“I was an injury. / one with eternity / and in that eternity was / body surveillance / dollarstore ramen / the birth of never.” – TRAUMA REDUCTION PRAYER, 2023
In a flutter of hyperpop synths, industrial whir, and deliberately-placed distortion, musical duo FREE.99 uses the sounds of the new century to shape their music and the ideologies behind their craft. Their work sits at the conjunctions between the corners of the internet, spinning a multidimensional web between the ideas of pseudo-independence, art, and the technological world in which we live and breathe. And, beneath a surface etched with heavier sounds, themes, and visual aesthetics, FREE.99 and their storylines run deep, finding broader meaning to their incredibly resonant tagline of “two gay girls making music for sad people.”
Only first meeting in 2021, FREE.99’s Echo and Izzy were quick to the chase when it came to beginning their musical and personal partnership, finding a love for each other and their shared passions that would only grow with their practice. Their connection was formed almost magically: Echo’s random retweet of Izzy’s art that prompted the two to start up both a conversation and a band, tastefully named after the drawing’s focus on a fortune machine and the concept of what it means for something to be “FREE.99.”
The pair’s alignment came at a perfect time, one in which Echo’s use of the internet as a “magical dowsing rod” and Izzy’s goal for earnesty online came into full fruition. In perfect nod to the caption of “future obsession” on Izzy’s tweet that got them connected initially, the girls soon found themselves traveling the world and making music in tandem: Nothing to lose and everything to gain. According to the pair, they “made, like, all of ‘OUT FOR BLOOD’ in […] Airbnbs,” using bare-bones equipment such as a JBL speaker. They accredit their unanticipated beginnings to the change in life that both of them needed. In their group’s aesthetic, FREE.99 pulls from a wide net of influences, culminating in a hot-blooded haze of glitchcore and industry punk that play to each of its members strengths. Despite Izzy’s origins in math rock and Echo’s foundation in electronic music, the two have strived to find a convergence between their backgrounds in the sound they create. From The Smashing Pumpkins to JRPG soundtracks and the hundreds of films the couple watched during the long-distance phase of their relationship, the two have found ways to integrate their musical and cultural inspirations with their own work.
However, even with a plethora of external influences, the pair’s music is primarily catalyzed by their own growth and experiences — calling for artistic inspiration from their own works. “I have to be my own reference,” says Izzy, nodding to the “DIY” methodology and new technology used by her and Echo in the creation of their projects together.
When it comes to sound, FREE.99 uses their electronic outlets to articulate “what it means to be a modern sapien,” using their platform to shine light on ideas of trauma and life online. “The best way to sort of talk about what’s going on right now and what people feel…right now is to use that kind of language, the technology of the time,” Echo emphasizes. This focus on experimental and electronically centered art is one which has been a learning process for both artists, both in building their skill sets and communication with each other. Izzy nods to their style as an outlet for their storytelling, as“something that really embraces things like glitches and a lot of development […] a perfect way to meld all these things that we don’t know how to put together at first.” Stemming from their separate musical backgrounds, the pair admit that they’re still in the process of finding a fully conjoined sound, yet it’s all part of their journey.
Both in their music and relationship with each other, the pair places focus on evolution, as well as creative and individual growth. Izzy reflects on the FREE.99’s lore — a world centered around post-industrial trauma and experience — accrediting its eternal fluidity and chaos to an “intentional accident.” Similarly, the group’s creative process is one which works best off of constructivism, from the integration of sampling in their music to constant reworking of their sound. “Life’s an organic process,” says Echo, a sentiment important to the pair both as they continue their work as artists and in the world as a whole.
As the duo finds themself with both a larger discography and fanbase, they turn to reflect back on the community built and friendships made throughout their work. While Izzy admits that in the for-profit professional world of today, it’s “difficult for people to have a model of what a true friend is,” friendship often arises through shared influence and circumstance. To find inspiration in another’s work is to find a sense of love, an idea that the group has been truly accentuated by the tight knit community they’ve fostered across the pages of the internet. Even their own romance, one sparked by a simple retweet, is proof to the power of the online world and creative connection which ensues.
Striving to increase the accessibility of their projects as well, FREE.99 makes an emphasis to release their music for free, allowing audiences to find resonance with their work without worry of a paywall. In the words of Echo themself, “there’s definitely this hidden power as an artist, like, if there’s one person that really is seeking something and you have a nugget that you can give them of wisdom, of truth, of beauty […] they’ll find it.”
With their recently released “TRAUMA REDUCTION PRAYER” EP, and more music soon on its way, FREE.99’s next steps are those which the band has the power to define and mold with their ever-evolving sound. Their music, by virtue, is a process of experimentation: A creative workflow driven by passion and curiosity. And, as the world moves further through the age of electronics, environmental analysis, and self-examination, FREE.99 is there to help pave the way.
Check out FREE.99’s work on their Bandcamp, Spotify and Newgrounds, and be sure to join their Discord server.