Q&A: Freelance Whales

12 Aug

By Ashley Eliot

This band of music instrumentalists share vocals, guitar, bass, synthesizer and rare instruments that prove they are talented and well-deserving of their latest recognition. Out of Queens, New York, pop/experimental act Freelance Whales, only two years in the making, have since released their first full-length album Weathervanes on Frenchkiss Records and are currently on tour with Tokyo Police Club.

Luckily, Judah Dadone (lead vocals, guitar, banjo, syntheszier and bass) of the group was able to squeeze in some time between shows to answer some questions for Everyday Noise.

Ash: Before anything, I want to know how the band name came to be and if it was truly inspired by your time in Israel.

Judah: The band name does, in fact, come from a near drowning experience that I had when I was seven, or so, in the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias. I was trying to pull a big rock up to the surface, and an old man called me a “freedom whale” in Hebrew. We like the name because of it’s figurative connotations, not it’s literal meaning.  “Freelance” suggests a self-reliant, free-wielding, autonomous vibe. “Whales” are a sort of beautiful paradox; they’re the largest mammals that God could muster, but they’re also little needles in the haystack of the ocean. You’re lucky to see one in your life. So, they’re big and small at the same time. We kinda feel the same way about the music. It feels big, at moments, but also like it might all be taking place in a small closet, or even in a music box.

Ash: The band hasn’t even been around for two years and already you’re touring with Tokyo Police Club and releasing your first full-length Weathervanes on Frenchkiss Records. What would you say is one of the reasons the band has come this far in such a short time?

Judah: The simplest reason is that we’ve been working really hard, with very clear and tangible goals. Making the record was the first of these. Then playing small stages in New York. After the winter of 2008 and 2009, we were able to start performing in public spaces around new york city, both below and above ground.  Interacting directly with people in these spaces (people who were not expecting music, but got it anyway) was probably the most important way for us to create  a sort of awareness for ourselves around New York. It’s a reminder that when you’re in the subway in New York, almost everybody does something ambitious, in some respect. We met video artists, photographers, music supervisors for television and film, and most importantly people who just wanted to listen for a bit.  All of this eventually lead to record deal offers and touring opportunities.

Ash: Weathervanes boasts songs about young love. Who is the romantic and why this theme of a longing and unobtainable love who haunts a heart-struck boy?

Judah: The themes of Weathervanes were almost entirely unintentional. I’d used dream logs for lyrical content because my father had recently passed, and it was the only form of prosaic writing that I could engage, for whatever reason. Part of the way through the writing process, I became aware of some of the themes that had surfaced, and I tried to draw them out further.

Ash: Out of all the cities the band has toured through, which one was the best time and why?

Judah: Chicago has been so good to us over the past seven months (since we started touring). It’s felt like a bit of a home away from home, not only because the crowds have been so engaged and supportive, but also because we have great friends who put us up and show us a good time. We just recently played Lollapalooza there, which is one of our proudest moments to date, and thousands of Chicagoans were there to share it with us. Washington, DC, has given us a similarly welcomed feeling. Also, San Fransisco. Also, Seattle.

Ash: Tell us about the music video for “Generator^2nd Floor” and what the band was trying to portray in it.

Judah: “Generator^2nd Floor” is our the first music video. It has us walking through a snowy field in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, performing a sort of Day of the Dead funeral ritual, eventually bringing our friend Elecia’s corpse back to life, by plugging cables into her body, and galvanizing her with music. The main theme of the song is regeneration or reincarnation.

Ash: What is one random fact about each member in the band?

Judah: Chuck’s right leg is longer than his left. Jake hasn’t shaved for five months. Doris grows zucchini, cucumbers and peppers in her back yard, in Queens. Kevin has an uncanny wolf call. I can whistle and hum at the same time. It’s somewhat annoying.

Ash: Name a few new artists that you recently are hooked on.

Judah: Listening to Best Coast quite a bit. It’s great summer listenin’. Young Man’s new homespun goodness. Bear in Heaven. Beach Boys’ Endless Summer.

Ash: Whether it was a fan or writer or friend, what has been the best description of your music that you’ve heard or read?

Judah: NME said something to the effect of “if you’re the type that likes to hear hooks blossom with the pace of an actual flower opening, you might have found a new favorite band.” That was pretty thoughtful.

Ash: “Starring” is one of my favorite songs on the album. Can you share some background on the song?

Judah: Like the other songs on Weathervanes, “Starring” was written at home in the summer of 2008. It’s probably the only moment of hifi-glitch-electro-emo on the record (yes, that’s a genre!). The lyrics are about spirits being trapped and paralyzed inside certain bodies or objects.

Ash: What’s next for the band? More music videos? More touring?

Judah: There is, absolutely, more touring to come. We’re currently in LA, on tour with Tokyo Police Club and Arkells. After this tour, we’ll be off to the UK for festivals in August and September. Then we’ll go home and get some creative work done, and hang out with family and friends. We’ll do our first headlining tour of the US and some of Canada towards the end of the year. And yes, another music video is almost finished.

Freelance Whales play tonight at the El Rey with Tokyo Police Club. This weekend the band also plays San Francisco’s Outside Lands. http://www.freelancewhales.com

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