Artist interview with Paul Sprangers (Free Energy)

A couple months ago, I was lucky enough to see Free Energy open up for Titus Andronicus at Metro in Chicago (here‘s my show review!) Their live performance rocked pretty hard, so I checked out their album the next day. Stuck on Nothing is easily one of the most fun albums of the year.

When I heard they were coming back to town with Foxy Shazam (who has since had to back out of its tour), I knew I wouldn’t miss them for anything. So, here now is an interview I was fortunate enough to do with Free Energy’s frontman, Paul Sprangers!

Josh Terzino: You guys have a name that suits you so well. I’d have a hard time believing you were called something else. How did you decide on Free Energy and how does the name shape your attitude toward making music?

Paul Sprangers: the name really came from the song. the song came first, then we named
the band. the name seems to accommodate the spirit of the band, and as we grow
it seems to fit even better.

JT: What did you learn from the dissolution of Hockey (Night)? — my mistake!

PS: the band was hockey night!! not to be mistaken with “hockey.” learned so much it could fill a book. but the main things are: go slow. take baby steps. and don’t be afraid to leave/end relationships after you’ve tried everything and they just aren’t working. also, practice alot [sic]. don’t just tour.

JT: You moved from Minnesota to Philadelphia after Hockey Night ended. Why was Philadelphia the place for you?

PS: geoff, our rhythm guitar player, lived there. he showed us around. he had friends there. we needed to be a bus ride away from dfa so we could finish mixing and recording the record. it turned to be amazing. we’ve met so many incredible people and bands.

JT: You guys hooked up with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and his label, DFA. What kind of help did James provide you with?

PS: he helped us streamline how we record–he insisted that we commit to ideas and melodies and execute them as efficiently as possible. He also encouraged us to do whatever we felt–not be worried if ideas were cool. just do what sounds good. he fits sounds together like a puzzle. this is a method that is rarely employed by people making records.

JT: When I saw your live show opening for Titus Andronicus, a lot of things went through my head. The one that’s stuck with me is the comparison to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as performed by The Stooges. You obviously have a lot of ’70s influences. What bands do you think influenced your sound most?

PS: that’s interesting. we definitely love petty, not so much the stooges. no one band influenced our sound. the songs are little universes made up of different musical planets. all the influences and references kind of orbit around each other. thin lizzy and fleetwood mac and bob seger are big. but right now we listen to george michael, and little feat, and endless boogie, and peter gabriel and the scorpions and late rolling stones. the next record is gonna be a doozy.

JT: Stuck On Nothing came out back in May, and you’ve been touring with Titus Andronicus, Best Coast, and you’ll be doing some shows with Weezer in, I think, December. What kinds of things do you look for when you see these other bands perform?

PS: i always learn from every band we play with. i watch how they perform live. i listen to what they say between songs. i watch how they conduct themselves off-stage. i see what color m&ms they ask for on their riders. i try to observe and learn from as much as i can. and i have learned a SHIT ton this past year. it’s incredible. it’s been actual rock school.

JT: Rolling Stone named you a top ten new band for 2010. What kind of pressure does that put on you, or do you not pay attention to things like that?

PS: we pay attention, but it doesn’t mean anything super practical. nothing magical happens when you get those things. they’re nice. but they don’t mean millions of people come see you. you still have to keep working every day to be the greatest band ever, and go out and try to play an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime shows every night. at least that’s what we try to do.

JT: Have you guys started writing the next Free Energy album? If so, is it going in a new direction or remaining true to Stuck on Nothing?

PS: writing right now. we have a lot of demos. we’re working on a lot more demos in dec and january. it’s going to be different, but still very melodic with giant hooks everywhere. stay tuned!!

So there you have it. Go pick up Stuck on Nothing and grab some tickets for their show this Friday at Lincoln Hall! Ticket info below.


  • Free Energy hails from Philadelphia. The band is: Scott Wells (lead guitar), Paul Sprangers (vocals), Evan Wells (bass), Geoff Bucknam (rhythm guitar), Nick Shuminksy (drums).
  • They’ll be performing Friday at Lincoln Hall with Hollerado and Village. Tickets are $12 ($14 at door).
  • Stuck on Nothing is available on iTunes for $5.99.

“Free Energy” official music video

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About joshterzino

Thank you, Chicago. Your population is as kind and warmhearted as I could hope for in a metropolis. The music, the food, the's everything a person could possibly want in a city they call home. I will forever be in your debt, Chicago. Let me know if you ever need anything.
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