In November, Organ Freeman’s Simon Gabriel discovered his band’s Facebook page had been deleted. Without warning, 10 years of considered social media output; carefully hatched parodies, international gig memories and countless wind-ups, had disappeared without a trace. This is part two of our series Who Killed Organ Freeman?
“Help resources on Facebook are a maze that all lead to one ‘contact’ option, which is ‘report a bug’ or ‘was this helpful? Yes or no?’, both of those options lead to an automatic “thanks for your feedback, our team will look into improving this experience”.
Google ‘Organ Freeman’ and the top ranked result will not be your favourite Wirral-based synth band. You will be greeted instead by Rob, Trevor and Erik; three LA hipsters who share the moniker with the Merseyside rabble rousers. Organ Freeman’s Simon Gabriel will be quick to tell you than their West Coast doppelgängers are johnny-come-latelys to the puntastic brethren. However, they appear to take their existence much more seriously than the 2008 version of Organ Freeman.
“After about four or so years of us playing as ‘Organ Freeman’, another band popped up online by the same name. That’s not a crime, but I remember sending them a message, politely saying there may be some confusion if they chose to use that name – they blocked me instantly! The thing that really bothers me about them is that they’re boring, and their music is boring, their artwork is boring. Their path to ‘success’ is clearly different to our one, they’ve taken a much more conventional approach, which means anyone attempting to ever listen to us on Spotify would get results for them as we have no interest in releasing music or being known globally. All that being said, it seems the presence of us actually bothers them more than the presence of them bothers us. We’re constantly tagged and mentioned in lots of things to do with the LA Organ Freeman, can you imagine expecting to find this normal ‘cool’ band and then finding us? We’re a nuisance to them”.
Back in the UK, Hope and Glory Festival, the notorious disaster which inflicted itself on St George’s plateau in 2017 has been a rich vein of comedy for online jokers since it’s emphatic failure. The organiser’s ‘no festival today’ announcement a familiar trope and the festival’s name becoming synonymous with any half baked event or glorious fuck-up. Which makes Organ Freeman’s next prank all the more impressive for its ability to fish people in.
“Surely not?” The online reaction to the Hope And Glory twitter account being reactivated was one of surprise, excitement and more than a modicum of suspicion. “Something big happening. Stayed tuned” read the enigmatic post on 26th March 2018. This was followed by a statement. The wording was clumsy; “the biggest independently released festival in the north west”, the message hyperbolic, it had all the hallmarks of famous chancer Lee O’Hanlon, the orchestrator of 2017’s clusterfuck.
“This was one of my favourites because the people of Liverpool really did most of the work. I was on a bus coming out of the Birkenhead tunnel and saw people doing something at St George’s Hall. It made me think “ha, imagine it was that festival again”, and that got me thinking. I looked it up and all the existing original social media handles were available. I registered them and created some in-line artwork that looked similar to something they’d do. I posted one tweet “Something big happening. Stay tuned” and followed a few people and then it just exploded – with hatred.
“It was a great thing to sit back and watch people react in such a way. I thought the whole thing was obvious, but very few picked up on it being a joke. The Echo published an article and then hounded me for comment, even Iain Lee fell for it and wanted me to go on his TalkRADIO show and chat about the return live – Iain had previously been the one to get Lee O’Hanlon on air to talk about the original festival blunder, so I thought he for sure would suss it to be a fake. We left cryptic clues along the way before revealing the truth. It was like the angry mob pulling back a curtain to reveal a mirror, we were on the same side as them!”
O r g a n f r e e m a n – the opening letter of each line of the statement released the day before revealed the truth. Angry at being sucked in yet again but appreciative of another well-executed stunt, social media reacted accordingly. And Organ Freeman were back and even more victims had fell for their pitch perfect stunt.
A combination of advanced photoshop skills and a talent for judging tone had helped the band achieve their latest triumph but also a knack for judging their audience and how gullible they could be also played a part. As far as they were concerned though, their jokes weren’t harming anyone. Often the targets were millionaire celebrities or intangible events likes a second Hope and Glory Festival or Paul Hollywood playing at Glastonbury. Surely, no-one would wish to get their own back.
Perhaps their most notorious stunt, organised in 2014, sent a section of cult music fans into meltdown when a promotion campaign for a Shellac gig appeared across Liverpool. While the Hope and Glory stunt was received in broadly good humour, Steve Albini fans were less amused.
“Most times people take being the subject of our yanks playfully, like when we tweeted “Just Shazammed the sound of a tamagotchi falling in a toilet and it suggested Princess Nokia.”, she loved it! – But there’s also a lot of occasions where people are seemingly cheesed. That Shellac prank was a bit of a do or die. I was on holiday with limited internet when people started posting how excited they were that Shellac were coming to Liverpool, I was dreading the reveal – mainly because there wasn’t one, it was just “Got you!”. I was getting it all drip fed and dreaded checking my phone in case we’d been digitally hanged. We weren’t, but we definitely pissed people off. Including Albini himself, who I believe called us ‘some loser band from England’, amongst many more on what appeared to be a lonely but committed internet forum – it was our cover photo for a while on Facebook, actually”.
In an interview with Bido Lito! band back in 2017, Simon said: “One of the brilliant things about the age we live in is that there are so many ways to blur the lines of reality. It’s thrilling to fool people but there’s no way people would ever believe the things we say if we hadn’t gained such a reputation through being a real atypical band these last seven years.”
The band pushed this smudging of reality to its limit in October this year. Entitled ‘Organ Freeman – Testimonials’ and claiming to broadcast the opinions of ‘Liverpool’s most notable music figures’ the four-minute YouTube video is nothing short of a masterpiece. Opening with a suited man with an Eastern European accent claiming to be Bido Lito! Founder Craig G Pennington (who pronounces it ‘By-do Lito’), the video features a cast of characters including a pre-pubescent GetIntoThis editor Peter Guy, an Asian Steve ‘Revo’ Miller and an excitable American purporting to be Sound City ‘head honcho’ Dave Pichilingi. Closing the video is an emotional looking talking head named Chris Carney offering an apology to the band. For those who aren’t familiar with the Organ Freeman career arch, this part may have been slightly confusing…
“Predictably, submitting a bug report didn’t work. Submitting yet more bugs via different band members also didn’t draw any results.
“While checking for different ways to contact Facebook I found the Facebook Business portal, they still make it purposefully hard to contact a ‘human’ but I found under the Advertisements menu there was a way I could send a message and ask for someone to call me. This is obviously the only situation where Facebook care (because it’s where their users spend money). So I drafted my message in such a way that implied we spend a lot, so it would hopefully enforce some sort of response.
“Two days later I’m in a chippy in Southport and my phone rings. I miss the call, and when I try and call back I’m told it’s Facebook’s Global Marketing Solutions…”
Organ Freeman’s feud with Chris Carney has certainly been the band’s longest running gag. In fact, ‘feud’ is a fairly grandiose term for a series of one-sided piss-takes which the Threshold founder has been wise to ignore but the band have persisted with for almost five years. The story began with a classic artist vs promoter argument over a fee.
“I’ve learnt to treat applications to play for anything as a terrible warning, it screams “I’m so grateful!” for getting chosen. I also think playing music for free is fine if you can weigh up the situation and in turn, not make a huge loss in transport costs.
“For Threshold Festival, one of us needed a train from Manchester to make the show so I had emailed the organisers to ask if £13 in travel expenses for our show would be okay. I received a response from festival organiser Chris Carney. Chris’s email was a lecture on how much it costs to run a festival…”
In part three of Who Killed Organ Freeman Simon continues the Threshold saga and speaks to a Facebook representative in order to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Read part three of Who Killed Organ Freeman here.