By Jess Goulart
Photo courtesy of Free Time
The jangly indie-rock band Free Time was born of two worlds; Melbourne, Australia’s coastal shores and the infinite buzz of New York City. That beach/cosmopolitan dichotomy reflects in the foursome’s unique blend of mellow fuzz riffs, caffeinated pop beats, and playful reverb.
Dion Nania, Adrienne Humblet, Michael Mimoun and Jonah Maurer released their first project on April 5, 2014, the self-titled LP exploring love in exile and a unified Europe through smoothly layered vocals and inviting compositions. Their M.O.? “Come for the smile, and stay a while.”
BTR caught up with Dion Nania to chat about transcontinental commuting and reggae.
What are your backgrounds as musicians? What brought you all together?
We’d all played in various bands prior to free time, me for a bit longer, being older. We are all more or less self-taught, I think, at least in the instruments we play in the band. It was mostly these other bands that brought us together, Mike and I played together in one, and Jonah and I were each in separate other bands that went on a long tour together.
Have you always been listening to this kind of music? What are some of your major influences?
I have for a fair while I guess. My main previous band, Panel of Judges, is not a million miles away from Free Time, genre-wise, so maybe I’m just coasting along on a course set a long time ago. So these days the only time I would really think about incorporating the influence of something is if I try something like the slight reggae vibe on the song “It’s Alright”.
The Free Time LP is your first album, right? What inspired it?
Yep, it’s our first album. A lot of the subject matter derives from that period of my life arriving in New York, but also going back to Melbourne a fair bit, and the effects of this on my relationships to people and things like this. I’m not married to the idea of autobiographical songs though by any means. “Unified Europe” is an attempt at a lyrical riff on “Diary of Madman” by Gogol, which Galaxie 500 also did, I’m guessing, with their song “King of Spain”. But it’s just a starting point for an ultimately abstract little piece.
Any particular vibe you’re going for?
Not in an overall sense, but often from song to song. Then because of the things all the songs have in common, like being played by the same people, recorded in a particular place at a particular time, an overall vibe emerges. But I feel better trying to keep a tight focus on each song rather than zooming out to consider the overall vibe.
Any songs especially close to your heart?
I would say that “Nothin’ But Nice” is the one where most often, while performing it live, I re-experience, in a different and limited way, the emotions and thoughts that were swirling around as I wrote it.
What is the writing process like for your music? Does it just happen organically? Are you the main songwriter, and then you bring it to the others?
It’s getting to the point now, with new stuff that probably won’t come out for a while, where the only thing I do that no one else does is write lyrics, but historically it has been the case that I write the song and then bring it to the group. At the very start I had some tunes with all the parts written, but that soon began to change, and now I know if I don’t have something strong for a particular part then the player in question will provide something excellent.
Album art for Free Time LP
When do you feel most creatively inspired? Any particularly creative/inspired moments stand out in your memory for the Free Time LP?
During the day mostly, sitting alone in my sunny apartment. There are a lot of highlights along the road to the finished product, but I guess it’s not all good times, especially when working on a sad song. I remember coming up with the hooky riff from “Nothin’ But Nice” in a dank and chilly room in East Brunswick, and running that loop over and over in a kind of self-indulgent sad-sack way.
What was the recording process like for the Free Time LP? Who recorded/produced it?
We did the first batch (5 songs or so) at Rearhouse studio, in Brooklyn (in one day), with Jarvis Taveniere, then I mixed those with Jack Farley at Transient studio, in Melbourne. Also some overdubs with Jack there, as well as a couple piano overdubs at Little Gold studio in Melbourne. Then soon after returning to New York from that particular trip home we recorded and mixed “Nothin’ But Nice” and “I Lost Again” with Jarvis. Then maybe Jonah went away for a bit, and when he came back we hastily learnt and recorded “It’s Alright,” and that was it. I guess I would attribute production to the band.
“World Without Love” has a fun little intro, and kind of a unique sound as compared to the other songs on the LP, can you tell me about that?
That was one where I recorded some guitars in a loop at home, then did the overdubs (just vocals, and recorder by Julie Burleigh) with J. Farley in Melbourne, so neither Jarvis nor the rest of the band had a hand in that one. It’s the only track on the album done in that way. Maybe it reflects an approach where I’m not super concerned to capture our live show but just want to collate the best album we can with whatever we have. Having said that, we’d hardly played live prior to making the album so of course that was not gonna be a major thing shaping how we went about constituting the LP.