Subway Grandstanding
LA to San Francisco along the 5 Freeway with Freelance Whales

Words by Bryan Crawford

Los Angeles, CA — It’s 11am on Tuesday and the Freelance Whales’ 15-passenger van is rumbling up California’s 5 freeway, headed from rainy LA to their next show at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco.

While there are already myriad accounts of life on the road – from the romantic to the drug-addled to those that weren’t ever requested – Kevin Read [guitar, synth, vocals] and his band mates are keeping things grounded.

“Had I expected it to happen, I would have a been a little disappointed. I mean, it’s not as glorious as the idea of being a rock star is. I don’t even think we’re close to rock stardom, we’re just still trying to make it.”

It wasn’t just the dreary LA day that brought on Read’s disillusioned tone; he knew this was in store. The band of five has been furiously touring for the better part of a year and already Read’s demeanor mimics that of a seasoned road warrior. “We’re stronger than we’ve ever been. We’ve become more accustomed to touring. We’ll be in confined quarters but still we’re really well off.”

Read was deliberate when he spoke, but not in the bloated musicologist sense. He had no contrived Kierkegaard quotes or calcified Van Szandt anecdotes. Of the eventful journey the group has taken, Read says “I’ve spent 10 years of my life playing music to actually come to this point. I didn’t see it in my head. I felt like it could happen, but I had no clue that it would.”

The band began innocently enough; Jacob Hyman [drums/percussion, vocals] was connected through a mutual friend to front man Judah Dadone [lead vocals, guitar, synth]. And Doris Cellar [bass, vocals, synth], Chuck Criss [guitar, synth vocals] and Read all connected in 2008 through the ever-benevolent Craigslist. But shortly after the east coasters coalesced, they began busking.

“When we started out I felt like busking was more of a necessity, and now it’s more of a pleasure. We played 3 or 4 shows, and nobody came up. It was just a lot of people ignoring you, so it’s good to not be ignored. I had busked before, by myself. And I think I’m just glad that I have a successful busking story.”

Along with stints in the subway and other New York grandstanding came the self-release of Weathervanes, in late 2009, shortly followed by their first tour with London-born Fanfarlo.

Their debut LP Weathervanes was re-released in mid-April of this year, as their haunting, harmonious sound and irreproachable poetry continued to gain momentum. “I think the record had a lot of dream logging involved in it”, says Read, “but I’m not sure what might happen with the next album. I think you find inspiration wherever you can find it.”

With instrumentation that hearkens of a family band and lyrical compositions that uphold their idyllic inspirations, Weathervanes tells the story of a boy’s romance with a girl ghost, if perhaps patently so. The melodies seem to create an air of instant nostalgia – tunes such as ‘Hannah’ and ‘Ghosting’ tell the familiar tale of the ideal and daily self. The band is scheduled to finish their current tour back in New York in under two weeks. It will be interesting to see what they can conjure next.

Safe to say success has snuck up on our hero. Read remembers, “In DC, our merchandise guy came up and said, ‘It’s sold out.’ I said, ‘Oh, what are we sold out of, t-shirts?’ ‘No’, he said, ‘the show’.” | Los Angeles