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Freeflow’s still gunning for the radio

Vancouver rock-reggae band hits Squamish on Friday

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Vancouver-based quintet Freeflow is well known in the city's music scene for its reggae-affected urban rock. They formed as a jam band a decade ago and have released two albums. In 2009, they competed in the first-ever Peak Performance Project as a way to gain more exposure.

They're at it again, this time taking on the 104.3 The Shore's Song Search. We asked drummer Ryan Davis why in this age of the Internet, they're still gunning for local radio airplay and he had some interesting comments on the state of the music industry.

Pique: Do you feel that the radio still has the power that it used to have?

Ryan Davis: It still does have the power, it's just different. Before, you would walk into a radio station and would pay the DJ some money, then they would put your record on and everyone would listen to that one station. It had a different power but I think it still does (have power). The exposure is still great. It's harder to get on, I think, to get the kind of airplay that you would need to get the exposure. I still think, yes, the power is still there but it's just sort of in a different state.

I know that all the bands that I know of and work with, because I'm also a booking agent, that's their main goal - how can they get on radio? So I know that it's still there. Whether or not radio does as much for the band as it used to, everybody's still pursuing it the same as though it were.

Pique: Why are people still aiming for the local radio when with the Internet you're casting a wider net?

Davis: I think that everybody still has that mindset that you have to get a hit on the radio. I think also too that with the Internet, even though it's been around for awhile now, people are still not really sure on how to capitalize on it, and really where to do it and how to do it. These radio contests are so fantastic because they put you in touch with the people that know how to do it, like the social media networks on how to design the proper website and what to say, what not to say.

People are going to have to learn because it's just going more and more that way, not only as far as getting radio spins but even just selling music. Online is just, you have to be into it. You have to be really easily found and online is the obviously the place to do it.

Pique: Do you ever find yourself missing the old days or nostalgic for the old days, when bands would have a hit on MuchMusic and then you had a hit on the radio?

Davis: Yes. ( laughs ) There are some days when I do because that was just so much easier but at the same time you didn't get on MuchMusic unless you were signed to a major label. It's actually still the case.

It's easier now because we're in full control of our careers because of the online and all that stuff.

It's sort of a mix. It would have been nice just to go back to the days where you searched out that record deal and that was it. You were set and you had all the promo you needed, you had the exposure and you just had to go on tour. But now it's more exciting because now it's up to us. We don't need to have that one guy sitting at an (artists and recording) desk saying yes or no. We can do it ourselves and if you do it right, you can compete with anybody.

Pique: It's being run like a business now and you're kind of in control of it. How is this affecting the music?

Davis: There are times when we spend weeks just worrying about the business side of it, when we really would rather just be in the rehearsal studio and writing and recording. That's the other side of it too - in the old days, you would just get signed and that was all we had to worry about, was just sitting wherever you wanted to go and write music.

Now, because we are in control that takes up a lot of the time, and everybody has to put their effort in, in order to make sure that we're on top of everything so we still have the time to do the writing, rehearsing and performing and the whole reason why we're doing it.

Pique: What's it like trying to make it as a Canadian band these days, or more specifically a Vancouver band?

Davis: I know some bands that are doing really well for whatever reason. There's a lot of luck involved. I know in Vancouver, the music scene itself is growing. When I moved here in the mid-nineties, it was moving downhill fast. All the clubs were closing and it wasn't looking good.

Now, I've noticed in the last few years, some club owners are putting some effort in trying to get live music, whether it succeeds for them or not. It's nice to see people wanting it again. They're sort of tired of what's been happening for the last 10 or 15 years with the standard nightclub DJ, although that has evolved too. But I've noticed it's getting stronger and that's across Canada as well.

Tickets are $15 through www.squamishmusicfestival.com