Freelance Whales is, in many respects, this decade’s quintessential Internet band. Between the Postal Service-style laptop sounds that bedazzle their divisive debut album, Weathervanes, the Web chatter that has propelled their popularity, and the fact that frontman Judah Dadone used Craigslist to recruit band members to play all those unusual instruments he’s amassed (banjos, glockenspiels, harmoniums, etc.), it’s almost impossible to extricate them from the dot-com universe. But behind the backlit screen is a folk-rock band with tight orchestrations, clever lyrics, and a live presence that’s been developed in a strictly D.I.Y. manner (on the streets and subways of New York City, specifically). I recently spoke with drummer Jake Hyman about the band’s humble beginnings, as well as their upcoming performance at Jensen’s Mainstage this Wednesday.
What attracted you to the project? I was, like, a hard-blues and jam-band drummer before I joined. I had a lot of jazz training and lots of formal training. But what I liked about the stuff that Judah was writing was just how orchestrated it was. I kind of liked the idea of a challenge. I think I was getting a little—maybe not bored—but playing the singer/songwriter circuit and the blues circuit in New York was getting a little monotonous.
With all the electronics on the album, it’s hard to imagine you guys playing on the subway. How different does it sound? It’s pretty different. We had to rearrange all the songs a third time. So we had the original arrangement for the recordings, then we had to rearrange it for the live show, and then we had to rearrange it again for the city streets. It was definitely less of a challenge than you’d think. Things kind of flowed naturally.
What do you make of all the blog buzz surrounding your band? I’m not going to turn it down! It’s been really, really fortunate that the wave that we’re riding seems to not even be cresting yet. We try not to read too much about it. I think expectations in the beginning were really high, and I think that drove us to deliver. And now I think we’ve figured out ways to motivate ourselves.
Do you feel any of the backlash against Ben Gibbard and bands like Owl City? Well, trends are trends. I’ll try to be as politically correct as I can. It’s a trend to backlash against Ben Gibbard. And there are going to be some people that follow that trend, and there are going to be some people who go against that trend, because there’s always the culture and the counterculture. I think Ben Gibbard, in particular, is an artist that we have admired in the past and continue to admire, so we definitely don’t shun any associations. But at the same time, some people do it more cynically than others, and that’s their prerogative.
You say you try to avoid the blogs, but what’s the strangest thing you’ve seen written about the band? I have to admit, I welcomed the comparison between myself and John Bonham in the Pitchfork article. I mean it’s maybe not the strangest, but it’s definitely my favorite.
That guy also called your watering can [an accessory Hyman attaches to his drum kit] a “cutesy affectation.” Well, he definitely had an opinion on the watering can. It’s on the record. I don’t use it in the live show, and I haven’t for a long time. I used to at the very beginning. But, it’s okay, you know? I think I might have made fun of me for that, too. [Laughs.]
Freelance Whales play an all-ages show at Jensen’s Mainstage (2905 De la Vina St.) this Wednesday, May 26, at 7 p.m. with openers Watercolor Paintings. Call 563-3200 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets.