Conversing with The Freak Fandango Orchestra

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As I was preparing for my upcoming podcast series, “The Literary Elephant”, I went through hundreds of tracks on the Free Music Archive (FMA) looking for lead in and lead out music. Part of the issue was that I was open to all sorts of music and it was difficult to narrow down the choices to one or two upbeat, energetic tempo tracks.

But as soon as I heard the whimsical melodies of The Freak Fandango Orchestra, I knew that I would want to ask for permission to use their music. This band was formed in 2006 and they are from Barcelona (Spain).  To me, their music sounds like upbeat gypsy folk with a dark twist. One of their tracks I want to use, “Monkey Said” is about a conversation with a monkey who wants to be like humankind. Since 2007 they have been preforming many live concerts around Barcelona and played the New York Gypsy Festival 2011.

Their two EPs, “Love, Death And A Drunken Monkey” (2009) and “Tales Of A Dead Fish” (2011) are both distributed for free listening under Creative Commons License on Jamendo and FMA. They have been downloaded 540, 000 times! You’ll find yourself astonished by some of the melodies and wanting to dance along with them, as they are just so good.

FFO monkey

FFO fish

“We’ll Save the World!” is a new cd from this Balkan-punky Barcelona band and it is a crowd funding project on Verkami, a site similar to Kickstarter, but based in Barcelona. It is an all or nothing campaign and the time is set for 40 days of fundraising. The band has an awesome video for this project, so have a look and save the world with them!

The Freak Fandango Orchestra consists of seven musicians:
Armin – Trumpet & Voice
Xavi – Bass Guitar
David – Drums
Yuri The Blade – Guitar & Voice
Jordi – Violin
Noe – Accordion & Voice
Vitto – Saxophone

The Freak Fandango Orchestra was ok with me using their music for my podcast and was kind enough to let me do an interview with them as I was quite curious about this band and their fabulous music.

First, thank you for spending time answering this Q & A. Your music is fantastic! You definitely have me as a new fan! On FMA, The Freak Fandango Orchestra bio says it is a “multi-ethnic band from Barcelona (Spain).” Where is each band member’s background and how was the band created?

OK, maybe multi-ethnic is not really the best description of the band, but the band members are from all over Europe. Each person brought a little bit of their own culture and music taste to the band. There are people from Germany with East-European origins, from Switzerland, Italy and of course from different parts of Spain. We all met here in Barcelona. First it started as a jam session between friends and then more and more people joined us and we formed The Freak Fandango Orchestra.

I remember taking counterpoint music composing lessons and the teacher kept saying, “write what’s in your head!” Alas, I couldn’t do the translation from head to manuscript properly. Is it as simple as that? What kind of process is used to create the music? Or perhaps someone starts with a melody and people start giving ideas?

As a matter of fact 95% of the music is composed by the guitar player. He has the melodies in his head and then the band brings them to life. Normally he sings a melody and the violin player writes down the notes. Then we start all together with the arrangements; this is when we start to argue, fight and insult each other until it begins to sound good and we’re happy again. Sometimes it only takes a few hours until a song is finished and sometimes it takes forever. Also there are ideas that don’t work out and we have to bury them.

Two of the tracks – “Monkey Said” and “Requiem for a Fish” – what are the stories behind them?

Monkey Said, actually is a very old song. We played it already in the beginnings of the band. It got transformed several times. The actual version of this song, for example, is quite different from the version on our first record.

Requiem for A Fish was written only a few weeks before we went to the studio for our second CD. It started with an idea and it basically wrote itself. It was fun to play and so it got on the CD. Actually its by far our most popular song.

The artwork on your albums is colorful and delightful. Who is the artist?

Its our drummer who does all the artwork. He is a illustrator.

Many of your songs are in English, was it a group decision to do this? Do people already have individual projects in Spanish and wanted to reach a wider audience with English songs?

It just happened. Since most of the people are not originally from Spain it was like more natural to sing in English. Also it is easier to write a song with our music in English than in Spanish.

I admit I was surprised to find out that I could listen to your albums for free, but then again, with the internet being so open, even free music has tons of competition! On a practical note, I know making music, distributing, marketing, etc. costs money. Do you hope fans to support you via going to your concerts or purchasing merchandise? I guess I’m trying to understand the business model because for myself, as a writer, I really like to eat from time to time!

Oh, we do make some money with our music even if its free. For example we make money selling licenses for commercials, websites or stuff like that. We release under creative commons license Attribution-ShareAlike which means you can use our music for free but you have to respect some limitations. Now if someone wants to use it beyond these limitations they have to pay (or ask us nicely). This is where a big part of our money comes from. The biggest part, however, comes from our live-concerts. Putting our music out for free means we get a bigger audience and that means playing gigs gets easier.

Another part of our income is from donations. A lot of people who likes or music decides to pay for it, not because they have to, but because they want to. That’s quite cool.

And as you know, we started a crowd funding campaign to cover the costs for our third CD. As it turns out it is working really well!

Making money while being an artist is not easy. That’s why we all have other jobs to pay for rent and food. It would be nice to make a living out of music but on the other hand, this way we don’t have to obsess us too much about the money and can just make music.

What are the big dreams for this band? Does it include travelling to different cities in the world?

We’re quite happy the way that things are right now. I mean, you always want more, get more audience, be more famous, earn more money, that I think is quite human; but we are real good at the moment with our band. We have an audience when we play live, our music is listened to all over the world and we even got our new album financed by our fans and friends so there is not much left to ask. It would be nice though to play more international shows.

OK, one thing I really hope for is to be there in like 20 years, still playing music, still having fun and still having an audience who wants to listen to what we do. I guess that would really be a great thing.

Once again, thank you again for spending some time with me!

Readers, please have a look on Verkami for The Freak Fandango Orchestra’s We’ll Save the World cd project…I had to support them in saving the world, someone has to do this dirty job!   As mentioned in their video, their music will lift up our spirits from brainless shadows and broken spirits!

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