The main message we want to send is just to be happy in this life; you don’t know if you’ll get another one.
The question of art imitating life, or vice versa, has been pondered on by many, tackled by few, but answered by none. If there is one truth to it all, it is that life and art intertwine with each other in the most unexpected ways. Just ask Bruce Driscoll who, in 2011, met French stylist Marie Seyrat on the set of one of his music videos (at the time, he was in the band Blondfire with his sister Erica, who Atwood Magazine chatted with a few weeks ago). Marie showed Bruce a video of her singing, and fast forward a few years Bruce and Marie are married and have found success as the duo Freedom Fry.
Since releasing their first EP, Let the Games Begin, in 2011, Freedom Fry’s music has been featured on hit TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Bones, and Netflix’s Love, and they have reached an impressive 10 million streams on SoundCloud and Spotify combined. Their music is as original as their name, mixing various genres and even different languages sometimes. Atwood Magazine got the opportunity to chat with the pair just before they left for their tour with Madewell. We spoke about how their different cultures influence their music, their songwriting process, music and politics, the influence of the internet on the rise of new artists, and their amazing new single “Shaky Ground”, which makes you want to dance and spreads positivity to everyone that listens to it. See what Bruce and Marie had to say below, and be sure to check them out on tour.
Watch: “Shaky Ground” – Freedom Fry
Atwood Magazine: Hey Freedom Fry! How are you?
Both: Hi! We’re good, getting ready because we leave tomorrow for the tour we’re doing with Madewell.
You guys have two different cultural backgrounds. What are your main musical influences growing up and how do you balance between the French and American influence in your own music?
Bruce: Growing up in Michigan, it’s funny because, I don’t know why, but I feel like all my family was listening to a lot of British music for some reason. A lot of ’80s new wave like The Smiths, Echo and The Bunnymen, New Order… So that is kind of my background. I don’t know if there is a specific Michigan sound, but if there is, it’s not what I do specifically.
Marie: My dad would listen to a lot of Americana or American rock music like The Eagles, Dire Straits. That’s what was blasting in the car and in the house on a Saturday morning in the living room. I kind of listened to that, but also a mix of French ’80s music. And later I was a really big fan of more ’70s French and American music, that’s really what I gravitate towards.
Bruce: I feel like where we find our middle ground is on that ’70s influence that French bands seem to gravitate to, the kind of danceable songs that aren’t too synthetic. So we try and make organic music that you can dance to.
We try and make organic music that you can dance to.
You have songs in English and in French - how do you decide what song will be in which language? And when do you deem it should be in both languages, like “Shaky Ground” is?
Marie: We write in English mostly.
Bruce: Yeah, if there’s something that has a kind of retro feel and seems like it would work in French, I’ll usually give it to Marie and she tells me if she thinks it will sound cool or not. It’s funny because she tends to hesitate to write in French on a lot of the music that we make.
Marie: I have always listened to songs in English for some reason so that’s why I think I like that better. It was what I listened to on the radio growing up, and it’s what I think sounded cooler. I prefer English, but I do like French on simpler, more retro, acoustic songs.
Bruce: On “Shaky Ground” – I don’t know why it ended up working in French so well. It’s funny because we have a different thing on that song, you kind of have the perspective of both of us, the verse in English coming from me, and the French coming from her in the pre-chorus. It’s cool, it’s a duet between two different nationalities.
Marie: I think it works for the French radio and people.
Do you think Paris or LA inspires the both of you more?
Bruce: Oh, man. I think in our music you find more LA. The more sunshine, ’70s vibe, layered vocals, how we use reverb and our chord progressions, it’s kind of that more ethereal, warm sound. But I do think there always is a bit of a French touch.
Marie: There are some songs, especially a song on our vinyl called “Some Way”, which are definitely more french. We write both, but generally our sound is more LA.
What is your songwriting process like?
Bruce: It’s always different when we write songs, but most of the time it starts with one of us humming a melody that is recorded on our iPhone then if we’re excited enough about it, sometimes we’ll just run out to the studio (we have a recording studio at the back of our house) and try to find the right rhythm for that melody, and if we have a title we’ll start mumbling some words until we find a good meaning or good lines, and we piece together the track bit by bit.
So, your studio is in your house?
Bruce: Yeah, it’s in the back. When we moved in there was a kind of old shed, so we put some new wood back there so it was more soundproof and then put everything in there. It’s how we like to work, everything is just ready to go.
Marie: When we have to rehearse we can just come here, and I feel like it brings the best out of everyone because it’s not a random room, we can hang out.
Bruce: Yeah, it’s very cozy and you’re not on the clock, so you can work as long as you want to until you feel you have things right.
Now, with the studio at home it seems like you guys never escape work. And thankfully you do what you love, but is that at all stressful? How does it work?
Bruce: It can be stressful. It’s one of those things that you have to remind yourself like “these days we’re not working” or “this afternoon we’re going to take a walk and not think about work.” Especially since we’re people who are inspired a lot and have ideas quite frequently, it’s pretty normal for me just to have the guitar all the time and constantly just be riffing or coming up with stuff.
Marie: It’s like having your own business and you work at home. There’s never a time when you leave the office. And we’re husband and wife and each other’s partners in this adventure, so it’s non-stop coming up with ideas.
Bruce: You definitely have to make some kind of a schedule to when you can turn off your brain or just be a couple.
What’s each of yours favorite song you have ever written?
Bruce: There’s a few that I really like. Live, I would have to say a song like “Shaky Ground”. We’ve played it so much at this point, it just feels fun to play it and the chorus is lyrically quite simple and people get excited that they can sing along to it after hearing it only once.
Marie: A song I do love is called “Home,” there are good memories of the time when we wrote that song because we wrote it for something specific. We were really happy and at the end I really loved it. There was the theme, and we had to write about it, and it was exciting for us because there was a date which we had to write it for and a theme we had to write about, so it was a different exercise.
Bruce: Actually, that’s the song our manager heard on the blog and reached out about.
Your music has been featured in TV shows like Love and Grey’s Anatomy. If you could pick TV show and/or movie to have your songs on, which one would it be?
Bruce: Oh, man. I know that Guardians of the Galaxy only does old-school songs, but I’d like to make a new, old-school sounding song for the next Guardians of the Galaxy. That would be really great. TV-wise, we’re pretty obsessed with Game of Thrones, I don’t know how we’d fit into that but we’d figure something out.
Freedom Fry is really popular on Hype Machine, and have been streamed over 10 million times on Spotify and SoundCloud. How much do you think the internet helps rising artists achieve success, and do you think it can be harmful at all?
Marie: For us it has been really helpful. I mean, this is the only way we’ve made it.
Bruce: We wouldn’t have been able to do anything we’ve done without the internet. We wouldn’t have been able to meet the people that we met or get the music on people’s hands. It just changes the way you have to go about things.
Marie: It’s gives people an easier reach, I’d say. But sometimes it can hurt people, thank God we haven’t been hurt by the internet.
Bruce: I just think it makes more bands, and it might take longer to get through to certain people. For us it has been huge; we wouldn’t have been able to have done any of the things we’ve done without being able to record things on a computer and sell on stores like iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.
Don’t be afraid to write something that’s actually catchy.
About that - do you have any tips for rising artists who are relying on the internet to get their name out there?
Bruce: I would say don’t be afraid to write something that’s actually catchy. I think a lot of people fear catchiness because they might think it’s not cool, or they want to be more edgy. Be true to you is the first thing, but after that don’t be afraid to write something that makes people have a good time. Those are the songs people love the most, the ones that they have fun to.
Marie: Whatever you write, just put it out. Don’t overthink it too much.
Bruce: Exactly, don’t wait around and perfect stuff. You can perfect things later when you’re Radiohead, but early I think it’s important to build your audience and have a lot of stuff because you might write one hundred songs and only one of them will be great. I mean, we write a lot of songs that no one will ever hear because in the end they’re just not good enough.
Marie: I feel like no matter what you write, you don’t have to make it perfect. Our first releases – we still didn’t know each other very much and it’s not something that is very representative of who we are, I would say, but it’s still something that we’re really proud of because it’s the first thing we did. No matter what you’ve come up with, you still have to move forward.
Your band name has a political background. Do you consider yourselves politically engaged people, and what, in your opinion, is the importance of music in politics?
Bruce: We are politically engaged people but we try not to let it show in our music beyond our band name. I think you can get the sense of our political views because of our band name, it’s ironic because at a certain point of American history people were dumb enough to think that they could get the French back by saying “freedom fry” instead of “French fry.” I think people try to put music with politics, but I think music is like the anti-politics in a way. I feel like music isn’t about restriction, it isn’t about laws. If you love a candidate and want to support him with your music, I get it, but we don’t like to associate ourselves with things like that.
Marie: I feel like we make music to make people happy, and we don’t really want to contribute to a debate.
Bruce: Or associate it with negativity or a political way of thinking.
People try to put music with politics, but I think music is like the anti-politics in a way.
You guys don’t denominate one specific genre to which you belong, but instead list a few which you hint at with your music. I have noticed this is becoming increasingly popular within the music industry nowadays. What do you think about moving away from such labels?
Bruce: I think it’s super freeing. For me, it would be boring to do the same thing over and over again. And people were always changing what they did from album to album, like Beck, Madonna, Michael Jackson. I feel like it’s freeing to be able to make a totally folk song, and then the next song be a dance song, I like that, I think it makes music exciting when people aren’t too worried about genres.
Marie: I feel like there are artists I can listen to a couple songs but not the rest because it sounds like the same thing. I like the variety. I think it’s something that also represents our personality, we listen to different genres.
Do you think we’ll eventually reach a point where genres are practically non-existent?
Bruce: I don’t think so, people like to categorize things too much. That would be nice, but I do think that people like to say “I like that,” “I like that.” I think there will be more genres, like mashups of different styles, but I think there will always be a need for genres because of people.
“Shaky Ground” was listed by themighty.com as one of the songs which helps relieve anxiety, which is appropriate because the song makes you just want to drop everything and smile and dance have no worries at all. What is the main message you try to send through your music, and did you ever think you would get to help people through music?
Bruce: The main message we want to send is just to be happy in this life; you don’t know if you’ll get another one. Be true to who you are, be what you know in your heart is right. That’s what most of our lyrics are about, like 90% of them.
Marie: It’s great we’re making people feel better – that’s exactly what we wanted.
Bruce: That was the idea. And we’re selfish first and foremost when we write, because we write music we would want to listen to, so the idea that it would go way beyond our little studio in our backyard and help other people feel good is the biggest thing for us. That’s exactly the goal.
cover photo: Freedom Fry © Michelle Shiers
:: Freedom Fry 2016 Tour ::
9/10 – Chicago, IL @ Rush Street Madewell
9/17 – Philadelphia, PA @ Walnut Street Madewell
9/24 – Boston, MA @ Newbury Street Madewell
Watch: “Shaky Ground” (acoustic) – Freedom Fry