Freelance Whales have come a long way since 2008. From being virtually unknown to becoming one of 2011’s most buzzworthy bands, the band has kept their humbleness through it all. I was able to have a short chat with Chuck Criss before the second set at Bonnaroo on Friday afternoon.
MVRemix: I watched the show yesterday and noticed a positive fan reaction. People seemed to recognize the songs.
Chuck Criss: We’ve only been a band about two and a half years, so it’s all still pretty relatively new. I think festivals are great because people are really excited to see music. It’s a great opportunity to play to a lot of fans, but also make new fans. So I hope there was a healthy mixture of the two.
MVRemix: You guys seem like a really gracious band. Your popularity kind of came out of nowhere.
Chuck Criss: Yeah, I mean it’s surreal to us to all of a sudden come to Bonnaroo. You know there’s like 7,000 people there coming to see you. It’s crazy especially when you’re making a first record. You’re making it but you don’t really know what to expect. You’re certainly not making it for a fanbase, you’re making it for yourself and you don’t really know what’s going to happen. Okay you’re hoping maybe you can pass it off to your friends and family, but maybe a few other people will check it out. That’s where our kind of graciousness comes from. We just can’t believe it. But we’ll take it.
MVRemix: Humbleness suits you guys. I did some quick internet research and found out that you guys had a song featured on One Tree Hill.
Chuck Criss: Yeah I think so, we did. We’ve had a bunch of sort of song placements.
MVRemix: Yesterday I swore I saw Sophia Bush in the audience. You know the actress that plays that one girl on the show.
Chuck Criss: To be honest I’m not totally familiar with that show. I saw a tweet from one of the actors saying he really enjoyed the set. Yeah it’s cool, I think they used our song “Broken Horse” in an episode.
[Note – The One Tree Hill actor that made the tweet was Austin Nichols, who I also saw in the crowd right behind Sophia]
MVRemix: So you guys are playing an acoustic set today?
Chuck Criss: Um yes, we are. So we did our full electric set yesterday afternoon and then today we’re doing a smaller stripped down acoustic thing. When the band was first starting out we played on subways a lot to try to make it.
Chuck Criss: Yeah busking, but I mean that’s obviously not very lucrative. It was really helpful in meeting new people. And this is a time especially in New York that it’s really hard to get people to come out to shows. So we had kind of an acoustic set going playing subways. People stopped to say, “Hi” and we’d say, “Okay we’re playing at this place tonight” or whatever. And you know that’s how we kind of had more and more people kind of come out and see us and it eventually got us signed.
MVRemix: To French Kiss?
Chuck Criss: Uh huh and another label called Mom and Pop. But yeah we’re going to do an acoustic set today at the Sonic Stage.
MVRemix: Will it be the same material as yesterday?
Chuck Criss: Um, it’s the same material but different arrangements. Obviously there’s not like a full drum kit. It’ll be more like a marching drum and then all of the acoustic instruments that were on stage yesterday. Banjo, harmonium, glockenspiel, acoustic guitar. The vocals are going to be more group harmony based and we’re going to try to project.
MVRemix: I love acoustic sets especially for outdoor festivals. It feels more natural and accessible. So is this basically the end of your spring tour?
Chuck Criss: Well, we’re not on tour right now, but we’ve been touring our first record Weathervanes for over a year now. Taking little breaks in between, but we’ve mostly been on the road during that time. It’s finally got to the point where we want to start working on a new record. So now we’re writing, but you know, can’t turn down a Bonnaroo. We drove out here for this and after this we’re going to drive back and continue writing. We have a house rented in West Hills, New York. This is our second to last show of the Weathervanes cycle. I guess our final show for Weathervanes is at the Newport Folk Festival at the end of July.
Along with having proper hydration goals, Chuck was very friendly and a great interviewee. That day alone, Freelance Whales had many media requests. While I was talking with Chuck, the other members of the band were scattered to fulfill photo shoots and other interviews with various publications.
This flurry of media attention should help to convince the naysayers that Freelance Whales are truly rocketing to new heights of recognition.