Q&A: Doris Cellar of Freelance Whales


When people hear Craigslist experiences, they only think of the gloom and doom that could occur from these chance meetings. But fortunately for Queens, New York-based Freelance Whales, the results couldn’t have gone more swimmingly. The band’s name is derived from lead singer Judah Dadone’s near death experience when he nearly drowned during his childhood in Jerusalem. Fortunately for the masses, the band has not only treaded water, but crash through the water like a dolphin doing a back flip. The band’s catchy brand of indie rock and their breakthrough album, Weathervanes, made them one of the most talked about bands in 2010. Labeled a “Must Hear” band by Spin Magazine before their acclaimed SXSW performance and having a featured spot on NPR’s All Things Considered, it’s safe to say that this year has been a success for the band. The band is fortunate to be signed to Mom & Pop/Frenchkiss Records, which is a joint effort between two labels who strongly believe in the band’s music and vision, and frankly makes it easier for the band to succeed with such a strong support system. During the band’s jaunt from Los Angeles to San Francisco and after several technical difficulties, Bestnewbands.com caught up with Doris Cellar (bass, harmonium, glockenspiel, synthesizer, vocals) to rap about the band’s future, what they’ve learned from the road and what’s the most rewarding aspect of being a touring band.

DK: It’s too often that you hear a success story from Craigslist that didn’t end in deception or murder. How did you guys manage to buck the trend?

DC: We all had different ads up to try to join a band. I had just broken up with my other band and I was looking to find a new band. Judah responded and said “I don’t mind playing your music but I’m looking for someone for my own band, so let’s meet up.” I met him on the Upper West Side in his apartment, I remember it being so hot outside, it was tank-top weather and I’m dripping of sweat and I’m probably stinky. I then walk up five flights of stairs and fortunately, Judah and I clicked right away. The next day he met up with Kevin (guitarist Kevin Reed) I don’t know how that went, but I’m pretty sure it went great (laughs). Then Kevin and I went to the studio by where I lived in Queens. We had a PA there and everything set up. The three of us jammed and the rest was great.

DK: I see you guys that you guys have honed your sound on subway cars and platforms throughout New York City. How did that work?

DC: After we met up in August, shortly thereafter we decided we wanted to play some shows. We played our first show and it was sold out and we couldn’t believe it! All our friends came out and it was a tiny place, so no wonder it was sold out. Then we had to book some other shows and they were bigger and we didn’t know how to please promoters so a friend who was playing the bucket drum in the subway suggested that we should play in the subway because he said we sounded great acoustically, though we were only doing electric at the time. It was a really great idea and I had done it when I was 16, so I was all about it. We decided that we should play the station closest to the venue and we were playing Trash Bar (in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) and we took all our instruments right before the gig, went on the corner and played. We ended up selling that show out! So we ended up doing some more places after that.


DK: With that unique story, how were you able to transfer that publicity into playing with groups like Bear in Heaven, Shout Out Louds and Tokyo Police Club? What have you learned from touring with veteran bands like them?

DC: I think every band we ever toured with, we’ve adopted a sort of mannerism. For example, Fanfarlo was our first tour and this is kind of funny, but they taught how to fold and organize our merch (laughs). We learned that from them. From Tokyo Police Club, we learned how to be very specific with the engineers with the type sound we wanted. They weren’t afraid to say what they wanted regarding their sound. Every tour is different and we pick up different things on each journey.


DK: With the successes of 2010, is it hard to maintain levelheadedness about where you’ve been and where you guys are headed?

DC: Absolutely not. We’re not cocky by any means. Our big thing is connecting with fans. After every show, Judah, Kevin and myself head out to our merch booth and into the crowd to interact with our fans and to meet them. This is one of the most rewarding this about doing this is seeing the reaction of these people. The hype makes it easier to get noticed, but it doesn’t make us overconfident by any stretch. These interactions are often times the highlights of a particular show, besides playing on stage of course.


DK: After you get back from Europe, what are your tentative plans for 2011?

DC: Well, we still have four weeks left on the tour. After that, well, we’re not sure yet. There won’t be any recording for the rest of 2010 and when we get back from overseas, we’re going to take a break and spend some time with friends and family. Then hopefully when January rolls around, we’ll start at it again, starting to make something new. We have the world at our fingertips it seems.


If you are fortunate enough to catch Freelance Whales over the next few weeks, you should jump at the opportunity. Who knows, maybe you run into them after the show and have the pleasure of speaking with some of the most humble and genuine musicians in indie rock today.