Two years before Free Throw formed in Nashville, the Memphis Grizzlies made national headlines for their “grit and grind.” Some not familiar with basketball may assume this was another phrase describing the team’s tireless work ethic, After all, it seems to be what brought them two consecutive playoff appearances. Journalists and analysts actually claimed this “grit and grind” was actually their disruptive defense. A free throw is usually given to a player usually disrupted by defense -- so when unintentionally borrowing “grit and grind” from their home state’s NBA franchise, Free Throw went on the offensive.
Consider the band’s signature play: a three-guitar attack which stacks raw immediacy with large-scale aspirations. Sometimes this arrangement is abrasive. The chorus on “Two Beers In,” a track detailing the internal conversations of a partygoer, seethes with rage. Other times it’s more nuanced; “How I Got My Shrunken Head” finds elastic guitar lines tripping over one another before fading out with a delicate ring. What connects these two different threads is Cory Castro’s frayed vocals, gaining their power from a violent shout and their confessions from a measured whimper. Combine that range with a set of lyrical themes that play out like an uneasy three-way phone call and what remains -- their 2014 LP Those Days Are Gone -- fills speakers with a darkness offset by instrumentals which sway and bend with warm nostalgia.
But what fills most of Free Throw’s golden playbook is a commitment to winning their own way. After strings of DIY touring circuits and an intense love affair with their van, it’s clear to see their blooming, road-tested legacy answers to no one but their enthusiastic audiences. With their live sets packing rooms across the country, not without alcohol and crowd sing-alongs in tow, it seems this grind has paid off so far, with the grit packing their songs with not just unrelenting talent, but the forward-thinking energy to match.