Cox, along with bandmates Don Godwin and Awad Bilal, circled each other for years in various underground, DIY scenes. Eventually, the three ended up in the District making dance punk in a band with Downtown Boys’ Mary Regalado.
But after a few years touring with his band Merchandise, Cox had made a bunch of music on his computer — “4 million things” that needed a home. He had Bilal sing on some of it, and Godwin starting contributing as well.
Compared with their other project, Too Free is more purely dance music. Synth arpeggios shimmer over saw-toothed basslines and the clattering drum machine rhythms of freestyle, electro and beyond, while Bilal’s sultry voice brings a seductive energy to hypnotic grooves.
Bilal, who has worked with bounce queen Big Freedia, names new jack swing band Guy as an inspiration. “I love that bombastic enthusiasm for love,” he says, and that enthusiasm comes across in songs where love is yearned for and insisted upon.
And despite the clean, luxurious sound of their debut album, “Love in High Demand,” the music of Too Free is born of those anything-goes jam sessions. “I’ve never played in a project where electronics feel so spontaneous,” Godwin says.
Live, the songs have a habit of mutating depending on a variety of factors: low blood sugar, forgetting which fret to start on, or taking mushrooms and forgetting how to play the song all together. For the band, there’s no such thing as being “too” free. As Cox says, “I’m fine with confusing audiences.”
Show: Feb. 22 at 10:30 p.m. at U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW. ustreetmusichall.com. $10-$12; free before 11 p.m. for 21 and older.