Inspired from the sounds of Jimi Hendrix to Nirvana to The Smiths to Radiohead, Almost Free is the Detroit trio band that can be hard to pin into any one category of music. Formed here in Metro Detroit, the band has been together for 10 years and consists of members Andy Bird (guitar, vocals, and lyrics), Bob Impemba (bass, synthesizer, and noise), and Garren Stevens (drums).
Almost Free has taken pieces of what their favorite artists have done before to produce one cohesive and compelling sound. With echoing vocals laced over winding guitar, steady and uplifting beats mixed with spacey undertones, the band who says “we do not profess uniqueness or originality; our post-post-modern culture consists of imitations of imitations, and we are by no means an exception,” has certainly developed a sound that is, well, all their own.
CBS 62 has had the opportunity to speak with the members of Almost Free for an inside look at what grooves them.
Tell us a little about the band.
Bob and I, both being social pariahs, naturally gravitated towards each other while attending Heritage Junior High in Sterling Heights. Before we had any musical proficiency, we decided that the coolest thing to do would be to start a band, not because of any grandiose, debauched aspirations but because of our mutual fixation on self-sufficient musicianship as the highest form of existence. Garren came into the picture rather coincidentally. I heard about Garren’s percussion prowess through a mutual friend and a meeting was arranged. Upon our first musical encounter, we were both able to play “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath perfectly – the pauses, time changes, everything was in sync immediately. We continued jamming, struck up a conversation about the importance of Arnold Schwartzenneger’s early oeuvre, and became friends. After several months of rehearsals and experiments, we performed our first concert on March 7, 2003 at The Wired Frog in Roseville. We had fourteen original songs and our first taste of the limelight.
Describe the music style of Almost Free.
Our goal has always been to make music that is accessible and aesthetically pleasing, but the sound of our music is usually a reflection of the bands we are listening to; hence, as our tastes matured, so has the spectrum of our palette. Initially we were into Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and Black Sabbath, so our sound was grungy jam-rock with poppy overtones. Then we got into Radiohead and the Mars Volta, and suddenly we were exploring psychedelic and progressive rock. As of today, additional influences from The Strokes, Interpol, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Modest Mouse, Foals, and The Smiths can be perceived. Our current sound, is an energetic amalgam of all the above.
Do you have any Detroit-artists that you look up to?
From an artistic perspective, we admire the work of long-time greats like The Stooges, The White Stripes, and The Amino Acids. Concerning current successes, we admire Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr and their ability to break on to the national scene.
What are your latest projects? Is there anything you’re working on that you can share with us?
We are currently working on several new songs for an as-of-yet untitled EP. One song, “Human Being,” was explicitly conceived as a Victorian afterlife – a musical adaptation of Sir Frederick Treves’s “The Elephant Man” – with addition influence from David Lynch’s film of the same name.
What are the band’s favorite places to perform in Detroit?
Andy: My personal favorite is the Loving Touch in Ferndale. The system is superior and the crowds are always generously receptive. PJ’s Lager House and The Magic Stick are also excellent venues in Detroit proper.
Bob: We have played so many different bars and venues in Detroit, but PJ’s Lager House has always stood out as a great place to play. We have done several memorable shows there. Also we have done some festivals such as the Dally in the Ally and those are always a great time.
Does the band have a favorite performance?
We have played many memorable shows in and around Detroit, making this an extremely difficult answer. Our record release show for “Modern Mistakes” in 2009 at Small’s featured a set by the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre wherein the frontman Brian Metro painted himself completely blue in homage to the recent film “The Watchmen.” We played a benefit for the Detroit Derby Gris at the Northern Lights Lounge with Circus Boy a couple years ago, truly a raucous evening with lewd and lascivious exploits left that the stage bloodstained and beer-soaked. Also we recently opened up for El Ten Eleven at the Magic Stick and that was very exciting.
What do the members of the band like to do in Detroit while they’re not working on their music? Favorite places to visit or eat?
Andy: I like to play poker at the local casinos.
Bob: Right now my absolute favorite new Detroit bar to frequent is Great Lakes Coffee’s “Institute for Advanced Drinking.” They have the best cup of coffee in the city and probably the most interesting beer and liquor selection. Located in the Midtown-Cass Corridor area it is surrounded by other fantastic hangouts like The Bronx Bar, Honest John’s, and The Majestic Complex. Also Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy along with The Sugar House are excellent places to grab a drink. When it comes to food Green Dot Stables will never disappoint, and Bucharest has some of the best Middle Eastern cuisine in the city.
How would the band describe Detroit’s music scene?
From our experience, Detroit’s music scene is eclectic but cliquey; you have to know the right bands or promoters to build an enticing bill or perform in much-sought-after local festivals. We have been at this for ten years, and only now do we feel like we have formally entered (or been invited) into the scene.