“The whole night was just straight out of a movie or something,” says Freakouts drummer Jack, speaking about the band’s recent foray into the Manchester music scene. “After travelling 220 miles in Otto’s Mum’s Prius, we ended up playing in front of just 12 people and got £2 out of it.”
For young artists trying to gain exposure in 2018, this scenario is all too familiar. But while many would have packed up the gear and sulked all the way home, Freakouts were far more mature in their response.
“We proceeded in getting absolutely fucked up after the gig,” says Otto (bass). “Eventually we ended up outside a shop to get some drinks. Then, within a few minutes, Charlie was getting slapped around by some gangbangers because he didn’t want to buy their cocaine. Then a scrap broke out before we bailed.”
Of course, it’s unlikely that Freakouts will ever find themselves brawling with gangbangers back home in Guildford. The leafy Surrey town is largely devoid of violent reprobates, but with the Academy of Contemporary Music just off the high street, one thing you do find plenty of is young musicians.
“Guildford is sort of a melting pot for young artists,” explains Charlie (vocals). “But, unfortunately, most of them are striving for commercialism. A lot of them are just trying to be carbon copies of artists who have ‘made it’ or whatever, so you couldn’t peg most of the scene as ‘underground’.
“However, we managed to get involved very early on with our friends ESP. They’re a fashion funk duo making righteous house music, and even before Freakouts, there was always talk of a collective of ‘genuine’ musicians in the area. We support them and they support us, and it’s like that with a handful of artists.
“We know people expect the typical underground scene like gigs in warehouses and hand printed zines, but there really isn’t any of that in Guildford. It’s more of just a friendly, experimental underground scene.”
Indeed, Freakouts have become well-known faces within that scene due to their frenetic live shows. The problem, however, is breaking away from it.
“It’s the same issue that most bands find at this level,” says Kyle (guitar). “It’s the catch 22 of being broke and then trying to get out of the same gig circuit. It’s hard to get someone on the other side of the country to not only give a shit about your music but give enough of a shit to come and watch your 25-minute set.”
Despite their struggles, Freakouts have no desire to change their musical style in order to ‘get noticed’. This is because selling out would mean giving up their artistic liberties – an idea which goes against everything they stand for.
“We know that with the kind of music we play no one’s going to look up to us or anything, and we love that,” says Charlie. “The fact that certain artists have to censor themselves and their actions because of the supposed influence they have over people is bullshit. Think for yourself and do what you want!”
Naturally, the band’s sense of freedom is manifest in their political views too. When I ask which social issue they are most interested in right now, they’re quick to respond with their take on LGBTQ rights.
“We’re very much in support of the LGBTQ community and will happily do anything we can to encourage acceptance in all its forms,” says Kyle. “It’s heartbreaking and frustrating that people are so closed-minded and bigoted towards such a beautiful part of today’s society.
“Sexuality is deterministic, regardless of how it makes you feel, and people will be who they want to be. If you would like to live in a world where so many cannot be comfortable in their own skin just because you don’t like it or think that it goes against your bullshit religion, we and so many others have no time for you.”
It is clear that Freakouts place great importance on ‘being yourself’, both on a personal and artistic level. But while this is a straightforward philosophy, it is one which so many bands seem to overlook as a means of getting over. For Freakouts, however, their ‘we play what we like and like what we play’ attitude has given them both focus and a sense of identity – two things which will enable them to progress. Who knows, in a few years’ time Manchester could be eagerly awaiting their return!
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Cover photo by Rob Blackham