Student loans. No hopes of a mortgage. Rent to pay. Shit wages. We all want a bit of free money. They might not be the answer to all of our prayers but East London’s take on Free Money are certainly offering a helping hand.
More and more bands are getting a name for themselves with near-to-no tracks under their belts. Remember when Superfood’s name was everywhere despite playing one show and having nothing online? Getting the right formula is vital. Look at the recent Threatin ‘scandal’. He conned the whole industry and is now getting mentions from the people every musician dreams about.
Free Money are far from a scam, but they’ve cracked the formula. They’ve released only three tracks as their current line-up, and have already received national airplay on BBC Radio 1 and Radio X. With the mentions across the music hotspots of the internet adding up, the banker hype is far from crashing.
Their debut EP is due out later this month, so as they play across London, Gigslutz caught up with the band before their set at Communion’s show at Notting Hill Arts Club.
With the changes in the line-up and sound, talk goes straight to explaining what’s new. “I came late to the party,” drummer George La Page laughs before passing the question to the others.
After attending Kingston Art School for an Art Foundation course, they decided to start making music. “We were playing for a while but our original drummer left, so we were left wondering ‘what are we going to do?’ and we even questioned whether to carry on as a band,” guitarist Sam Chapman explains.
After trying to push the idea about meeting through a dating app for musicians, it’s soon clear it wasn’t as awkward as a first-date through Tinder.
“We met at The Finsbury,” he adds. “It was before we got the deal with Communion and Buff [Records], so it was really on the knife edge. George appeared just at the right time and we knew that was what’s going to take the band forward. It brought us back together.”
Mutters of “big moment” echo around the table before talk moves to their new start. Free Money have been around since 2016, and even with two years of experience under their belts, the new line-up didn’t call for a repeat of the past.
Sam continues: “We were in a limbo when George started. It’s a different band, not in terms of members, but with what we’re doing. It’s a different approach, and everything’s more considered. We’ve been working to get to where we are and now we’re happy with it.”
An unexpected shout of “wisdom” comes from bassist Charlie Pelling. They’ve already had a go at being in a band and know what to expect. Now’s the time to know exactly what they want to do with their music.
The new direction happened because of their lack of a physical drummer, meaning their only option was a drum machine. As a three-piece they “programmed a lot to counter the lack of ‘the boy’”, Charlie explains.
“It opened a few doors sonically,” he adds before vocalist and guitarist Harry Edwards takes over. “It got more electronic because that’s what we were forced to do, but we definitely embraced it. George is able to play like a drum machine anyway.”
“I am a cyborg,” George jokes, before adding he’s the human incarnation of Ableton. Having to rely on programming made the group “more productive”, in Sam’s words: “It got dancier. Four-to-the-floor. More driving. More pop.” Or, just “less shambolic”, put simply by Harry.
“Our first shows were fucking shambolic. People would be getting pissed and it was all about the energy. We were at these shows with people standing on the drum kit naked, and more stupid stuff. We can’t get rid of that though. It’s still rough around the edges but has an extra charm to it.”
The band’s marketing has gone to a new extreme, from formal written invites to open an account at the bank, to offering the chance to WhatsApp a ‘bank ambassador’. Though, they admit, it all began as a piss-take.
“There were a few in-jokes about the idea of being a bank that doesn’t bank in money, but in good times and joy, and the capitalist exception to all these things,” Sam explains after they go round one-by-one asking each other what the bank was. “It was a piss-take that we rolled with as things can be a bit shit in London and generally. Then after a while we thought ‘You know what? Maybe this should be how everything ties together’.”
Their offer to contact the bank ambassadors, AKA the band, didn’t come without a few hiccups. “We get weird messages all the time now,” Harry laughs off, before admitting most the messages are spam or asking for money.
Scroll down their Facebook timeline and the comments asking for money or offering some freebies are rife, but the messages they receive are starting to become an issue.
“We get about 10 a day of people saying things like ‘Please help me! I need £10,000 to pay for my tuition fees’,” Sam jokes before admitting it does get really sad.
“We have no money ourselves!” George interjects. “We’ve had to make a copy and paste response that’s like ‘I’m really sorry, this is a hard situation, but we’re just musicians. This it’s just the name of our band’.”
Despite a few hiccups along the way, Free Money are on track with releasing their upcoming eponymous EP. The release is the first collaboration between Dan White’s (Tribes) label Buff Records and Communion.
They met Dan through a friend, and sparks were flying from the offset. Harry adds: “He wanted to record us so we did some stuff together and it was just a dreamy little relationship that just worked.” There are no negative words shared, with George happily confessing: “We like Dan. We love Dan.”
The great working relationship both Free Money and Buff Records have is constantly working in their favour, with White being a major part of their creative process. “He’s our sounding board really. He’s the first port of call when you’ve got a new idea,” Sam explains.
His previous work in music and existing contacts came into use when founding the additional relationship with Communion. Home to Lucy Rose, Catfish & the Bottlemen and Twin Peaks, the label had the impact the band were after when releasing their first EP.
“They’re artist-friendly and super genuine people,” Harry puts simply, with George adding: “Right now, it’s great. It’s positive.”
Free Money have released three tracks so far this year and have all three featuring on the upcoming EP. ‘Up In The Sky’ was the first to be shared, and reminisces back to the indie-clatter of La Shark, whilst the complimenting ‘U Got Me’ and ‘I Got U’ are the alter-ego 80s throwbacks.
Their writing process is “one of the most collaborative you could get”, says Harry. Sam continues: “We don’t write a song, and then hash it out. Instead we record the demos as we go, while we’re in the room together. It’s not something that develops over time. We’ll just write a song in a day and then it’s done. If we go away to the countryside for a whole weekend, anything less than two songs feels like it failed.”
A perfect example is the duo ‘U Got Me’ and ‘I Got U’. They were written back-to-back, and each influenced the other. “They somehow got linked,” says Charlie. “They just follow the same theme of getting over big changes. That’s generally our vibe. That’s what we we’re trying to get across – don’t wallow in it and just crack on.”
As well as creating their scripted banking persona online, they’re creating their theatrical on-stage personas. Think back to 1984 David Byrne in Stop Making Sense, walking on stage with a huge cassette player to play ‘Psycho Killer’ acoustically. Does it make sense? Of course not, it’s in the name.
Their roots in performance go back to university, with all four being creative and not wanting their shows to be “purely audial”. They bring up Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne’s escapades in a zorb ball and Arcade Fire playing in a boxing ring at Wembley. Though music played the ‘traditional’ way live does work, being more creative is “just the way we wanna do it”, states Sam.
For the next few months, their EP and live shows are their main focus. Their fake phones and confetti bank notes are even venturing outside the capital, with a definite answer of Leeds in the new year and a promise of Brum and George’s hometown of Guernsey given.
Open an account at the Bank of Free Money for joy, acceptance and optimism. You really can bank on them.
The Free Money EP will be released on November 23 through Buff Records / Communion.
Free Money play:
6 – Sebright Arms, London