As a french dude, Springfield only rings out for me as the city of the Simpsons, even though every state may have a town named like this. Now, Springfield, Missouri is the homeland of Free At Last a band that put out an EP on Dog Years record in 2013 and a tape on Mosher’s Delight in 2014, which I dig a lot.
Putting this interview all together was kind of tricky, because we did it through Skype, missed each other a few times and finally, when it was like 4a.m for me and 10p.m for him, I suppose, we caught each other while we were up. I got to say, I still prefer this kind of interviews than e-mail exchanges, and I’m glad how this one went on.
Basically, I was in front of my computer, barrely awake, trying to figure out how Skype was working, because I don’t use it that much, and how the recorder was working because of no reseasons, because I know how it works but not this time apparently. As fromentioned, the band is from Springfield but Josh lives in Ozark, which I never heard of and made me realise I shouldn’t have slept during my geography classes, he’s 19 years old and sings for Free At Last, and what bugged me first was the thoughts behind the lyrics.
Johsua : “It’s been a work in progress, because I guess I’ve been writing for about four years. I have an affinity for really in-depths (or less direct) writers — lyricists, if you will. People that write really deep things like Skip from Turning Point […] but honestly, on another note, I draw inspiration from a lot of things unrelated to hardcore.. Like the band She&Him; that’s my favorite band. I know it sounds funny but I get a lot of inspiration from her and that band. Or band like the Modern Lovers, things that get little more deeper, because I think a lot of hardcore bands are very straight to the point, and I like that, but I want to try giving something out that has people, you know, thinking.”
And for me his band sounds a lot like this nineties Youth Crew bands turning into emo, like the late Turning Point and the bands after it which Skip played in or even Outspoken (not really turning into emo, but you get the idea about in depth lyrics). Or even Swiz, not Youth Crew at all, but again, in depth lyrics.
J : “I think Hardcore can be easy to define. People try to find the easiest way to sum things up and I’m guilty of that too. I wanted Free At Last to be inspired initially by Youth Crew bands but I also want to explore other things, how I like it. I know this sounds pretentious but I think it’s what we’re trying to do with Free At Last, to not think about it like “a Youth Crew with good riffs”, but an expression.”
They did a small tour this winter, and there’s some recording for the near future. The last one they did was put out on Mosher’s Delight Records.
J : “I met Zack at This Is Hardcore two years ago, kept in touch here and there and he listened to our stuff and liked it. After our West Coast tour he asked us to put out our next recording on the label. It’s was a cool opportunity because I love the bands on the roster, like Fury and Unified Right, and him and John are cool people to work with.”
Free At Last exists for four years now.
J : “The first person that I met in Free At Last was Mason (guitar player, brother of Chandler plays guitar too) when I was twelve (!) and whatever age different that was, I was in sixth grade, in art class and he was the tutor of this art class and he noticed I was drawing band related stuff, so we started talking, and I went to a show few years later and saw him and it was kind of a snowballed together from there; I met everyone then. All of us except for one graduated from the same high school. Springfield (and Ozark, for this sake) is kind of small anyway.”
Being as young as he was when he met Mason, I wondered how and when he discovered Hardcore punk, because when I was twelve, I barrely listened to entry-level neo metal, or at least super reknown punk bands like The Clash or Sex Pistols, but nothing fancy. Maybe he was the new Freddy Cricien ? Weird comparison, don’t blame me, but it’s exactly what I thought at this moment.
J : “I discovered Hardcore Punk when I was in seventh grade, thirteen or fourteen, there was this Christian venue in Springfield called Sparrows and there were Hardcore bands and all, not only Christian bands. And my mother was taking my brother there one day. I had already started listening to what my brother was listening to, so I asked my mother to tag along. She asked me if I was sure, and I had nothing else to do, so I went there and it was crazy. I can’t remember the bands on that show but people started running around in circle.. I was really confused yet it was also was really exciting. There were a lot of people into these bands playing fast music. From that point forward I found more music by just looking at the tee shirts of the people and I was searching on Myspace, Last.fm, Blogs whatever.”
It’s like a reference from the past, Myspace, and it’s funny how I can see myself in this, because I also used to search bands through this website like a lunatic, and how it became a medium for bands to be reknown. Sadly, it also rung the death of physical media, even though there’s still a lot of people buying vinyls, tapes or even CDs. Yeah, I buy CD, I’m not ashamed. But look how funny we are, young’uns, talking about how Myspace was old school stuff and how it was hard to find bands through there, while inthe eighties/nineties, you had to rip up things or borrow them.
Christian venues in the United States always amazed me because you can’t do that in France, or in Europe in general I think.
J : ” Christianity is more traditional here. I’m not Christian per se, I don’t go to church, I don’t practice it. But it usually happens like a church has a stage, and a microphone for, you know, the service, and I assume there’s also worship bands playing there. I think it turned into venues because of that setup being one, and also I’ve noticed that there’s less precautions to take, there’s less money involved, handled differently. It’s an easiest way to have a show because it’s already there you know.”
We finally discussed about the tape they released this year and finished the interview more or less here. Well we talked about his OG shirt collection and how important they are, and he got a great collection if you ask me, like some real OG Youth Crew pieces. He’s always searching for new merch as well as everything and anything Turning Point among other things, if you can hook a brother up.
J : “What’s Inside Four Walls is basically a reflexion about my senior year in high school. Around here it’s easy to think about having a little life and being stuck with it. At first it was called Stuck Inside Four Walls, but hearing “Free At Last – Stuck Inside Four Walls” seemed like a contradicting play on words. It’s about how people just will come home from school or work and sit in front of their TVs and say everything sucks or everything’s bad but in fact it’s not that bad, they just limit themselves, they cage themselves. […] My parents don’t understand why I’d tour instead of only working.. But whatever they say doesn’t discourage me. It’s like it’s right to cage themselves, to cage everything and live in absolute certainty. I know a lot of people hating things and they don’t know why they hate them and unfortunately I take that on and think about it. For example, there’s a lot of people around here that are homophobic, and it’s so wrong, just because they don’t know the world surrounding them and listen to the traditions around here. Like people saying you don’t want to wear tight black jeans because you don’t want to look gay, but I think there’s nothing wrong about being gay. People are so affraid of any sort of progression and change in any way. Nothing changes when you live in fear, it’s okay to take risks and explore, it’s okay to mess up. Playing life is okay, being wrong is being a person. I know that may be hard to follow but that’s what was on my mind when I was writing those lyrics.”
Thank you for your time and patience Josh.