THIS is another day where I am hopping…
all around the musical world! I am going from the U.K. to a Canadian duo that are turning heads and making an impression. Eric and Brianna are Freedom Baby. Although they play as an eight-piece, live: the core duo is the heart and bones of Freedom Baby. I ask the guys about the track, When We Go, and whether more songs are on their way. They discuss their past and musicians who have compelled them; if they are coming to the U.K. – and why Toronto is such a fervent and productive landscape.
I was curious to discover what advice they would provide upcoming songwriters; the albums that have impacted them hardest; where their name came from; why 2017 was such a crazy one – the memories (from their time in music) that stand out and resonate.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Brianna: Great! Released a song. Played a show.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
We are Freedom Baby, from Toronto, and we play Indie-Rock with some orchestral elements. Eric and I write and arrange - and we play live as an eight-piece! Woah!
Eric: Really rockin’.
Can I ask whether there is a particular story behind the name, ‘Freedom Baby’? Where does that come from?!
Man, oh man. Names suck. We spent literally two months trying to come up with a band name. We went through books, magazine and newspapers. We brainstormed about common themes that pop up in the music - and tried to find something that worked. Nothing did. One of my friends, who is this very seamlessly cool guy – like, doesn't have to try, people-gravitate-towards-him-kind-of-cool - came up with the name.
Thanks, Tyler. You’re cool.
Talk to me about When We Go and the origins of that song…
This was the first song where we kind of decided: ‘Okay, let’s not do bedroom Electro-Pop vibes: let’s try to make full-band songs that people can yell along to’.
Brianna: I think the way the song sounds - beginning soft and sweet and expanding into something much bigger - reflects the way we approached this new stuff we’ve been working on. It began with just the two of us and then grew as we decided to bring in bigger elements like horns and strings - and now I feel we have a much richer sound.
I believe it came together quickly – starting with a single instrument and building from there?! Is that the first time you have written a song that way?
Eric: I think, that’s kind of how they all start when you’re beginning the writing process. But, stylistically, this was the first for us where we had the approach of a snowball rolling down a hill getting bigger as it rolls.
There is an E.P. coming. What sort of themes and ideas do you investigate throughout?
There’s a major thread of ‘Where do I fit into this world?’ and ‘What things am I going let bring me down and what will pull me back up again?’.
Eric and Brianna. Tell me how you got together and what it was that brought you together?
Brianna: We met at a show a while back; so, I guess our connection began with music and grew from there.
Eric: Now, we’re in love...sweet, sweet love.
It seems like 2017 was a busy one where you made strides! Was it important to make those strides and transition from part-time to full-time passion?
Without giving you too much of a hockey player response; I just think that we made some huge steps and just kept our eye on the prize. We knew we had to get into the zone by the end and just made sure we had fresh skates on the ice-skating for the puck - and just kept the passes going.
What is the scene like around the Toronto area? Is Canadian music, in your view, among the best in the world right now?
I feel like I’m always a few years behind on bands, now. I love Canadian music: Wolf Parade, John K. Samson; Leonard Cohen. Canada is the greatest country in the world...next to England. But; they’re both similar. The Queen rules...
Brianna: Toronto is a great scene for music - if you find the right people to connect with. There is so much happening in this city; so it’s an inspiring place to be.
IMAGE CREDIT: Remy Boydell
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
Eric: I’ve really been digging Car Seat Headrest lately. I don’t think they need any help from me getting recognized. But, that new long song they released, Beach Death or whatever it’s called (Beach Life-in-Death), is super-great.
Brianna: A few that have stood out to me recently are Big Thief and (Sandy) Alex G. They both have a really beautiful vulnerability - and are great storytellers. Violents’ new album with Monica Martin also got my attention recently. They have some beautiful orchestral arrangements infused with Electro-Pop.
Plus, Monica Martin’s voice is from another world.
IN THIS PHOTO: Violents
If you had to choose the one album that means the most to you each; which would they be and why?
Eric: Are you crazy?! I can’t answer that question! There’s like childhood nostalgia albums, coming-of-age Punk albums; the 2000s’ Indie-Rock bloom. Give me a break! It’s like when someone asks: “What’s the best day you’ve ever lived?” As sweet as my eighth birthday party at the swimming pool with the private room and pizza party and eight of my best friends was; it’s the normal days that put the greats into perspective. We need both.
The short answer is probably ‘Fred Penner’.
Brianna: I also don’t know how I would answer that. Something that makes me feel the entire spectrum of human emotions at the same time: so, probably an album by Sufjan Stevens.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
We’re playing on March 16th at the Drake in Toronto. It’s our E.P. release-show and we’re giving away some stuff - and it’s gonna be a lovely evening.
Eric: We’re also playing in a place called Hamilton.
Do you think you might visit the U.K.?
As soon as someone says “Hey, come play in the U.K.” we’ll do it. We need a bit of money, first, and we need to see that people want us there. My mom’s from England. So, if we play Sheffield, we could definitely get nine or so relatives to a show. But, we absolutely, 100%, wanna play every pub in England.
What do you each hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
Brianna: I want to keep making music that we feel really good about - and to play to different crowds and learn from those experiences.
Eric: I’m really excited to connect with people over music. Whether it’s ours or just in general.
Have you both got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Brianna: Honestly; just singing and playing piano in my parents’ basement for hours when I was young - and realizing that it was the greatest feeling where things felt right - even if no one was listening. Getting inspired by singers, figuring out what kinds of music sparked for me. My parents have always been super-supportive of pursuing music so. I think being able to have that creative freedom and figure out what my strengths were, at a young age, is what made music a really special thing for me.
Something that I knew would always be a major part of my life.
Eric: I grew up in the North and would only come to Toronto for shows. My parents would drive me up and I’d go see Punk rock bands play at The Opera House and The Phoenix - and all these mid-size Toronto venues and I’d love it so much. Then I went a saw Against Me! and I have no idea what venue it was - maybe The Drake Underground or something smaller and dingier than what I was used to. There were no bouncers between them and the stage; there was no separation. So, people could jump up on stage whenever they wanted and I remember this shift in energy in the room - and having a ‘holy sh*t moment’ of like ‘This is the greatest moment of my life’.
I remember crowd-surfing onto the stage and singing the second verse of Rice and Bread next to (at the time) Tom Gabel, now Laura Jane Grace, and making eye contact with each other - and me completely messing up every word to the verse. Then, leaping back on top of the crowd who were all laughing at me.
I ruined the song...
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Brianna: It’s a rollercoaster; so just keep in mind why you do what you do and it will be the most rewarding!
Eric: Go to shows: small shows, big shows. Play, literally, anywhere. Do coffee shops; put yourself in situations that expose your weaknesses as an artist - and sharpen those dull points as much as you can. Lean into what makes you unique and what it is that you love doing. Don’t try to write a Pop song if that’s not what you want to do.
Brianna and I don’t care about ‘making it’ as much as we care about just doing what we love. Hopefully, other people love it, too.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Brianna: Wallowa Lake Monster - Sufjan Stevens
Eric: Against Me! - Rice and Bread. Listen to how fast that second verse is - and take pity on me for messing it up in front of my teen hero
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