Montreal band Freelove Fenner released The Punishment Zone, their first album in eight years, back in March. The record mixes loungey, jazzy pop and arch new wave into a uniquely askew style and you can listen to it below.
The band have made a video for the opening track of the album, "Find the Man," that plays off imagery from their album art into a faux arty documentary. "The video for 'Find the Man' was shot on a 16mm Bolex and is cast with friends," Freelove Fenner tell us. "Initially, we were supposed to shoot the video in a large, empty room but we lost that space at the last minute. Luckily, our friend Julia (who plays the boom operator in the video) came through and let us use her hair salon/art studio, which was much smaller. The location change meant hastily rethinking all our planned shots and working in a much more improvised way. Since the song is about a star-crossed production, things going a bit off the rails probably got us closer to the original idea. It was a fun time, and we are grateful that people let us dress them in questionable togas." The video premieres in this post and you can watch below.
We took this opportunity to learn more about the video, song and album, and asked Freelove Fenner to put together a list of influences for us. Those include everything from Sun Ra, Todd Rundgreen and China Crisis to instructional videos with Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, radio shows, documentaries, and more. Check out their list, complete with commentary, below.
FREELOVE FENNER – 10 INSPIRATIONS BEHIND THE PUNISHMENT ZONE
The Epic That Never Was (1965)
The video and song are inspired by the documentary The Epic That Never Was (1965) about the unfinished film I, Claudius (1937). The ill-fated production was based on Robert Graves' novel depicting the Roman emperor Claudius. In the documentary, lead actress Merle Oberon (Messalina) recalls how Charles Laughton (Claudius) struggled to "find the man" in his portrayal of the character. There were many other mishaps that doomed the film, including an out-of-control budget and Oberon getting injured in a car accident during shooting.
Sun Ra – “Love in Outer Space”
Sun Ra’s music is the paragon of pleasurable, joyful avant garde music. We always return to this song as a reminder of what music can actually be. Singular and revolutionary, but also universal and full of glorious beauty. “Sunrise, love in its splendor, speaks to me in metaphysical harmonies."
Phil Manzanera/801 – Listen Now
We found this LP at a church bazaar around the time we were doing the last overdubs on the album. Rhett Davies was one of the engineers, he’s maybe our favourite recordist—everything he’s ever worked on is just so well balanced and interesting sounding: Eno’s “Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy”; “Give me Back My Man” by the B52s; the first Wang Chung album; and his pop hits like “Don’t Stop the Dance” by Bryan Ferry and “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits.
Skeeter Davis & NRBQ – “How Many Tears” (from the 1985 album “She Sings, They Play”)
We love NRBQ. They can be frustrating (many punishingly bad novelty songs), but when they’re on, they can pull off everything from Sun Ra-inspired concise skronk to this '60s Nashville Sound number. On this record, ‘Q clavichordist Terry Adams wrote two songs for Skeeter Davis to sing that we think are even be better than her 1960s hits.
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter – “American Guitar Technique”
We love VHS-era music instructional videos. We never actually seem to retain any chops from them but they’re fascinating from an anthropological standpoint. Ex-Doobie Brothers/Steely Dan guitarist Skunk Baxter has an infectious enthusiasm for the ice-cold tones of his midi guitar rig.
Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story
This economically made VH1 biopic was part of our background research for “Perfect Master." The song is inspired by reclusive Def Leppard producer “Mutt” Lange (played by Anthony Michael Hall). He was married to Shania Twain and is a devout follower of Sant Mat. We were curious why Sant Mat would reject a young Syd Barrett but accept Mutt and Shania. Though the picture doesn’t address our question, it does reenact Leppard drummer Rick Allen’s car accident in a manner some might consider tasteless.
Todd Rundgren – “Love of the Common Man” (from 1976’s ‘Faithful’)
Like NRBQ, Todd likes his records to intermix gems (this song) with lunge-for-the-stylus numbers (“Boogies (Hamburger Hell)”). This track has one of our favorite recorded guitar sounds.
Alemayehu Eshete – “Kotuma Fikreye”
As far as we can tell, this Ethiopian TV performance from the 70s is the only recording of this song. Eshete’s flawless '60s and '70s output is a huge, but maybe difficult to detect, influence on us — we’re in awe of him.
China Crisis – “No More Blue Horizons” (from the 1982 lp Difficult Shapes and Passive Rhythms Some People Think It’s Fun to Entertain)
This is a record we have listened to many times. Delicate, weird, but also soothing synth pop with Dadaist lyrics.
'The Cool Blue Flame with Little Danny' on WFMU/Give the Drummer Radio (Thursdays 10pm EST)
Our friend Conor from the group Brave Radar hipped us to Little Danny’s rare 45s blog Office Naps maybe 10 years ago. For the past few years the blog has been quiet but Danny started an incredible WFMU show called The Cool Blue Flame. It has a very broad range but focused mood. The show is everything the Spotify and YouTube auto-play algorithms are not.