Music has always been a large part of Andrew Pfeiffer’s life. The vocalist, guitarist and trombonist of D.C. area band FeelFree felt like he didn’t have a choice when selecting music as a career — it’s what he consistently cared the most about. The entire band shares Pfeiffer’s passion, which translates to their upbeat energy you can experience this Saturday at Union Stage at The Wharf.
The reggae band formed in Alexandria, Virginia in 2010. Pfeiffer and Evan Hulehan (lead guitar/vocals) started their first band back in middle school in 2004, and have played together ever since. Along the way, the duo added two additional members to their band, Garrett Clausen (bass/vocals/keys) and Kevin Raitz (drums), ultimately forming FeelFree.
Bringing a smooth vibe with strong guitar and horn lines, their sound amps up any mood. It warms you up on cold days, transports you to another place and makes you want to groove out. Seeing FeelFree live is a can’t-miss. We had the opportunity to catch up with Pfeiffer and Hulehan to discuss the band’s origins, evolution, most memorable performances and more before they hit Union Stage.
District Fray: What sparked the creation of your band?
Evan Hulehan: We were all friends growing up. In middle school, we were having a sleepover one night and decided to make a band. Several of the people who were there that night ended up being the founding members of FeelFree.
Andrew Pfeiffer: When we [officially] started this band, it came together from a desire to play music. The sounds evolved over the years [as] our influences changed.
How did you come up with your band’s name?
Hulehan: It just felt like the right fit for our music, [which] has a feeling of freedom.
Pfeiffer: [Our music] attracts a lot of different types of people, and has a little something for everybody.
How would you describe your musical style?
Hulehan: It’s funky rock reggae — a little bit of jazz [and] a little bit of bluesy tension.
What bands inspire your music?
Pfeiffer: The biggest ones that are local are SOJA from Arlington, Virginia and Citizen Cope, who originally created a lot of his music in D.C. Seeing artists who started locally and then had a national, or even international, reach was really inspiring. We love their music, too, so I was like, “Let’s try to learn from and be inspired by them.”
How would you describe your songwriting process?
Pfeiffer: For me, it’s pretty traditional. I’m usually fiddling around with some chords and a melody, or a line will come to me and then I’ll build off that. Then I’ll bring a verse to the band, and we’ll fill it out in different parts and arrange it.
Hulehan: We each have a different process. I’m on the computer making loops, and start with drum beats and that kind of stuff. Generally, I get the chord progressions and a drumbeat going in a nice loop and then I start writing lyrics. We send sessions we’re working on digitally to each other and then we add to it. We really started picking that up since Covid started, especially when we were all locked down [and] sending more ideas than ever back and forth.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Pfeiffer: We walk out together and check in with each other right before we go on.
Hulehan: Andrew always has to have chicken [parmesan] 15 minutes before every show.
Of all the songs the band has written, which ones resonate the most?
Hulehan: I like “Sunday Slow,” [which] we released in February. The production came together really well during the beginning of Covid.
Pfeiffer: I would probably say “Fishery,” because it’s gotten the most love from our fans in terms of people streaming it, and it’s the first song Evan and I sang together. And I love the horn arrangements. I feel like we’ve been really careful in crafting things we all feel pretty good about, so it’s hard for me to choose. [We’ve] got a whole album in the works right now that we’re slowly dropping singles from.
What has been your favorite concert to play thus far?
Pfeiffer: 9:30 Club in July 2019 was really fun. I have to shout out the last Gypsy Sally’s show.
Hulehan: We sold out Gypsy Sally’s right before they closed and Covid hit [Ed. note: Gypsy Sally’s closed in January 2020]. A few times a year, we played at the Fish Market in Old Town Alexandria, and it would just be a wall-to-wall party.
How has your sound evolved over time? Any notable projects in the works?
Pfeiffer: We have some exciting designs for shirts on the horizon [and] really cool hoodies we just got produced. And shows, obviously. [We’re] definitely thinking about music videos and some visual content.
Hulehan: The new songs we’ve been putting out are a step in the right direction for us. It’s a step up in production value and written arrangements. Over the years, we’ve taken our own shape [and] picked up our own personality. I think that’s really starting to shine through more than it ever has on our new stuff.
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