Cincinnati funk rock group Freak Mythology jumped onto the scene this year with an impressive self titled debut.
The record features shuffling drums that you can’t help but nod to, clever guitar and bass riffs, and tight vocals. With eight tracks and 35 minutes worth of music, it’s a quick record, but easy to really dive into.
The instrumental track “Surge” divides the album, with an upbeat front half and a back half tackling some bigger musical themes. I talked with guitarist Ryan Shepard about how Freak Mythology and how this record came to fruition.
The Indie Sound: So if you’d like to start by telling me how the band got started and your history
Ryan Shepard: There’s four of us in the band right now, but three of us have known each other since elementary school: Travis Hanna (drums), myself (guitar), and our frontman Brad Wehlitz. We had all played music as a hobby, just not really together, and it grew into this thing where we became the only other people that we knew who played music in our area.
So one day, during our freshman year of high school, we just decided to get together and jam a little bit. We realized that we had really diverse music tastes, but putting all that diversity together made something that sounded pretty cool. We decided to go with it a bit and make a band, and that was five years ago. For a while, we’d just been writing music, playing 3-4 shows a year, and keeping it very lowkey. That changed this past year when we decided to record all the stuff that we did and take it a little bit more seriously, now that we’re out of high school and have a little bit more time to do what we wanted.
TIS: Who are some of your personal influences and influences as a band?
RS: As a guitar player, my personal influences range pretty broadly, but I’m a huge blues and
funk guy. I would have to mention guys like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy
Page, Jimi Hendrix. A lot of old cats out there. As a band, we’re into a lot of the classics as well,
but nowadays we’re influenced a little bit by bands like Arcade Fire and Alabama Shakes. Back
in the day it was more Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and the Stones.
TIS: I can hear that mix of modern in old in your music. I was listening to the new album and
thought it was a bit of a heavy hitter, with the instrumental track in the middle and two of the
tracks were over six minutes. What’s your writing process like and how did all of that come
together for this album?
RS: Pretty long! Again, it took us five years to write all the music that we had and put on this record. It’s not that we never wrote, we were just never happy with what we had. We have a really, really long process. We always have some chord progression or melody we really like and we’ll write the form of the song first, and then we throw the lyrics in.
Once the lyrics get thrown in, everything kind of changes from there, so the form changes again and then the lyrics change again. It’s just going back and forth in order to, in our minds, perfecting it to what we really want it to sound like. When you’re pressed for time and you’re not rehearsing as much as you’d like to, whenever you do get together it’s a long process to get it down and perfect it.
TIS: That sounds time consuming but gratifying.
RS: Totally; that’s how we feel about this record!
TIS: I think that’s a good place to be! So the last song on the album, “Oh Sweet Ganja,” is an awesome little song. I was just wondering the inspiration behind that, because I can hear a lot of different influences there with a world music vibe and a hint of blues.
RS: That song was kinda written as a joke, when we were probably 18 years old! It just became
a thing where Brad and I would just start singing it. We thought it was so great, so funny. It
came together that way; there wasn’t much influence behind it other than the title of the song.
The night before I was headed back to Athens for my sophomore year at Ohio University, I had a bunch of friends over, and we thought it’d be really cool to sing it together. Brad had a professional recorder and we had about 10 or 12 people in my basement. The band and all of our friends learned this song in a 30 minute period and all sang it together, and that’s the recorded track you hear on the album. It was this nice little campfire style song that we put at the end of the record … I think it’s a testament to us having a lot of fun with the whole thing.
TIS: That’s an awesome thing to have on your record. So you’ve released your debut album in
April, so what are your plans for the rest of 2017?
RS: This summer we’re going to be in Cincinnati playing a ton of shows. We have five shows lined
up right now, scattered throughout Cincinnati at places like Rake’s End, and there’s a possibility of playing at Bogart’s. We’re gonna try to play shows in Louisville, Cleveland, Columbus, Athens, Pittsburgh, to just do a midwest sweep and play as many shows as we can. Probably starting in the fall we’re gonna write as much music as we can, and hopefully we’ll have a second album out a year from now.
With a really solid debut and great discussion about the band and their future, I think we can expect more to come for Freak Mythology. Pick up their record and catch them at a show this summer.