s about sharing a experience with someone else and if you miss out on that, you miss the point.
Freelance Whales play LA @ the El Rey August 12th