Freedom Fuel has found happiness via their debut album that is full of creativity and one that remains truly independent.
Burning up the ether is Freedom Fuel and their current LP ‘Happy People’. With the band hailing from Finland and having been a part of the Finnish underground music scene albeit in different guises over the years, the trio that is Freedom Fuel is a fresh start for all concerned, and one that is full of optimism.
The buoyancy that surrounds the band is down to a successful debut album that has proved popular with those with a penchant for alternative indie rock but, in addition, Freedom Fuel has given the aforementioned genre a fresh perspective by incorporating a variety of influences that includes swamp blues, grunge and a touch of sludge rock, least not forgetting Freedom Fuel’s passion for experimentation where art crosses with indie-rock as their press release suggests, “…edgy garage and swampy blues stomp to lusty pop and weird cabaret”; the latter description likely referring to the gothic horror of the band’s track ‘Dirt In The Ground’. All in all, it makes for a compelling mixture and one that does not overpower to the point that the different influences sound out of sync with the general mood of alternative rock music that really is the trio’s main concern here.
With the diverse contents of ‘Happy People’ blazing a hole in the Famous Last Words (FLW) record player due to repeat rotation for the past week or so, it was time to seek out the three-piece band, Freedom Fuel, in order to find out more about them, but also to get to the bottom of the forces that drive them and their songs because their debut album has taken all by surprise in the office considering the scant information that is currently available regarding the band’s history and current plans.
After numerous leads, FLW was given the current whereabouts of Freedom Fuel who were in fine spirits once this music paper caught up with them after a recent succession of live dates and critical acclaim still ringing in their ears regarding the band’s debut album. Definitely an appropriate title for an album if ever you heard one considering Freedom Fuel’s present mood, but a title that was also influenced by another source and that being the producer, Jukka Puurula, which the band readily admit:
“Producer Jukka Puurula kept our spirits up at all times. We didn´t have to worry about anything but the music. There are always difficulties cutting some tracks, you know, and questions begin to rise such as: Why is it not going as it should go? And Who’s at fault here? But that´s part of the process.”
Once the discussion between Freedom Fuel and FLW gets underway, the trio comprising of Teemu Holttinen (vocals & guitars), Henri Fagerholm (bass) and Sami Ojala (drums) relay how they got together as a unit which “… started in December of 2014. Our previous band or you could say more of a project folded. We still wanted to continue, so we recruited a new drummer. One thing led to another, and we started to take responsibility of our own music.”
By taking ownership of the decisions concerning their own music, Freedom Fuel were in the enviable position of writing and recording the music that they truly wanted to make. The end result is the album ‘Happy People’ and one that has already been touched on in terms of the array of influences littering its contents; something of which largely comes down to the band being left alone to their own devices and therefore independent in the truest sense of the word.
“We all have slightly different musical backgrounds, so everyone adds something personal to our sound. We believe everything you ever listened to will be heard in your music in some form or another.”
An interesting response by Freedom Fuel regarding the different sources inspiring their current album, but who exactly do the band regard as influences when it came to writing and recording ‘Happy People’?
“All of them! Funny how many of our friends comment that our band sounds like some bands we’ve never seriously listened to. One of our friends said to us that we sound like The Clash. Of course I have listened to The Clash, but never like a true fan would have done.”
The debut album by Freedom Fuel was recorded last year at Magnusborg Studios in Finland, and one that recruited the aforementioned Jukka Puurula as producer. With ten songs making up the album, Freedom Fuel can certainly be proud of their work considering the brief time the entire band has been in existence together.
“The album was recorded during late May – early June 2016. We recorded it in the town of Porvoo, which is 50km east from Helsinki. The studio is called Mankku Studio and it is located inside the Magnusborg Mansion. The album was produced and engineered by Jukka Puurula, who is a well-known character in the Finnish music scene. We spent ten days recording the whole thing, and it was ten days well spent in our opinion. We consider ourselves privileged to work with a producer like Jukka, and cutting those tracks inside our very own bubble leaving the rest of the world outside. It was just us and the music!”
Sounds like the perfect existence if you’re Freedom Fuel, but what exactly provided the inspiration when writing and recording the album ‘Happy People’?
“The inspiration was, and is to get the songs out of your system, you know, to make room for the next ones. The album is a compilation of songs we have produced from the beginning (December 2014) and right up until early May 2016. We didn´t have extra songs before going to the studio. Next time we will have, but it was satisfying not to sit on the songs for too long, and to have them finished relatively quickly, and then go on and do more. Of course it’s a learning process and there are no short cuts. You just have to do the work and make mistakes.”
Who came up with the album title, and is the title referring to anything specifically?
“‘Happy People’ is a title of a song on the album, so we decided to use that. I think the album itself is pretty dark and even kind of gloomy, so the title sits quite nicely with that feeling. Genuine happiness is so rare that we think there is something suspicious in happy people. We wish people could be happier, you know, for the right reasons. But sadly it´s sort of pushed upon us by the media and especially by social media, you know, learn these three things and you´ll be happy or drink more water and you´ll reach happiness…bollocks!”
What is fast becoming apparent during the interview with FLW is the wise and honest outlook on life Freedom Fuel hold and one that is definitely in contrast with the actual mood of the band present right now because they are certainly happy people for the reasons mentioned at the beginning of our discussion. However, if there is suggestion of a darker mood in the Freedom Fuel camp, it is one that can be detected in certain of the band’s songs as the trio mention:
“‘Dirt In The Ground’ is maybe the darkest song on the album, it´s also the last song that made it on the album. It starts with a kind of folk music, like [a] choir almost [and] like a strange requiem. There is a hint of criticism towards today’s me myself and I philosophy that is going on. People tend to think that they are immortal when they are not. Other songs such as ‘MOTPFE’ is the oldest song on the album. It´s been hanging around for ages, and it didn´t quite find its form until this band. It is a strange trip to the dark corners of one’s mind. There is a personality crisis going on in there as well. One wants to join the circus but doesn´t really understand the consequences.”
Whilst we’re talking about the contents of the album ‘Happy People’, FLW refers to one song in particular, and that is ‘Leave It Behind’. The reason why attention is drawn to this track is due to the (in our opinion) weird coincidence in sound with another song recorded by the band The Call and their song ‘Let The Day Begin’. Therefore, were Freedom Fuel aware of this similarity between the songs or have the band never heard of the song or The Call?
“We had absolutely no idea that such [a] song or band existed. But yeah, similarity is hurting my ears. Then again, these things happen when you´re making music in the playground that has existed for 60+ years.”
Who was responsible for the artwork for the album cover?
“We had an idea about the cover with the hands on the other side and faces on the other,” Freedom Fuel explain. “We took some photos with the legendary photographer Risto Vuorimies who took some amazing shots back in the seventies and eighties and still does an amazing job. Then we got in touch with an insane (very gifted) graphic designer Maria “Bifu” Ahonen who is very talented and had all sorts of weird and cool ideas. She put all this material and ideas together, and we are very pleased with the outcome.”
Are there three things that Freedom Fuel can never be without?
“Music, love and each other.”
How do you feel about the alternative music scene in Finland, and where do you see Freedom Fuel in such a scene?
“The music scene in Finland is huge. From the mainstream to the underground with hundreds of bands and artists. However, the number of venues and rock clubs are limited. We seem to be a bit odd (in relation to how the public view our music), not being so easily swallowed. We always try our best and really take shows for real. We are more of a thinking man’s rock band, or we would like to be. There’s always a fine line between being a rock act you have witnessed thousands of times, or try to do something special, of course that can go south too!”
Is there anything in particular that you’re trying to communicate through your music or is it more about just having fun?
“Making music should always be fun. We are trying to deliver that to the listeners. At the same time we are trying to make music that makes you stop and think. Concentrate. Stop for a while and listen.”
What’s next for Freedom Fuel?
“More song writing and concentrating on that really. That´s the main goal, to have a bunch of good songs to record. Maybe we will get enough songs to make another album in 2018. Of course we’re trying to do as many live shows as we can because the true rock ‘n’ roll is made on the road.”
Do you have any final words of the day?
“Listen to the music. Love. Breathe. Concentrate. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Freedom Fuel has already shown the way that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that comes via the entire contents of their debut album ‘Happy People’. Grab a copy while it’s still hot as you will not be disappointed, especially if you like alternative rock music with a difference from a band willing to experiment and remain honest in their approach to their song writing, which is quite a rare commodity these days. Full marks indeed.
(Live photography courtesy of Freedom Fuel Fans. Main band image by Risto Vuorimies)
Genuine happiness is so rare that we think there is something suspicious in happy people. We wish people could be happier, you know, for the right reasons. But sadly it´s sort of pushed upon us by the media and especially by social media..."
FLW - From the Tapes
Truly weird goings on in the middle of the night, and during the middle of the day, when Freedom Fuel got to work on their debut album ‘Happy People’.
“The funniest and the strangest things that have happened to us as a band are weirdly sort of the same thing. For example, we were rehearsing for the album session in our rehearsal room during one dark winters night. During one of our breaks, we were having a smoke outside and all of a sudden, out of the blizzard, in walks a strange character with a cigar hanging between his lips and wings on his back! So we lit the man’s cigar and all he said was, ‘Yes’, and disappeared in the night. We were really overwhelmed by all of that, and the song that we were rehearsing came together. Later, during the early summer, we were recording ‘Happy People’ and we had some difficulties with one track. Anyway, the day was turning in to night and we were again having a smoke outside. We had bit of an argument about how we should tame the beast (the song in question). Then from the darkness in walks a guy with a cigar and wings on his back. We were stunned to put it mildly, but couldn´t say a word. We lit the guy’s cigar and all he said was ‘Go’. Needless to say he disappeared into the darkness. Again, we kind of felt his words and had no difficulties cutting the track the next day. Therefore, it’s pretty funny and strange how random things can influence what you do.”