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Freelance Whales' Experimental Pop

The NYC-based five-piece explain why their harmonic sound is associated with whales and how to best play music in the subway

Plucked up from the subways of New York City by the ever-discerning Frenchkiss Records, Freelance Whales deftly weave indie-rock, pop and chamber music into a dreamy, eclectic soundscape (think harmonium, glockenspiel, banjos and mandolins). Dazed caught up with drummer Jacob Hyman as the band prepares to cross the pond for the Leeds and Reading festivals.


…special about you, then?
Our vastly different musical histories, which seemed like a liability at first, give us an encyclopaedia of influences to draw on when we play or write together… we bring a lot of different flavours to the musical kitchen.

…on high rotation at the moment?
We’ve been listening to Beach House’s latest album, 'Teen Dream', pretty frequently in the car. I’ve also just started getting into MGMT’s 'Congratulations'… the new one is much more interesting to listen to and right up my alley, though much of the general population seems to disagree.

…a Freelance Whale? An aquatic mammal sans career stability?
Certainly, in the literal sense, I can see Freelance Whales being a cartoon about a bunch of “aquatic mammals sans career stability.” But, on a more figurative level, the name evokes a sense of autonomy via sounds that can reach through the ether and grab your attention.

…the best secret in New York City?
As an ice cream enthusiast… nay, aficionado, I can safely say that the best secret in NYC is Il Laboratorio del Gelato on Orchard Street. Our friends at Frenchkiss Records were the first to take us there.

…the strangest thing about playing in the subway?
In New York, one rarely gets a glimpse into the true feelings of those around them. When we were playing on the subway, the reactions were real and without the usual walls that people put up. Seeing a chink in the armour of hardness that is the calling card of the quintessential New Yorker is a strange and gratifying experience.

…your style staple?
Birkenstocks. I take a lot of crap for it from the band, but I’ll be damned before I ever give them up. I only wear shoes and socks when I absolutely have to, and that almost never includes being on stage. 

…your dream collaboration?
The Roots with Conor Oberst and Yim Yames and M. Ward. Oh wait, that already happened? Looks like I can die happy.

The Freelance Whales' album ‘Weathervanes’ is out now.