By Aiden Perrins – Editor
He had just finished up his pre-show soundcheck when I spoke to him. ‘He’ being Connar Ridd, otherwise known by his stage name FREAK. The new, exciting, raw indie punk artist making his way onto the scene.
Hailing from Chelmsford, this lad is a self-made success story in the making. Currently on tour with Black Honey, and releasing new music all the time, he’s definitely going to be one to watch in this genre.
The name FREAK wasn’t the product of some time consuming brainstorming session or word cloud or any of those things, it simply comes about from something he always felt about himself and about his style.
“I record absolutely everything I do in my bedroom.”
His sound has something of an unrefined nature to it, which could be classed as imperative to the style. I mean, he might as well have indie punk tattooed across his forehead, he epitomises everything about it. From his energetic music and performances, right down to his recording ‘studio’, as he explains: “I record absolutely everything I do in my bedroom. I Like To Smile When I’m Sad was recorded in my bedroom, produced in my bedroom. It keeps it really real, keeps it really raw, and it’s just all me. It’s all coming from my brain, and it’s how I want it to sound.” Having that raw music that sounds like it hasn’t been interfered with by labels is what makes indie music of all kinds so successful, at the end of the day people like to get one over on ‘the man’.
His raw nature flows right through his creative process, as he talks about his songwriting method: “I think it’s random, and I think that’s really cool as well. Like, every song doesn’t start in the same way. It could be a riff, it could be a vocal, it could be a song title, it could just be like a little middle eight section, it could be anything. Someone could say something down the pub, or on TV, and it inspires me. It’ll be most likely to turn into a track. Get some loops going, get some beats going, and then it all comes together as one.” This non-formulaic process livens up the way Connar writes his songs and keeps him interested, as he says: “That’s the most exciting bit as well, you just don’t know how the song’s gonna turn out because it’s not done in a kinda step-by-step routine every single time, and at the end you get this end product that’s totally different to the last one.” In terms of standing out from the crowd with his songwriting, he says: “I think not having a formula is really important, otherwise it gets samey, or it gets boring. And like, keeping songwriting fun as well is really important because obviously you don’t want it to be boring. Changing it up every single song just keeps it really vibey.”
His new music video for ‘I Like To Smile When I’m Sad’, which was uploaded to YouTube on 23 March, really sucks you into his psyche, and gives you a real sense of the homegrown flavour he’s cultivating. It is all shot in Chelmsford and he wanted an “authentic Chemlsford vibe” to the video. Speaking about the connection to his hometown, he said: “I think where you come from is really important. It’s something that comes up in my songs a lot, like things that influence me are around me. I thought it was really important to keep that vibe and keep it real by doing everything in Chemlsford.” Even the locations he uses are from his own life, as Connar explains: “I shot the video in my home, went to my old workplace which was the Co-op and shot there, went to a venue which was the first place I’d played at. It all felt very relatable to me.” These homegrown energies have become almost synonymous with these rough around the edges bands, just think of Arctic Monkeys and their links with Sheffield.
In keeping with the raw sound of his music, he wanted to keep the raw energy in his video too: “We kept it really DIY, it was all shot on just like Go-Pros, and like head mounts and stuff just walking round. It was a really fun, easy video.” The way he has so simply captured his sound in the video will most likely have the big boys of the industry pulling their hair out at the nonchalance of it all.
In an article published by the Guardian, he was described as a ‘One Man Nirvana’, Connar describes this sort of comparison as “incredible”. He goes on to say: “Nirvana’s a huge influence of mine. It’s who I listen to all the time as well. So the idea that people can kind of hear Nirvana in my music is incredible. It’s a privilege to be put in a similar kind of vibe as they are.”
With the state of current affairs, are we going to see a resurgence in grunge? Everywhere you look you can see that the youth are angry at the world, and music could be how they show it. This youthful anger can be shown in FREAK’s lyrics to ‘I Like To Smile When I’m Sad’ when he proclaims: “I’m fed up. I’ve had enough. With all of this. I’m hating this. With all your lies. I know I’ve tried.” Now although this might be purely coincidental in this case, it has to be acknowledged that there are similarities between this and other things young people have been saying during recent political turbulence.
“We just kind of run about hitting stuff and jumping off walls.”
With his upcoming tour, we spoke about his pre-show routine, which to be honest sounds incredibly fun: “We just kind of run about hitting stuff, and jumping off walls, and just like getting ourselves really hyped up for the show. And anyone who has been to a FREAK show will understand why we hype ourselves up so much pre-show. We shout, we scream, we jump off shit. We go on stage pretty much sweating and we’re ready to go.” This high intensity routine comes with a complementary health kick too Connar says: “It’s a fun routine, it’s just really knackering. We’ve all taken a break from energy drinks ‘cause all our skin went to shit last tour when we were having like four before every show. Now we’re off the energy drinks, we’re actually getting a little bit fit, getting a little bit healthy, check us out.”
The music industry is a tough one to break into, and as a young musician himself just starting to break out onto the scene, he has some words of wisdoms for other young musicians looking to make it: “I’d advise everyone to write songs they really love, and don’t worry about what other people are doing, just write what feels really good to them.” Obviously, anyone who knows anything about competitive markets knows that creating good content is only half the battle, the next step is people hearing it, Connar tells: “If they have got a banging song, or EP or whatever, don’t just put it up on Facebook and wait for people to find it, put it in front of people’s faces; email people, go to blogs, go to radio, just send it to absolutely everywhere. If you send it to enough places hopefully someone will catch on, then it’s all good.”
It is clear to see that Connar is the artistic type, when asked about his life outside of music he mentions his recent delve into the art world: “Painting is something I’ve really fallen in love with in the last 6/7 months. Just chilling, putting on some cool tunes and just painting away, I think that’s really sick.” Now I haven’t seen any of his artwork, but if it’s anything like his music then I imagine it will be more Edvard Munch that Claude Monet.
From the way that Connar spoke about his song writing and his music videos, although it might seem on the face of it to be negative and for him to be quite a downtrodden person, it’s obvious that he’s actually all about the fun and joy of creating music. He actually has a very relaxed mantra about him, despite his energetic music and performances. He’s out to have a good time and create the music he loves, and then just hope some other people might like it too.