In 2015, the newly-formed Free Years were ready to take St. Louis' music scene by storm with the release of their debut album, quickly setting up a photoshoot at the Lemp Brewery in anticipation. Instead, it would be a three-year process to bring the world "For a Limited Time," set to be released this Dec. 21.
The Free Years started as a trio: Matthew James, singer and guitarist, Ryan Meyers, keyboardist, and Danny Hill, drummer, but their origin can be traced further back. Hill and James have performed together since high school, eventually forming the bands Crash and Palace. After everyone else had left Palace, the two decided to "start over," Hill noted, and the Free Years were born.
In Aug. of 2015, the band began work on the album, which was done primarily in their own studio. It was mainly produced and engineered by Tommy Patzuis (with help from Luke Arens, as well as Ben Majchrzak at Native Sound). But progress on the record would stall. Members' personal lives and day jobs would get in the way, with Meyers leaving the band in the summer of 2017.
James noted he and the band were "naive and optimistic simultaneously" to have planned to release the album within a year of forming. He cited depression, lack of inspiration, and fatigue from his labor job as reasons for the delay. But it would be the latter reason that turned into a positive for them.
"Eazy" was released as the lead single a year ago, and was the first major entry in the Free Years' catalog. It's a song that was inspired by James looking for a change of circumstance, as his job was "draining the life blood out of" him, and he "needed a break." While he said the song is now directed at the audience, he initially wrote the lyrics about himself.
The song is the first of an eight-track, accessible and creative alt-pop album. "For a Limited Time" was heavily influenced by acts like Daft Punk and Chromeo, as well as bands that predated them. The record, which runs just under a half hour, features songs written over the last decade.
"Warrior," which was written 10 years ago by James and his friend Corey Alden, was inspired by a tragic event. Alden was the front-seat passenger in a car accident that took the life of his friend. After spending a night sleeping in a park, he went to James' house and they wrote the song, which is a standout on the album.
Though the record, overall, is a blend of '80s and contemporary influences, "Starting Again" is thought of by James as their "most modern pop song." The band dissected the work of hit-making songwriter and producer Max Martin in the process of finishing the track.
In the years since forming, James and Hill added Kevin Neumann, bassist, Josh Edwards and Jess Urso, keyboardists, to the band.
Concert-goers can hear the Free Years live Dec. 21 at 8 p.m., during the album release show at Gaslight.