A Quickie With Freelance Whales' Chuck Criss

Precious, thoughtful, whimsical and super-cute; those are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind when trying to describe the Queens, NY based quintet Freelance Whales.

A couple years ago it was easier to find these guys (and one lady) on a random subway platform busking for change than in a club be touted as the next big thing in twee pop. But after a frenzied 2009 CMJ Marathon that had them playing numerous shows each day to a feverish bunch of industry folks, Freelance Whales found a home with Frenchkiss Records where they rereleased their debut album Weathervanes to critical acclaim.

Now the band is set to return home after a month and a half on the road and will perform their biggest headline show to date at Webster Hall on December 15 with Brooklyn transplants Miniature Tigers. Multi-instrumentalist (he literally plays banjo, bass, synthesizer, glockenspiel, harmonium, acoustic and electric guitar, vocals) Chuck Criss was kind enough to give us some time for a Quickie as the band slowly finds their way back home. 

As a New York based band, what’s the benefit of playing hometown shows? I know this is an obvious answer, but sleeping in your own bed is a big benefit.  Also coming back home to the place where the band got started is a great feeling. Two and a half years ago, we were doing a lot of busking in the NY subways and playing small club shows, just meeting a lot of new fans. It's great to be back in NY and have the opportunity to play for some fans who may have caught us play when we were first getting started.

You've played a number of NYC venues over the last ten years.  What has been your most memorable experience? I remember back in 2001, we opened for J. Lo and Limp Bizkit at the Bowery.  Afterwards, Fred Durst gave me his hat and said, "Yo, keep at it kid, in 10 years, you'll be here."  At least I wish that happened.  On a more serious note, we've only been a band 2.5 years, but our most memorable venue was probably Governor's Island. It was the biggest crowd we've ever played to and we couldn't have asked for a nicer day in the middle of summer. The Morning Benders and Wild Nothing also played, so I got to fan-boy out a little too.  We capped the night off taking the ferry back with the crowd, which just made the whole thing really special.

It’s 4:00am and last call has come and gone, what’s next? Are there any speakeasies, late night eats or after party spots you frequent? By that point, I'm probably just raiding my fridge.

What is your local watering hole? Why? One of my favorite bars I like to post up at from time to time is Bar Great Harry in Brooklyn, when it's not too crowded.   It's pretty near my apartment, dog friendly, play good music, and they have a great beer selection.

The courting process is on and a major player is taking you to dinner on the AMEX Black card; where are you eating? What menu item is not to be missed? I should probably say something a little fancier, but I think I'd use that AMEX and get them to pay for a cab over to Ba Xuyen in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  I used to live around the corner from there, and it is seriously the best Vietnamese sandwich/coffee you'll ever have. 

It's the holiday season and you've got some gifts to purchase. Where's your favorite place to exercise commerce? Some stuff can be a little pricey, but I've found that museum gift shops are always a good place to start.  The things at the MOMA and the Met are especially appealing.  Socks are also a really good gift, especially if you have friends in bands.

Good or bad, have you ever had what you would describe as a quintessential New York moment? All the time. They mostly come from people watching in the subway.  I remember watching this Dad going through the alphabet with his little New Yorker kid.  It was a picture book with a corresponding letter, so A there would be a picture of an apple, etc.  Anyway, he got to the letter P, and there was a picture of some Peas, and the kid in complete sincerity exclaimed, "Edamane!" like he had never seen a Pea before.  It was pretty funny to watch.

NYC has all sorts of tourist attractions Central Park, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty to name a few.  What's the most touristy thing you've done here? My brother was in town and really wanted to go to Jekyll and Hyde uptown, which is this really kitschy tourist trap that is monster themed.  Apparently, it actually used to be kind of fun, but it was pretty awful.  It's kind of like the line in that movie Ghost World where she says "This is so bad it's gone past good and back to bad again."  In retrospect, we should have just gone to Red Lobster in Times Square haha.

Finish this sentence: New York City is the sweetest place on earth because… it's whatever you make it out to be.

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