REBELS WITH A CAUSE
By Rita Savard
Michael Bernier is having the time of his life and he sure as hell should be. In just three years, he’s gone from hosting an indie radio show in his bedroom to operating a two-story state-of-the-art radio station and recording studio. If that’s not enough, add forging his own record label into the mix, and, his band Freevolt (which, by the way, scooped up a New England Music Award last year) is about to release their first full-length album.
Describing the band as an “epic gathering of brethren,” Bernier says being a part of Freevolt (listen here) is unlike anything else he’s been involved in.
When keyboard player Gary Rechhia, bassist Mat Maier, guitarist Eddie Hargreaves, drummer John Spurr, saxaphonist Jonathan Bousquet, and singer Bernier all come together, it’s about celebrating life. And the sound of that ~ a melting pot of roots reggae with swirling jazz/funk inspired horns and rock spiced with pop melodies ~ hits like a wave of contagious positive energy.
Besides moving people to groove, Freevolt’s songs also challenge them to think, like the album’s title track, “Take The Product.” Layered over a funk-fueled jam, the lyrics call for taking a stand, doing your own research and not falling blindly into the throes of commercialism.
“Heartbreak Hill,” an emotional reflection on the Boston Marathon bombings, looks at the consequences of violence.
But mostly, Freevolt’s music melts into your ear with sheer bliss due to incredible musicianship and the band’s willingness to dive into world beats and world issues.
Green homes. Organic food. Nature is good. Yeah, these modern day prophets are inspired by the 60s. But let’s face it, look at the pro-environment and anti-violence movements happening in America today and we can say one thing’s for sure ~ hippies were right about a lot of things.
But for Bernier, it’s not just talk. The Dracut native practices what he preaches.
Three years ago, he was playing live on WXGR 103.5 FM in Portsmouth, N.H. The station’s owner not only liked Bernier’s music, but also his banter in between songs.
“He told me if I was ever interested in doing my own show, to let him know,” Bernier recalls.
Shortly after that, Bernier was interviewing some cool cats in cramped quarters including Ryan Montbleau, Zach Deputy, Candlebox, and Boston-based singer Will Dailey, who performed his song “Rise” on CSI: New York.
“Looking back, it is funny,” Bernier says. “These people would come to be interviewed on a radio show and they’d arrive at an apartment and be led into a bedroom. They were probably thinking, ‘Oh, man, what the hell! My management didn’t do their research.’ But by the end it would be all hugs and love.”
Bernier’s Evolvement Radio show, co-hosted by Benjamin Twombly and Kristin Suave´, kept growing thanks to a regular rotation of indie bands and fun interviews with people doing interesting things ~ like brewing rum (Old Ipswich Rum) and growing mushrooms (Shady Oaks Organics) ~ in and around New England.
Now the independent show operates out of a two-story historic barn in Newburyport, which was converted on the inside into a fully functioning studio (listen here).
Evolvement Radio sponsors, like its hosts, are companies committed to being ecofriendly including Vita Coco, KIND Healthy Snacks and Amazing Grass Organic Green SuperFoods.
Whether it’s Freevolt’s music or the radio program, the message, Bernier says, is all relative.
Like some of the people who inspire them, think Bob Marley and Rage Against The Machine, Freevolt’s music is rebel music for a cynical world. But instead of complaining, they’re taking action.
“It’s about creating camaraderie around positive things as opposed to complaints,” Bernier says. “Every time we get together and play for one person or 1,000 people, I think, this combination of people is never going to be together in the same room again. Let’s celebrate that.”
See Freevolt live Saturday, March 1 at 10:15 pm during HOWL Magazine’s Issue 1 Launch Party | Mill No. 5, 250 Jackson St., Lowell. Follow Freevolt on Facebook here.