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Free Energy's Paul Sprangers on starting a label, pop songcraft and his band's latest, Love Sign

Power-pop party music is still Free Energy's calling card.

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Do you feel that there are any other misperceptions about Free Energy?

I think maybe — and it's partly our fault — that we let the press take the Camaro-driving, beer-swilling, mullet-dude image of us too far. Because it's certainly not our life. I mean, I've read things where people think what we do is this nihilistic party music. And that, to me, is the furthest thing from the truth. I think it's idealist music that encourages people to look at themselves and the world and try to wake up. I see it as very spiritual. I know that sounds pretentious, but I really do. That's why we make it. Everything we make is trying to celebrate the world. But we also really like smart people who make dumb things, like Will Ferrell or AC/DC. I think people who are unafraid to be dumb — I'm so inspired by them. I think they're geniuses. Whereas I'm always turned off by overly talky, dense art because it tends to indicate a self-consciousness or some kind of fear. There's an overly intellectual part of the culture that doesn't appeal to me at all. I find that the simplest things are often truest, and things that are really contrived and wordy are often hiding something. That's a generality, but I find that it applies a lot.

Are you happy with the way the new record is being received?

I'm happy that it's getting a reaction. We were just laughing — we read the worst review today. It said something like, "This is the worst piece of shit recorded in pop history." [Laughs.] But I think that's good. I think that when there's some kernel of truth in something, hopefully people respond to it and they really connect with it, or it turns them off and rubs them the wrong way and makes them really angry. But either way, it means there's something in there that's meaningful. I don't know if I had high hopes for it to be very critically acclaimed, but I'm glad the fans like it. On Twitter, you're in contact with fans, and everyone really likes it and agrees that it's better than the last one.

Yeah, I think it's better than the last one, too.

Thanks — yeah, I think it's way better, like light-years better.

But I'm not surprised that it wouldn't get an amazing critical response, because it's not a huge departure from Stuck on Nothing. It's the same general mood: fun, party-time pop.

That's a good point. I think the core of the feeling is very similar to the last one. But I think the production values and the way we perform has grown. I think the singing is stronger. The guitar playing is stronger. But, yeah, that's a good point. I agree with you. I think our story is kind of the same: What we're trying to do with our bands is this big, idealist, ambiguous, optimistic thing that we keep trying to tell in different ways, with different imagery and sounds and melodies. I think you just keep trying to tell the story you're interested in, but in slightly different ways. That's all we're really interested in doing.

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