ORGAN FREEMAN are four young lads from The Wirral, comprising the unusual combination of two frontmen and two stand-up drummers. When asked to describe their sound, singer Luke Bather affectionately suggests that it is “music inspired by aliens”, which makes a surprising amount of sense if you’ve ever been to one of their shows, largely thanks to the influence of their fifth and most important member, an old Yamaha QY700 MIDI Sequencer. Resisting the urge to describe it as out of this world, their unique style of frenetic, messy, synth-infused garage rock, delivered by two of the most excitable and yelping frontmen about, will certainly sound alien to most. With no recorded content online and almost no media interaction, Organ Freeman have somehow found themselves being one of the most talked about new bands in Liverpool.
The genius is in the name. Puns, play on words, double-entendres – keep ‘em coming. Describing its conception, co-frontman Simon Gabriel explains that they had a collection of organ-based puns to choose from and this was the “best of a bad bunch”, although with the other options including Pianu Reeves, Keyboard and Kel and Bruce Forsynth you might argue otherwise. The key thing, he adds, is that it creates a “lasting impression with their audience”, which is so important in today’s local music scenes. Gigs, especially at local level are becoming increasingly busy affairs. The wealth of local bands, local venues and local promoters has meant that the headliner/support act format has been usurped by more of a showcase with five or six bands on the bill, making it even harder to achieve any lasting exposure from gigging than ever before. “We wanted to make sure people could at least associate our performances, good or bad, with a name,” explains Simon as he laments the occasions on which he has seen a good band but can’t remember who they are. The danger is that with a name like this, correlations between how many people are talking about you and how many are listening can become dangerously skewed. Cerebral Balzy, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Danananakroyd, and Mumm-Ra have all fallen victim to this, disappointing with their first and second releases as the charm of their name eventually wears off and we all forget why we liked them in the first place. For now though, Organ Freeman’s moniker has acted as an invaluable tool for their guerrilla, word of mouth style promotion, giving them the platform to express themselves to ever wider and more eclectic audiences.
Simon and Luke claim to have played Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag at every show they’ve ever done. At their show in Liverpool last month the song was the set closer and the audience screamed every word as if they had been waiting for it all evening. Wheatus covers, planned and prearranged matching outfits, and choreographed audience participation have all become synonymous with an Organ Freeman show. This very much stems from their early reputation as a ‘party band’, as their shows became more and more associated with alcohol-fuelled mayhem, a reputation Simon and the band are keen to move away from: “We got such a good response from being a positive, party based band early on, and some people can rely on that and continue to do that forever, but for us, that gets boring. We didn’t want to be expected to do something at all of our shows.” Simon and Luke go on to describe a time when a promoter enthusiastically booked them based on the premise that they would turn the show into a wild party, so in response they set up their stage as an office and played the songs at half speed and without any drums. Whilst you might argue that bands as new as this can’t afford to be so petulant, it’s nice to see a band sticking to a cause. For a new artist, reputations can be easy to earn and impossible to get rid of. Remember Be Your Own Pet? Weren’t they the ones who made themselves sick on stage at all their shows? Of course a reputation for putting on wild, fun shows is an admirable aim for many bands and even Simon admits that it has “served them well”, but something like that can so quickly be cheapened and turned into a gimmick as it starts to precede all discussion and surpass all their creative intentions. These days their shows are still the funnest and most exhilarating you’ll attend all year, but underpinning this is their desire to keep themselves and their audience moving forward. Playing with expectations perhaps more shrewdly than they might admit. they ensure that people are talking about them for the right, wrong, or indeed any reason at all, because as soon as you stop becoming a talking point then all the promotion in the world doesn’t mean a thing.
This is what drives Organ Freeman, proving that doing things differently speaks for itself without the need to tell everyone about it. The standards to which we commend live performances is alarmingly low these days, and with Lady Gaga and Katy Perry et al bringing more and more extravagance to their shows, Organ Freeman recognise that audiences’ attention spans are getting shorter so shows must become more engaging. Luke even suggests that he and the band “often go to Taylor Swift and Ke$ha concerts and take notes.” I suspect that he is only half-joking, as he clarifies that the band ultimately aim to create a new form of “DIY Pop Music and performance”, challenging the expectations of their audience with a performance that engages both their ears and their eyes, making it memorable beyond how well the songs were performed or that prick who kept talking behind you.
‘Oversaturation’ is a term that’s all too familiar with British independent music these days. I’m not suggesting that an artist can’t still excel based on some extraordinary songs, but if guitar music in Britain needs saving, it won’t be by a new three-chord chorus from The Vaccines. So perhaps an interesting and exciting live performance is what it takes to break out in 2012, and with no songs even released yet, Organ Freeman can attribute their already impressive success to almost this alone.
Simon reveals that the band have their long awaited first single recorded and ready to release in early 2013 with an album to follow. But their ambitions for the year remain firmly rooted in their live show, as they look to embrace bigger budgets and bigger ideas in an attempt to change how we feel about live performances. An ambitious aim it may be, but succeed or fail, the beauty lies in the attempt.