Ekin Kislali : Vocals/Guitars
James Onder: Guitars
Cem Konuk: Upright Bass
Arda Algül: Keys
Veli Erisim Meral: Drums
Although The Free Licks could be categorised as an alt-rock band, its members' varied styles and influences make it much more than that. The band's story is one of passion, deception, camaraderie, denial and many chord changes.
It starts with Ekin Kışlalı, a Turkish singer-songwriter raised in the United States of America. Empassionated by the emerging alternative and grunge scene during his college years he started writing his own songs. He played at several gigs and events in the U.S.A. and Canada as a solo performer and occasionally with a band. In 2005 he became a semi-finalist at the 2005 International Songwriter Competition in Memphis Tennessee. After he returned to Turkey he continued to sing and write on his own. He eventually became fed up with being a lone bull therefore decided it was time to form a cattle of his own, a band that would last, not fade like the sun at sundown. Through vigorous research and auditions he masticated and spat out many musicians that were unable to fit his groove.
Weary and feeling like all hope was lost he told himself to hang on a little more. Finally in 2010 he came across Cem Konuk, a zen bass player. A Berklee graduate, he studied music under artists such as Anthony Vitti, Paul Del Nero and John Finn. After completing his studies and soaking in whatever he could musically he returned to Istanbul to teach bass, harmony and ensemble at a music academy. A rocker at heart, he honed his skills in various hard'n'heavy cover and tribute bands as well as funk,jazz and tango bands. Realising that Cem's wide musical range would suit his music perfectly Ekin made him an offer: All the beer he could drink. Coincidentally Cem was looking for an outlet to unleash his creativity, but he didn't mention that part. So, with his upright bass, he leapt at the offer to join Ekin on his quest.
So now the duo were looking for a drummer. After a couple of tryouts without any results, Veli Erişim Meral, who had studied sound engineering in the United Kingdom and worked in that capacity at Studio Mono, the recording studio where they held the auditions, told them that he too was a drummer. So they said "Ok, show us what you got." And he did and they were impressed. When later asked what the major factor was in choosing Veli, Ekin replied: "Soundwise he likes making it loud. Also, aside from having a wide range in styles and a keen ear, it also helped that he has a large kit." When Veli, who also worked a freelance Front-of-House engineer, quite reasonably asked what would be in it for him as he would to have to rearrange his timetable Ekin said: "All the crazy women you can handle." And then there were three.
While trying to herd a cattle together Ekin was also busy recording a couple of his songs at another studio. The fellow doing the recordings was also the guitarist but they had a falling out. Which was a bit unfortunate as they had a concert approaching fast. A week left to the gig, Jim Drone, a fellow solo performer offered to fill in the recently vacated spot, though only for that gig. Ekin, Cem and Veli had already shaped the songs, so all Jim had to do was learn his parts. With the guys' expertise and a little amount of luck the concert went smoothly. But it took a while for Jim to realise that he was going to be stuck with the band for a long time.
Now performing as "Ekin Kışlalı & The Free Licks" the band decided to record the songs they had been playing. So they went back to Studio Mono where they regularly practiced. The songs were going to be recorded live. Here enters Arda Algül, a piano wunderkind and a successful composer in his own right, also a founding partner of Studio Mono. Having grown tired of and disillusioned with performing live after having played with many well known Turkish acts, he focused on composing for tv and films and on recording other artists. But that was soon to change. A few times he had heard the band practice and was intrigued by its vibe. So when asked if he would like to perform on the upcoming demo recording sessions he accepted. The demos turned out pretty well, but more importantly Arda had enjoyed playing with the band so much that he decided to jump in. Also it should be pointed out that there are rumours that Ekin is in the possession of certain pictures that could harm Arda's private life.
So the finally complete band (at least until it wants to expand more) was writing new material faster than a speeding bullet and performing them along with the older stuff. As the new material was the result of a collaborative effort they decided to change the band's name simply to "The Free Licks." The band's material and audience rapidly increasing, in June 2011 they began recording their album which they are also producing. Soon the album will be ready and The Free Licks will conquer the world... And maybe a few other planets as well, beginning with Mars perhaps?..