Nonstop Sound
The music of New York

Getting Technical with Free Spirit

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Getting Technical with Free Spirit

We brought you a glimpse of Brooklyn ambient chance-music duo Free Spirit recently, really enjoying the way the multimedia project answered the questions of an empty room. Today, they sent us the new video they cut for their track "We All Fall" - watch it right here.

Free Spirit - We All Fall from Free Spirit on Vimeo.

Below, the group's members each give some very thoughtful comments to very specific questions we had.

Nonstop SoundIf you approach this project with little to no expectation, how does anything get made?

Michael McGregor: Expectation isn't really why anything gets made, in our opinion. In turn, with Free Spirit, things aren't necessarily made, rather conjured from particular moments during which we, Jonah and myself, as well as anyone who has stepped into our sphere, happen to come together in the group-mind and channel melodies, phrases and tonalities that are as much a part of the eternal Earth song as they are from any particular human. Things are not planned, rather dealt with along the way. Each phrase a sign giving you possible directions to the next town, so to speak.

Jonah Maurer: When we play or listen back to our jams we are comparing them to the jams we have cut up in the past. These days certain jams that might have blown our minds last year are passed over for catchier jams. Because of our lack of experience, the jams when we started playing together were weirder and more experimental. The final answer is that these days it is a little harder to get things made, because we expect to make something prettier or catchier or different than what we've done before, and when we started we expected nothing at all.

NS: What types of constraints do you work with? It seems to me, without limiting yourselves, things would sound often disparate.

MM: Whatever the moment calls for, and finds us with, we roll with it. If you got lemons, make lemonade. If you got limes, it's lime-ade time!

JM: One of our major constraints has been our musical training, in that we never had any. That was the key in making the very sparse, weird, accidental music that we began making. Another was our equipment and our support. We began playing with just one very small, sampling keyboard and a guitar, and we never recorded overdubs. We would jam for hours, cut it up later and those would be the songs. Every Free Spirit song ever was completed in exactly the amount of time the song is, or that and an hour. Any more time than that and we're worried it would feel planned or ingenuine.

NS: What relation does living in such density have to the way you listen to, compose, and perform music?

MM: Hard to say, though stacked urban living may have contributed to the full-spectrum panoramic quest many Free Spirit visions tap in to. We like to stretch things out, feel them out, and see where they run on their own. Often they like to spread themselves out over vast distances, and that's just fine for us. It probably helps that from my window and Jonah's roof all you can see is vast sky and La Guardia flight patterns. No skyscrapers, no luxury condos, just pure sky, which gives a nice duality to typical city living.

JM: In terms of the density of the over saturated media-world we live in, I think it has inspired us to make very patient music. Before Free Spirit, neither of us had ever even considered making music that sounds like this. One of us had never even ever listened to any type of ambient music, and John Fahey was about the only instrumental music he had ever explored. When we began we felt like we were making music unlike any other music we had ever heard before. It felt like this bubble we lived in, where we were music pioneers, stood completely apart from the dense world of music we were used to. For ourselves we have lifted the pressures of "a band" by not worrying about releases or live performances. Deciding that this is a home recording project and outlet for ourselves alone removes the feeling of living in a dense world when we play.

NS: Who are your favorite filmmakers? What is it you admire about the visual signature carried by filmmakers like the Cohen Brothers, David Cronenburg, David Lynch and similarly stark-surreal directors?

MM: We are both really into Hayao Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli films. We find a lot of inspiration in his visual aesthetic, especially in films like "Castle in the Sky." I think we both, and we've never talked about this, want to live in Laputa, but I might be making that up. Free Spirit music is, unintentionally, made for places like Laputa. Places we want to go, places we dream about, which subconsciously inhabit our mind state and then, in turn, the sounds we craft. Jonah just watched "The Sopranos," which is my favorite show ever, and I think we found a lot of visual influence from David Chase's use of characters, psychiatry and sense of natural wonder, which despite the show taking place in New Jersey, is full of beautiful forestry.

JM: What we admire most about the Cohen brothers, Cronenburg and Miyazaki is the beautiful and peaceful cinematography. The simplicity and space and beauty in most of their movies is inspiring, in our lives and our music. The silences and space between the music in these movies are also very inspiring. We would love to score films, though we have no idea how that process would work for us.

NS: How do you think multimedia asserts itself into the life of an artist in 2011? What role does convergence play in how you think of composition and distribution?

MM: Hard to say, though for us, who don't really care about putting out records or playing shows, or really doing anything with our music. To us, it just makes sense. What else would we do? Spam a million blogs and small record labels until one of them starts getting buzzy. That's lame. We'd rather just post it up and if anyone wants a gander, they are glad to indulge.

JM: In a sense, the philosophy is therapy. Paralyzed by the daunting task of songwriting and filmmaking, Free Spirit allows us to therapeutically produce without thought. Just as there is comfort in being able to share with a stranger in therapy, we feel comfort in knowing that we aren't talented or trained musicians/filmmakers. There's a comfort in knowing that when we jam it's going to sound bad a lot of the time. It's much more about experimenting with each other than being artists. When we create something we love, it's as if by accident. In the same way we decide to share our beautiful musical accidents, we look at video footage we shoot in our lives and decide we should share those, and why not combine! It's just a therapeutic way to feed our video-editing craves.

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