By Bailey Hosfelt
Free Advertising is a funk rock band with infusions of blues comprised of singer and guitarist PJ Cruz, FCRH ’18, drummer Brian Reynolds, FCRH ’17 and bassist Gus Arndt, FCRH ’17. The three Fordham students recently took the stage behind Rodrigue’s Coffee House for this year’s Battle of the Bands. Free Advertising’s performance won over the majority of the 305 voters, giving Cruz, Reynolds and Arndt first place. Free Advertising will open for the Spring Weekend headliner, which has yet to be announced by Campus Activities Board, on April 29.
The Fordham Ram: How did Free Advertising form?
PJ Cruz: Last year, I was driving back up to New York after spending spring break home in Virginia when I saw that Ram’s Got Talent sign-ups were due that night. I had wanted to put together a band to play music for a while, so I quickly reached out to Brian Reynolds and Graeme Anderson, who agreed to play. Ram’s Got Talent was the first event we performed as a band.
TFR: Every band name has a story behind it. How did you decide on Free Advertising?
PC: We used to go by The Bronx Trio, but knew that name would never stick. We put in a good week’s worth of effort just trying to come up with a new name until Graeme proposed Free Advertising. We were instantly sold, and we’ve been Free Advertising ever since.
TFR: For those who have not heard your music, how would you describe the sound of Free Advertising?
PC: We describe our sound as funk rock. We love the funk sound, which is probably most present in our song “Boat Race.” Rock and blues is a big influence as well.
TFR: What was the Battle of the Bands experience like?
PC: The process leading up to Battle of the Bands was a lot of work, and with all of our schedules, it felt like we weren’t going to have enough time to pull it off. Luckily, from the first rehearsal for our Battle of the Bands set we were able to mesh well and got a lot done.
TFR: Was there any one moment from Battle of the Bands that was especially memorable?
PC: There were some really great acts, so props to all the bands that performed, but I was really excited to see Private Caller play. One of the members, Tyler Jurewicz, is a good friend of ours from the Pep Band, and I hadn’t gotten a chance to see him play live yet. They really brought a lot of energy, and it was great seeing a good friend up there killing it. Tyler has one serious mug when he’s up there. You just know he’s really feeling the music.
Brian Reynolds: Definitely the line of people heading to vote after we finished. I was frantically packing my gear away, making room for the next drummer, when I noticed how many people were congregated by the voting booth. It was the first time I thought, “Huh, we might actually win.”
Gus Arndt: Jeremiah, lead guitarist of Private Caller, simulated a body slam onto his guitar as a song ended, like, right in front of me. I’ve been looking at music differently since then.
TFR: What does getting to open for the Spring Weekend headliner mean for you as a band?
PC: It’s definitely something to cross off the bucket list. We’re really excited, and hope we can take this momentum to continue moving forward as a band.
TFR: What is your favorite song to perform?
BR: “Dean Town” by Vulfpeck. Their music is so funky, syncopated and difficult to play. Even though PJ and Gus have tougher parts, holding the tempo down on this instrumental jam is always a welcome challenge that requires unwavering concentration.
GA: “Dean Town” by Vulfpeck would be if it didn’t make my hand hurt so badly by the end of it. Probably Brian’s original bass-driven funk symphony, “Boat Race.”
PC: In our Battle of the Bands set, I really enjoy when we go into “Hot in Herre” by Nelly. We come right out of “Come Together” by the Beatles and go straight into “Hot in Herre,” and the momentum of the transition gets me every time. Close second is our “Frankenstein” tease by the Edgar Winter Group.
TFR: What does the creative process look like?
PC: It really does depend on what we’re working on. If you get a massive wave of creativity, a song can be written in one, maybe two sittings. Others can take months. The songwriting process is the most variable part of it, but the rehearsal and performance part is one that we’ve gotten down to a science as of late. This band has seen quite the number of bassists this year due to study abroad. With the rotation of bassists, we’ve had to learn how to adapt to having a fresh bassist grooving with us, but it has gotten easier each time.
TFR: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
GA: I restring my bass upside down and play through the whole set, so I forget everything I know. Then I tussle the hair of my roommate, Jason Miki, and he smacks me across the face as hard as he can.
PC: Unfortunately, not really. Unless you count moving gear every which way for a show as a ritual, then yes.
BR: Anxiously reviewing the setlist in my head for any last minute notes (for myself or the group). As the drummer, I’m usually more distracted by hauling gear and assembling my drum set than anything else.
TFR: Who are your main musical inspirations?
PC: My biggest inspirations in songwriting are Jason Mraz, Ed Sheeran and John Mayer. Growing up, Jason Mraz showed me how you can make a song funky, from the strumming pattern to the chord progression to the lyrics. He’s got it going on. Ed Sheeran was a big lyrical influence as well. John Mayer is a huge influence in my guitar playing. I can watch that man’s solos all day and never get bored.
BR: Every musician’s simultaneously favorite and least favorite question. So many to discuss, but who to choose? As for drummers, I’m particularly influenced by Steve Gadd, Billy Cobham, Elvin Jones, Neil Peart and Phil Collins. As for bands artists, especially as they relate to the work we do in Free Advertising, again Vulfpeck, along with the Commodores, Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder.
GA: Flea and the rest of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mike Doughty and Soul Coughing, Jaco Pastorius, Sublime and MF DOOM.
TFR: How can Fordham students listen to your music before Spring Weekend and learn about any upcoming gigs?
PC: Following our Soundcloud, Free Advertising, is the best way to listen to our music. We’re in the process of adding new mixes from our live shows. Our Facebook page is the best way to find out about upcoming shows. Anytime we have a show, we make an event and share it. Otherwise, word of mouth.
Free Advertising will be at Mugz’s on April 18 from 10 p.m. – 1 a.m.