Speaking from experience, three indispensible tips for first-timers when it comes to touring Germany with your band:
1) Train your body to survive on bread and cheese alone (there will be an abundance of this, the only alternative to the leaden, cardboard-flavoured cabbage and potato concoctions that seem to be a staple of German rock’n’roll gastronomy).
2) Learn the rudimentaries of the language (i.e., “Ich bin ein arschficker” is not a variation of “Ich bin ein auslander,” and you should never yell it at the top of your lungs on a crowded street just because the guys in your hell-born German opening band dared you too).
And 3) Instigate an unconditional love of warm beer, because refrigerated hopsy options aren’t always part of the deal (practice on a case of piss-warm Pabst – if you can do that you can do anything, and hell, like this writer, you might even develop a taste for it…).
Bearing all that in mind, one might be tempted to ask why Toronto-based electro-inflected soul/folk/pop duo Freedom Or Death (who perform live as a four-piece) are making the leap to the Fatherland for ten shows shortly after their upcoming concerts at Osheaga this weekend.
“There’s a German connection with [singer/songwriter] Sway, and Sway speaks fluent German,” explains DJ/songwriter Fernandez. “He’s been interested in the culture, he’s taking classes and he speaks the language. We realized that if you speak the language and you know the culture, then they open their doors up, because when you get on stage you’re not going to be just another North American band.”
But how are you guys with warm beer?
“Listen, if it’s going to hydrate me, or dehydrate me, it’s all a good thing.”
Freedom Or Death, let the record show, have been working Montreal really, really hard over the last year, notching three concerts with another four planned (three as part of Osheaga, and a fourth in mid-October). Since the release of the eight-song Ego EP at the end of April – which followed their debut five-song EP, only 50 or 60 of which are still available on the band’s website (www.freedomordeathmusic.com) – they’ve observed a steady build of momentum.
“And I think that’s what you want to see,” says Fernandez. “Everyone has dreams that you put something out and it’s going to turn into overnight success, but there is no overnight success. In this day and age it’s about getting the music in front of people, and I think that’s been the biggest challenge for us – getting people to listen. I think for any emerging band, it’s to get people into the music and spend some time with it, and that’s what we’re doing.”
And another thing they’re doing is not sitting on their hands waiting for favours. In addition to the aforementioned touring plans (which include a cross-Canada tour in September), the band is going to radio with a new single in the next two weeks, and they just finished shooting a new video for the Ego track Inside, shot by Juno Award-winning director Kyle Davison (who won for Hedley’s Perfect this past year). It will be released to MuchMusic in two weeks’ time.
“Kyle is a guy we could probably never afford to get – he’s in a whole other league of directors,” says Fernandez. “But he heard the music and he said, ‘I want to be part of this because I believe in what you guys stand for.’ And we told him that there were no rules to what he could do, just write whatever treatment he felt and if we thought it was right for our song, then we’d back him. And he wrote a totally off-the-wall treatment – we’re not even in the video!”
Freedom Or Death have also commenced work on a third EP, a concept collection comprised of alternate versions (with a lot of surprises) of tracks off Ego, with the songs “re-imagined from the ground up.” Additionally, a wholly new album is in the works for next April. For the impatient among us, however, there is something fun coming down the proverbial pipeline in just a matter of days…
“Probably in the next two days I’m going to release a cover of Bryan Ferry’s Don’t Stop the Dance,” says Fernandez, “and we’re going to release that just as something for the Osheaga/German tour kind of thing.”
And speaking of Osheaga, it would seem that the T-O boys, God bless ’em, aren’t yet entirely clear on the concept…
“I quite honestly don’t know a lot about Osheaga,” admits Fernandez. “I’m learning about it, very quickly, but I didn’t realize it’s as big a thing as it is. You tell me: What should we expect?”
Expect it to blow your mind. From the sheer scale of it to the outdoorsy beauty and ease of facility – a wooded island in the middle of the St-Lawrence, minutes from downtown, with wide winding trails connecting each of the stages – there is simply nothing of compare in the greater kingdom of Canuckistan. And then add several tens of thousands of diehard music fans of every peccadillo and persuasion, and you’ve got yourself a listening party of epic proportions.
And the beer will be cold.
Freedom Or Death perform as part of Osheaga: At the Osheaga opening party at Corona Theatre, July 28; acoustically on the War Child Stage at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Ste-Hélène, July 31, at 1:30 pm; and full-band at the Scène des Arbres stage, July 31, 3 pm
For more information and a full schedule of performances July 29-31, visit http://www.osheaga.com
And for a free Freedom Or Death song download, go to www.freedomordeathmusic.com