You can’t help but grin when you hear that a band is named Organ Freeman. That grin turns into an all-out smile when you listen to their music, a soulful-yet-peppy blend of instrumental jazz fusion that takes no prisoners. It’s some serious toe-tapping jives, fueled by the trio hard at work: guitarist Erik Carlson, drummer Rob Humphreys and organist Trevor Steer.
Like many bands comprised of tight-laced musicianship, Organ Freeman emerged from an intensive music program called the Musicians Institute of Hollywood. Steer explains that the group “initially formed the group as more of an opportunity to experiment than a serious project while we were all students, and continued on as a creative outlet while we all played out as freelance musicians. It wasn’t until years later when we were presented with the chance to do a record that the band sort of morphed into what it is today.”
That record was a self-titled collection, released at the end of 2015. The full process of recording the album wound up taking six months, due to the band members’ busy schedules. Carlson was working in Las Vegas full time, and “would drive back to Los Angeles, only on Tuesdays, to work on the record.” Talk about dedication!
“It actually sounds alright,” says Humphreys. “I’m the absolute worst critic for anything I’m a part of.”
There’s this undeniable synergy that takes hold when you put on the Organ Freeman debut album. From one funk groove to the next, it’s a toe-tapping odyssey from start to finish. The band’s influences belie their sound, as they cite the tightest of groovers. James Brown, Soulive, Snarky Puppy, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Smith, D’Angelo are all mentioned at the drop of a hat, showcasing this band’s pure devotion to that in-the-pocket jam.
Carlson takes us through what it’s like to write an Organ Freeman tune, saying that he and Steer “get together and form some harmonic and melodic idea. Trevor is more straight ahead funk type stuff whereas I like a lot more modern jazz, so he often has to reign me in. Then Rob comes in and seems to have a phenomenal idea to clean up our mess every time. He has a great mind for polishing a pre-existing idea.” Carlson concludes that “writing with Trevor and Rob has taught me a lot and has fostered some musical maturity.”
Listen to the debut album, Organ Freeman, streaming via the Spotify player below.
Of course, that musical maturity is countered by the band’s punny name. “We tend not to take ourselves too seriously as people,” says Steer, “and I think we would all feel a bit fake if we tried to make our aesthetic super deep and serious.” It’s Erik Carlson who gets credit for the name, as the guitarist was, naturally, watching Shawshank Redemption when he came upon the word play. The rest, as they say, is history.
So what can fans expect when Organ Freeman takes the stage? “Expect a sincere set with a ton of energy,” says Carlson. “We care about our music and about each other. We take a lot of risks live because we trust each other’s musicianship. Heads will be bobbing; we can promise you that.”
“More than anything,” adds Steer, “our live show is about energy. We definitely don’t hold anything back, and I usually find myself feeling a bit delirious by the time we walk off stage.”
“We are all pretty emotive players and let our feelings in the moment take precedent over any other agenda,” says Humphreys. It makes for some seriously uninhibited performing, and we can’t wait for more.
Watch footage of the band’s performance of “We’re On Our Way” in the studio.
One big milestone for the group is their recent announcement on the lineup of Brooklyn Comes Alive, playing on a billing with a number of respected musicians in the scene. “I don’t think I could be more excited,” says Steer. “Not only is it our first show on the East Coast, but we’re sharing a lineup with some of our musical heroes. Personally, I remember stumbling across Soulive on MP3.com when I was 11 or 12 years old and becoming instantly hooked, so seeing our name next to the Evans brothers is definitely a trip. Couldn’t ask for much more.” Carlson adds that he’s “absurdly excited,” and that “all the guys on the bill are serious heroes of ours.”
For fans of the Organ Freeman funk, fear not. The band also has a new record in the works, one that will be out “by early 2017” if all goes to plan.
“Playing new material live is a big part of our tweaking process, so we’ll be using whatever opportunities we have to try out the new tunes,” explains Steer. “Overall, stylistically, the record will definitely fit in with the first record, but we have gotten better and more meticulous about our sounds and our arrangement.”
The future is bright for Organ Freeman, as they continue to turn heads in a big way. As more artists and fans take note of the band’s style, there’s no limit to their potential. We can’t wait to hear more from this super funky trio!