Written by Fatima Hasan
Organ Freeman is a group of professional studio musicians in Los Angeles that have recently started gaining a whirlwind of attention. The group, which is composed of guitarist Erik Carlson, drummer Rob Humphreys, and organist Trevor Steer, is known for its unrelenting energy, stage presence, and incredible musicianship. Organ Freeman transcends conventional classification with their groovy tracks, as they are much more than a jazz, funk, polka, or jam band. Their format is derived from classic organ trios, but they skillfully draw from other genres; additionally, the group creates music with remarkable layering of sounds that are rife with synths. Undoubtedly, they are no strangers to experimentation. They continue to push themselves to expand their sound by creating dynamic and fresh compositions. Although the band has just started to break out, they’ve already played high-profile events like Summer Camp Music Festival, The Peach Music Festival, and at iconic venues like The Capitol Theatre and Red Rocks.
You guys are no strangers to Summer Camp. How do you feel about the festival? Do you think there’s anything about it that sets it apart from others?
Trevor: “This year will be our second time at Summer Camp, and we really had a great time last year. One thing I really liked about the festival was that our interactions with the staff were amazing. Obviously the fans were great, the crowds were great, and we were well received. But it seemed like the people putting on the operation were really exceptional, welcoming, and friendly. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case when you go out to play festivals.”
Planning on venturing out into the campgrounds during the festival or checking out some other sets while you’re there?
Trevor: “It’s always kind of a whirlwind when you’re playing these things. We did catch a couple sets last year though, one of which was Umphrey’s!”
How do you find some of your musical inspiration? When do you do your best work?
Trevor: “I’d say our best work happens over longer periods of time. Getting together to write from scratch isn’t how we generally do it. I’d say, most of the time, one of us is bringing in an initial idea before the composition really starts happening. That inspiration comes from any number of places. When we aren’t doing Organ Freeman stuff, we’re all freelance artists in LA during the rest of our time. So, we’re constantly playing all sorts of different styles from pop and singer-songwriters to Jazz and what have you. At least for me personally, I feel like some of the best ideas I have come when I’m working on something entirely different; not necessarily sitting down with an intent to create a new Organ Freeman song. We’ve also kind of set ourselves up to a point in which our sound is very intricately arranged. It’s not the type of thing where we sit down and write a completely new arrangement right off the bat. Most of the songs go through revision processes. We’ll play it live and then decide that a section is not working, or we may decide that it needs to go somewhere else. Over the course of a few months, it goes from whatever we thought was the song to begin with, to what it ends up as on the record. For obvious reasons, that process takes time. Usually when I’m exploring something else, practicing or working on music for an entirely different project, is when I can get pieces of what a song will be in the future. Then, we’ll build off of those in a group setting. We’ll get together, and as soon as you show something to other people, they all add their own spin on it too.”
Since you are all working as studio artists, do you feel like it can be hard to meet sometimes and set aside time specifically for Organ Freeman?
Trevor: “Yeah, I think people would be shocked if they knew how little time we had together. The scheduling is hard, which is one of the reasons why we don’t tour as much as many other bands.”
How did you all meet?
Trevor: “We were all students at a place called Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. We started playing together while we were in school and just never stopped.”
Is there a particular reason why you guys picked the stage name of Organ Freeman, besides the obvious play on the name Morgan Freeman?
Trevor: “The nice thing about playing instrumental music is that you can name anything whatever you want and it doesn’t really have any bearing whatsoever on the music. We just don’t take ourselves that seriously! There was definitely a brainstorming process that involved lots of other names that were not as good… And I don’t remember any of them… Probably because they weren’t that good.” *laughs*
Have you guys performed at a festival or venue that has stuck out compared to the others?
Trevor: “I don’t think so, I don’t think there has been one place that has been Head and Shoulders above the rest…yet. That said, we’re going to Red Rocks this weekend, so I think that will end up being the favorite. That’s been number one on my bucket list.”
Does Organ Freeman partake in any pre-show rituals?
Trevor: “Drinking tequila! That’s honestly pretty much it. We don’t really do it much anymore, but it was definitely a thing at one point.”
Is there anything that you’re currently working on or anticipating?
Trevor: “Yeah! I mean, I can’t talk too much yet because it’s still pretty early, but we’re definitely hoping to have a new release before the end of the year. A couple tracks are already done, but with the way these things go, it’s really difficult to predict a timeline for everything. For our last record, we got in the studio in January of last year and the idea was that we would just knock everything out– full band takes– make the tracks really feel ‘live’…but then we ended up working on them for another 6 months. Once you get into it, the music doesn’t really care about what your plans are beforehand. We will do whatever best serves the songs and release it when it’s ready! I hope it’ll be by the end of the year.”
So definitely working toward another album, then?
Trevor: “Yep! We’re definitely trying to move up our pace of releasing things too. We’ve been putting out a record every two years, and I would like to make that substantially faster!”
What’s something that has made you laugh while performing?
Trevor: “We’ve definitely had our fair share of audience members yelling strange things at us! When we played in Santa Barbara recently, there was a guy who was walking with assistance with canes. When we were doing soundcheck, the doors were open. He came in there and started stretching like he was about to run a marathon. Once we started playing, it was pretty clear why he started stretching. He was just the most insane dancer, going harder than any other fan I’ve seen! *laughs* He was in the front row, staring directly at Erik, and yelled: “c’mon guitar player, gimme somethin’!”
This happened almost every time there was a lull in the show…in probably a 400 person venue, so he was like really close to us on stage. Everyone else could likely hear him too! *laughs* It’s really difficult to concentrate when every time you’re in a lower part of your music, someone yells: “c’mon, show me somethin’!”
We were just dying on stage. We laugh a lot on stage, obviously when silly stuff like that happens or when we make mistakes. It happens all the time.”
Absolutely! That light-hearted attitude between all of you guys is extremely important.
“Yeah, you really can’t have the opposite! If something absurd happens in the audience that’s distracting, or one of you forgets or misses a cue, you can never get upset with each other on stage. This is especially true when you try to play really complicated improvisational music. Everyone can feel your energy, and it just wouldn’t be fun anymore. Plus, we just think it’s funny when other guys in the band screw up! If you see us laughing, there’s a good chance we made mistakes!”
Organ Freeman at Summer Camp Music Festival:
Date: Friday, May 25, 2018
Location: Camping Stage
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