Power-pop party music is still Free Energy's calling card.

Free Energy's Paul Sprangers on starting a label, pop songcraft and his band's latest, Love Sign 

Power-pop party music is still Free Energy's calling card.

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Also, financially, we didn't want a label taking half of our publishing. The way we funded this whole new record is by saving the money we got from licensing our songs to commercials and stupid movies. That money just went into a pot and then right back into our business. I feel like you don't have that freedom when you're on a label. We'll see, I guess. Talk to me in a year. And, you know, I hate to come down on labels because I'm still a huge fan of certain labels, like I said. And I think they're really good for some bands. But for us, where we are, we wanted to try some of this stuff by ourselves.

It used to be, if you were a new band, that the goal was to get signed to a record label. Now it seems like it might be more important to get a good booking agent or a good publishing lawyer, or something. Do you have any thoughts on this?

I feel like lawyers and professionals are kind of like fertilizer that you can apply to a plant. But if the plant isn't ready or fully grown, sometimes the fertilizer can hurt the plant. Apologies if this is a bad analogy. There are a lot of things that can bring attention to a band, but if you don't have it all together, the attention will go away just as fast, if the attention even comes at all. And that can be really damaging. So I think the best thing is to really focus on yourself and what you make and on yourself as a person. Lawyers just hop on whatever's hot.

But to answer your question, my advice for young bands starting out is just to keep writing songs and meet whoever books the coolest shows locally, wherever you go see shows you like. And I'm talking smaller cities, not New York or whatever. Whoever writes for your weekly, try to get them to come to a show, send them artwork, show them why you're psyched about what you make. That's the most fun way, to make connections with people who care about what you're doing, because those are strong and those last. Those connections last longer than whatever fuckin' lawyer gives a shit about you for 10 seconds.

Are you guys cool with DFA, or is it weird?

Totally cool, it was a very amicable deal. It ended kind of like how it started. It started very slow and very, like, "Eh, OK, let's do this" — not a lot of fanfare. And it ended the same way, like, "Eh, we like the record" — but we didn't push them, they didn't push us and, in the end, we decided to make our own label.

I feel like there are some bands that are pop purists and really only into other bands that write super-tight, hooky pop songs. And then there are pop acts that listen to a lot of, I don't know, Jim O'Rourke — acts that are maybe more esoteric and whose influence on their pop songs isn't quite as obvious. What camp do you fall in?

Absolutely both. I totally loved Jim O'Rourke back in the day — I mean, Tortoise, Gastr Del Sol, the Sea and Cake, Joan of Arc. I was into a bunch of stuff that Jade Tree put out. We definitely listen to a lot of pretty confrontational, aggressively avant-garde music. Scott and Evan [Wells, bass] are into a lot of world music and reggae. We listen to a lot of new-age music. And we grew up listening to Pavement and GBV. It's weird because I think some people think we're, like, meatheads or something. Which is so strange because we're total nerds. We're just these huge, huge nerds. But we moved on and dug deeper and grown, and now we're really concerned with craft. So we listen to bands where we see that present, and for us right now, that's Fleetwood Mac and the Boss, these masters that made these incredible statements.

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