Please introduce your band
We are a trio from Jacksonville, FL with a unique style that mixes reggae, indie and surf punk to make our own sound.
Tell us about your line-up
Mason Staub is the singer/guitarist/ producer of Free Mace. The rest of the band's line-up has an alternating drummer and bass player. Mason Staub started off in the pop-punk/screamo scene as a multi-instrumentalist, diving into reggae and ska-punk. Playing in various genres and groups since 13 years old, Mason (now 24) writes and produces a plethora of genres for himself as well as other artists.
How did the band meet?
Free Mace's line-up has had many changes through the years and will continue to change. It started out as me playing solo acoustic, then was a duo, later becoming a trio. What led me to take it seriously was knowing that the Free Mace sound is different and hard to replicate. The line-up is constantly changing, so the sound is always evolving.
What's the story behind your band name?
Free Mace came about when I was in high school and started as my Instagram handle in 10th grade. It later developed into my nickname and I went by that for years before the music was official.
Tell us about your influences!
My influences are my life experiences, my home state of Florida and all the crazy things in it, Dance Gavin Dance, From First to Last, Chon, Bad Brains, Steel Pulse, etc. I draw influence from just about every style of music, except country and bluegrass. I enjoy music being played fast, loud, and with attitude.
Could you describe your approach to songwriting?
My creative process is always changing and is very sporadic. It mostly consists of what emotion I'm feeling right when I'm creating/producing. Sometimes it can be boredom or being under the influence, but I strive to write things with many layers that require you to critically think and analyze the words, metaphors, the rhythms, etc.
Describe your band's first big break
I'd say our first big break was when we dropped our debut self-titled EP. It definitely gained traction and opened us up to playing more shows and festivals, getting articles written up, and fans listening to our music. I never wanted to be a part of a conformed scene, I wanted to bring fresh jams and break away from the idea of a "music scene" by collaborating and performing with all types of music.
Tell us about some of your most memorable gigs - both good and bad!
All of our most memorable gigs are always when we interact with fans. If it's over passing a doobie or drinking some brews, we always meet rad people at our concerts and I really dig the energy and the positive vibes. Some of the worst ones were in the early days of Free Mace. I started playing as a solo act for Free Mace because I didn't know anyone to fill the open spots. Not that they were bad shows by any means, they just weren't the full Free Mace experience consisting of a high energy show with guitar solos behind the head.
What advice do you have to those who want to start a band?
If you're thinking of starting a band, it's already established based on manifesting that thought. Playing in a band is very rewarding and allows you to grow in ways as a musician that you wouldn't be able to otherwise. The biggest bit would be to not always make bands with your homies. Your friends are your friends, but if they're in your band they become your co-workers, and it is a whole different relationship consisting of many obstacles. Starting a band is the easy part, maintaining a band is a bit more complicated.
What are some of the challenges you face being in a band?
I would say our biggest challenge is the lack of community. Many artists are driven by this ego that they are too good for anyone. Once you drop that ego, you will be opened up to new opportunities because you realize everyone is doing the same thing you are, just a bit different. Collaboration is what unifies the music scene.
What does it take to be successful as a band?
Success takes drive, ambition, creativity, adaptation, networking and being yourself. You have to be hungry for it, to go out and seek success. Opportunities only present themselves when you are out there looking for them. Open yourself up to new creative outlets and experiences, and never forget who you are or how far you have come.
How important is music theory?
I would say basic theory is important, but personally, I don't rely on it too much. Many things I play, I don't use theory until I try and figure out what the hell it is that I just played. For a long time I would play guitar along the radio to 2000s Pop or something like that and just rip solos all over it. I believe ear training is a lot more crucial for the rock music I play, and it allows you to jam with nearly anyone. Music theory is crucial for jazz or orchestral music but isn't as prominent in rock or pop. Music theory is very mathematical, so if you're good at math, you'll be great at theory!
Tell us about the releases you've put out to date
Our debut self-titled EP dropped in 2018, and I made that EP right after college. That EP's track list is probably our most used in our concert set lists. Every song on that EP, in my opinion, is a banger! Our first full-length, After Hours, was released in 2019 and that's where the Free Mace sound was becoming cemented. Heavy reggae dub influence with pop-punk drum beats and some surfy skate stuff all in the mix. We really wanted to make an impact with After Hours, so tracks like "New Jack '' and "A Little Bit of Herb" really set the tone straight.
In 2020, we dropped two EPs that were completely different from each other. The first release of 2020 is called “Hawaii Drive” EP and is a stripped down acoustic interpretation of songs we already had released, run through a cassette machine. The whole EP is super beachy and tropical, so it gives our music a completely different sound. Shortly after that release, we dropped the “World on Fire” EP, and that was a full blown production of four tracks. After all the world changing events that transpired in 2020, that EP was a reflection on everything. We just recently released our second full-length album called “Media” and that is sort of the sequel to “World on Fire” EP. Media's premise was similar, but more focused on the media facade and the subjugation of free thought. For this album, we went for more of an indie/pop-punk route because we wanted something that sounded different. Our discography has a little bit for everyone.
What has been your band's biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement would be that I'm still doing music. Music as a career is pretty tricky because you end up doing most, if not all, of the behind the scene things. It can beat you down after a while, and many people quit music for that. I've learned to take breaks so that I don't creatively hit a wall. I'm stoked that I can keep doing what I love and stay fresh at it.
How do you view the current state of the music industry?
I look at the music industry as being all over the place. The pandemic definitely put everything on hold for a lot of people. The industry especially, because all shows were cancelled or rebooked for another date. In Florida, we were playing shows while this was going on, so we saw a lot of out of town bands come out here too. I guess when the music industry takes a dive, independent music will thrive.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I'm exploring new creative opportunities and evolving the Free Mace sound. I am also making Lofi TripHop under the guise “F2MS” and playing drums for a local hard rock/metal band. Other than music and art, I've been surfing a bunch, skating in the Florida sun, and I've been getting more tattoos.
What is your focus for the year ahead?
My focus on the year ahead is to collaborate. I would like to get more artists and musicians in this community we are building in Jacksonville, FL so that we can all be on the ticket together. We put on a festival already with rap, rock, acoustic, and edm music, and we learned a lot while also really enjoying all of it. So running more shows and booking festivals for my band as well as others.
Thank you so much for dropping by the WeJam studio! Where can we follow your progress?