free space creates lo-fi bedroom pop with an all-lowercase aesthetic. If any of that sounds confusing to you, don’t worry. Just listen to their new album, ahead of myself, and read the interview with vocalist/bassist Abi Brown below to find out more about this talented up-and-coming band.
How did you first get started playing music? How did you meet your bandmate [Josh Mays]?
Abi: I started playing bass basically when I realized I was really bad at sports [laughs]. That was my first, like, big instrument. I tried every sport in the book, because I’m really tall, so everyone was like, “You need to play sports.” So I tried everything and was really bad at them, and so I just picked up bass. And I ended up loving it. I joined a marching band, which is where I really honed in on piano and a couple of other things. Whenever I got to college at Union University, I met Josh…I actually met him at the University Feminist Organization [laughs]. There was an interest meeting, and we both just went and were both pretty outspoken. We started talking about music and it was cool. It just kind of made sense, so we started playing together.
So how did you guys form free space?
Abi: We wanted to play at open mics [at Union] and stuff, and we both had little bits of songs that we didn’t know what to do with. I do a lot of spoken word poetry, so I had a bunch of like, lyric vomit that I didn’t know what to do with [laughs]. Josh had a bunch of tiny snippets, so we were just like, “Hey, let’s do a total constructive thing with this,” so we started making music.
Where did the name “free space” come from? Was there any reason for the all-lowercase letters of your band name and song titles?
Abi: We realized we were creating a “space” theme with a lot of our songs. “i wish i was plural” was the first song that we really worked on and produced, so that one kinda started the “space-y” theme. And so I looked up like, “space vocabulary words” on Google Images, and it came up with a Bingo board. My favorite part of [the Bingo board] was the free space, so that’s literally how it came to be! And then the lowercase letters…our whole thing is like, under-produced on purpose. We call it “lo-fi” because the production quality is very unprofessional. So the lowercase thing is more unfinished, messy and casual on purpose.
I definitely got that vibe from the album. Your recording sounds very intimate and low-key. Can you tell me about your recording process for ahead of myself?
Abi: Most of it was just done in dorms. We were both really passionate about making this album, because we were both on the same wavelength, but we didn’t have a lot of resources. So we used really bizarre recording methods to make this album happen. There was a lot of recording in bathrooms and using mattresses to like, block different bouncing soundwaves. “sororities never liked me” was like, recorded in my closet late at night [laughs].
Did both of you guys write the songs? How did you decide on lyrics together?
Abi: In retrospect, the album is literally 50/50. Certain songs are totally him, and certain songs are totally me. The one that is literally 50 percent is “trying.” We wrote that one in like an hour; it was a creative moment where we were just really working off each other.
I’ve been really curious about the album artwork for ahead of myself. Can you tell me a little more about it?
Abi: Yeah, so that picture is from a place in Memphis called the Crystal Shrine Grotto. It’s awesome! It’s basically this weird art installation in a graveyard, and it’s totally free to go in. Since we’re both really poor, just one weekend we were like, “free stuff in Memphis!” and we stumbled upon this place. It was totally ethereal: you walk in and it’s just like a bunch of different pictures of the story of Christ made out of these crystals. And we just kinda thought that the weird spacy-ness, the ethereal vibe, was kinda what we wanted our listeners to get. So it made sense to make it our album cover. It gave us a feeling that we wanted our listeners to have, I guess.
That’s really cool. I had no idea that the picture is of art in a graveyard. So just one more thing: should we be on the lookout for new projects or shows coming up?
Abi: Yes. Right now I’m in Alabama…and he’s in Chattanooga at home. But whenever I get back, we’re gonna play some shows in Chattanooga. Then we’re gonna try to book some in Nashville, where I’m from, and hopefully in Jackson we can figure out something. It would be cool to be back in the town we recorded in. That’s our game plan. We would like to record another album, and we both have some new little tidbits. So yeah, be on the lookout!
*Interview also published in mild magazine.