Freedom or Death was one of the bands that I was most excited for at this year’s Canadian Music Week and the night of their show at The Bait Shop, I was lucky enough to sit down with Fernandez from the hottest new duo on the Toronto scene, Fernandez and Sway, a.k.a. Freedom or Death. They have an interesting outlook on making music. One that strives to break conventional barriers of classification while setting our minds and souls free. Free to fly where you might ask? Anywhere you desire. Just close your eyes and point.
Torontette: So tell me about how you and Sway met?
Fernandez: We worked at Sony together, so we both met at a record label. I left about six months before he did and called him up about a year later and said to him, “Do you still want to make music?” and he said, “Yep” and we sat down and started writing songs and three months later we had a record done.
T: Wow. That’s fast.
F: It was. And now here we are, a year and a half later and we have our second record coming out.
T: And when is that set to drop?
F: April 26th. It’s called EGO.
T: I know a little bit about the meaning behind your name, and your mantra and based on what you live by and make music by, I’m curious as to your opinion on classifying music by genres.
F: I think it’s human to try and classify things because that’s how we understand things. So it’s going to happen. I do it, everyone does it. We do it with everything in our lives – we try to classify and figure out ‘where does it fit’. But I don’t think with our music we ever think about where it’s going to fit, we just do it and then the names get attached to it. So it’s pretty diverse. Some of it is very electronic, some of it’s acoustic, some of it’s rock. But it’s all tied together by Sway’s voice. So that’s the main thing you know.
Because of this, our music may be tough to classify but people do, sometimes it’s cool. Like we’ve been classified as electronic-folk. Opposite ends. It’s great and they perfectly got us in that sense. It’s like saying hot-cold.
T: What’s your favourite era of music?
F: I don’t have one really but I know it’s definitely not now. What I know best is 70s and 80s.
T: You’ve obviously been heavily involved in and still are in the Toronto music scene. What is your take on the Toronto concert audience?
F: As Kardinal Offishall said, “They pay $20 to boo you.” It’s a pretty jaded city. We actually wrote a song about it. About how it’s just so difficult sometimes for us to embrace our own and that’s what we’re trying to do tonight. We’re trying to embrace the bands that we like and promote together. For some reason cities like Montreal get it better and I don’t know what it is about Toronto that has a problem where it doesn’t really have an ego yet and I think it needs to have more of an ego. It needs to realize that it is good enough. You know, it doesn’t have to be the bastard New York. If we can change that and try to make it different in that way and that’s what we like to think we’re trying to do with Freedom or Death. Yeah it’s tough. I definitely wouldn’t say Toronto is the easiest place to be embraced, even if you’re from it. We actually have found more people embracing us from Montreal, than here.
T: Is this your first music endeavor?
F: As an artist, yes. Actually I shouldn’t say that, I produced some dance records way back when and Sway had a band before and I’ve also been a DJ for about 15 years. So we’ve had stuff but as a serious entity, as a career, yes. This is the first. We were always on the business side before and so now we’ve left the business side to do the artistic side.
T: Do you find that benefits you now as an artist? Having the business acumen?
F: It can or it can hurt you greatly because you think you know what you’re doing and the whole industry has changed. So we actually spend a lot of time un-learning. Like before we would get $50,000 to market a record, take it to radio, take it to a publicity team and so on but now we don’t have that kind of money to work with, first of all. And second of all, radio and publicity and online and everything has changed in terms of how people consume music, so we had to unlearn all that stuff. So knowing the business side has actually been a bit of a hindrance believe it or not.
T: So you’re playing CMW, you’re playing SXSW, what else do you have lined up?
F: We have a bunch of stuff happening on the eastern seaboard of Canada and the U.S. but nothing has been routed yet. We also have a bunch of stuff in Toronto in April. We’re doing Steam Whistle, we’re doing The Horseshoe and lots more coming up in May, June and July.
T: If you could play any festival in the world what would it be?
F: Perhaps Coachella. Or Montreal Jazz Festival – I just love the culture of that.
T: If you had to tour with any artist dead or alive, who would it be?
F: Radiohead. Easily.
T: Any final thoughts for Torontette readers?
F: Probably that the unique thing about this project is that it is two guys going after their dreams when they know better. We know how hard it is, we’ve seen how hard it is and we’re still going after it. If there was a unique spin on what we are, that’s what Freedom or Death is. For us, or for anybody, to go after what they want by any means necessary, and die trying to.
Next Toronto appearance: Tuesday, April 5 @ The Horseshoe
Virginia Woolf – Freedom or Death