Home Male Boxx: Paul Sprangers of Free Energy

Male Boxx: Paul Sprangers of Free Energy

Free Energy

Paul Sprangers is the frontman of Free Energy, the Philly indie band whose traditional rock power hooks are met with equally boisterous entertainment at their live shows. The quintet released their first album Stuck on Nothing in 2010 and quickly gained major street cred when Rolling Stone announced them as one of the best bands of 2010. On January 15, they are due to release their sophomore album Love Sign on their own label Free Energy Records (check out the stream via Rolling Stone). “We all kind of feel like this is the future. A lot of bands are [releasing music] themselves and use their management as their record label. We were talking to a bunch of labels, and this was kind of the scarier route but also the more exciting and more challenging route. We felt like we should just go for it,” said Sprangers during a recent phone conversation.

Love Sign draws inspiration from “big ’80s rock records like, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, INXS’ Kick; and Def Leppard and the Go-Gos are in there too,” Sprangers proclaims before saying how much the ’80s ladies influenced a particular track. “The song ‘Hey Tonight’ is kind of like a Go-Gos homage; The Bangles too.” Most of the new album was written in the band’s practice space in Philadelphia where Sprangers also volunteers at an urban garden.

He lives a, well, different life than other lead vocalists and describes his past two years as “pretty relaxed, trying to get my life together. I started doing yoga and exercising and volunteering. We wrote a lot and spent a long time recording, played some shows here and there, but mostly I live a pretty simple life,” he says proudly. In his life transformation, Sprangers began “investigating where my food comes from. I stopped eating meat and am realizing how important it is to be connected to the food you consume.” He’s also become interested in reusing urban areas in constructive ways, especially influenced to do so after reading Breaking Open the Head by Daniel Pinchbeck and says, “the more I read about mushrooms and how they can support huge swaths of ecosystems, [the more interested I became]. They can remedy toxic areas and are just pretty incredible.” Another topic of interest for Sprangers: strong female musicians.

Paul Sprangers on the women (musicians) in his life…

Who are some of your favorite female musicians of all time?

“Kim Deal, Liz Phair, The Go-Gos, Technotronic, that dog., Sleater-Kinney, Christine McVie, The Pointer Sisters, Ace of Base, Santigold, The Bangles. I had a huge crush on The Bangles, as like, an entity. ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ is…just epic.

“Also another group I listen to is this group Luscious Jackson—they were on the Beach Boys label [Grand Royal]. I would listen to anything they released; they had another offshoot called Kostars, which is really good: It’s kind of like girl, singsongy but with hip-hop beats. Josephine Wigs was the bassist for the Breeders and she had a record on Grand Royal. I was [also] really into that group Azure Ray they were on Saddle Creek.”

How have these female artists inspired you and your music?

“They probably inspired me to understand music as something transcendental. As a little kid I quickly learned, pretty much entirely from the radio, that a good melody or hook can come from anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality or race.

“Kim Deal was a huge influence on me, to the point where I think she was probably the biggest influence. Later, I went back and listened to the Pixies because I was a huge Breeders fan and because Kim Deal was in the band…and that’s how I grew to love the Pixies. I think I have an affinity for melody in music, and Kim Deal is this perfect synthesis: Her voice is kind of damaged but really pretty. Her melodies were beautiful; she wrote big giant hooks, but the music production was still rough. It was this perfect synthesis of everything that was going on in indie rock in the ’90s.”

What would you recommend from Kim Deal?

Last Splash obviously is like the giant, it’s The Breeders big record. All the Pixies records, too. Pod is the first record [from The Breeders]; it’s really good it’s a different kind of like folky college rock.”

What would you recommend from other female artists?

“Liz Phair’s Whip Smart still holds up as a wild, strange psych-pop/punk-rock confessional.”

Are there any female musicians on your radar now that people should check out?

“I’m pretty out of the loop. It takes me awhile to listen to stuff, but I’ve been listening to the new Santigold record. That blew my mind, and I feel like that album [Master of My Make Believe] got let down a little bit so I raved to everybody about it. Screaming Females is sick. Matt & Kim rock hard. CSS bring the dance. Men will party-rock your mind. Leda are the new kids that are going to be huge.”

Are there any all-girl bands or female bassists, drummers, guitarists that you admire?

“Amy Klein, ex-Titus Andronicus guitarist and now frontwoman of Leda. I’m impressed with Amy, more than anything, as a person. She’s a political feminist who isn’t interested in dogma or intellectual labels and constructs. She shreds on guitar (finger tapping!!) and is able to identify and extract truth and honesty from areas that have been traditionally sexist and objectifying (rock n’ roll), which is what we try to do in Free Energy—we try to mine overlooked areas of culture for value. That includes finger tapping, cowbells, and rock lyric cliches.”

If you could collaborate with any female artist who would it be?

“Probably Enya. I’m a big fan. My mom listened to Enya when I was growing up, probably like a lot of moms, but there is absolutely nothing that sounds like her music. The production is so wild and her performances! Actually I think Enya had a big influence on me too, to be honest. That would rule—a Free Energy and Enya collaboration would be insane!”