INTERVIEW: FRIENDS

Rolling through elements of indie-pop, funk and disco, hotly tipped band, Friends, today release an album that boasts confidence to captivate any listener. For the last year they’ve been that band you might stumble across on blogs and magazines thanks to the impressive single releases of ‘I’m His Girl’ and ‘Friend Crush’. With so many bands fighting for listeners, it actually took a live performance for me to take notice of Friends. Today sees the change from being the band you might listen to, to the band you will listen to with the release of Manifest!

 

Currently touring Europe, we managed to catch up with the band at Live at Leeds Festival before their packed out set…

 

Is this your first tour of Europe?

We’ve done little things, we first came out to do a few shows in the UK at the end of September last year, a handful of months back, and then we got flown out to do the London Calling Festival in Amsterdam.

Has it been difficult breaking Europe?

We’ve had a little bit of a head start in Europe because we were signed to a UK label and our European affiliates way early so we got some more exposure here. The markets in England are a little smaller so it either happens really quickly or it doesn’t happen really quickly. People started to pay attention so we were lucky.

People have said in America you have more time to develop while in England it’s sort of a one shot deal, do you agree with that?

America will ignore you for a bit so it gives you time to develop. America is so big it’s like all of you guys in Europe combined, excluding Russia. If you get a bit of press attention in America you can play the biggest cities like Chicago, New York and L.A and fill a small nightclub but all the places in between, and even bigger cities on the coast don’t know you. We are a New York band and we would play Philadelphia and Boston early on which aren’t very far from us at all and no one would really care.

At the beginning was it a small community in New York that knew about you guys?

I would say so because we really developed steadily through word of mouth from the get go. I’ve been in bands my whole life and for me this one felt like a phenomenon because we started and we had a following right after we started playing shows. No matter how good of bands I’ve been in before, your friends come see you once or twice, then they take a couple months off, and then they don’t come again. But our friends kept coming and bringing more friends.

How did you establish yourselves as a band early on?

We played a lot. We were in a new band and Sam hadn’t played in a band before so we thought the thing to do would be to play all the time. We played all sorts of crummy shows. Anything anyone would ask us, “oh cool this tiny back room of a bar that no one ever goes too, lets play that” or, “this collective anarchist living space that has a common area which has shows, yeah we’ll play that. “We did all sorts of weird shit. It helped because our set up was different.  its not a traditional band set up, we switch instruments all the time. Playing shows made us realise how we would work together as a band.

When you read about Friends they are always talking about Bushwick, the community you guys come from in Brooklyn. Could you tell us a bit about it?

Brooklyn is a city and has a different vibe from Manhattan which is really expensive. Manhattan doesn’t have as many families, it is a lot of high price real estate and people that have all just moved there from somewhere else. In Brooklyn there are still a lot of families that have been living there for decades. All the little communities of art kids and transplants and people involved in the music scene or anyone else develops in between where those people live. It can be a pretty cool vibe. All of the neighbourhoods are really different. Williamsburg a couple of years ago was the ground zero, because everywhere in Manhattan got too expensive. Then from Williamsburg backwards on the subway every part of Brooklyn got more and more expensive. I actually lived in Williamsburg 8 years ago when I moved to the city and it just got too expensive so I moved to Bushwick. Were all from outside the City though Sam and Leslie come from Mystique Connecticut. Right next to it is a town called New London which has a really vibrant music scene which they grew up around.

You all have a really eclectic music taste. Does that make it harder to agree upon a sound or is it the mix that makes it work?

I think it’s the mix that makes it. You know what it is, since day one we all have different things that were into, but we all have so much common ground. There’s nothing in this band that I totally don’t like. I’m just moody and may not be in the mood for it. We have a shared feel when we all come together. Usually when we hear the feel of a song that we have started, we kind of know where to go with it, and no one is going to make it something that its not. We’ve got a general pool of influences. It’s the little stuff that people bring to it. Leslie is obsessed with Kroutrock so when she plays base or locks in with the drums it has a Kroutrocky feel and you may not even notice it but if you dissected it you can hear an influence.

 

 

There was a lot of hype about you guys and a lot of publicity. Does that make it more pressurizing producing an album?

Honestly, I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I think were oblivious to a lot of the hype. It’s more that you don’t experience it outside of industry buzz. You get a feeling when loads of people come to your shows or you’re written about in a bunch of things, but for the most part I feel like it doesn’t affect our lives day to day. There was a pressure not so much because of the buzz but because we had an opportunity to make something of it. When your making an album that you think no one is going to hear or that you are only going to play live it’s different. Suddenly we realised more people were going to listen than we had expected. So we started to rethink some of our songs and took us a minute to decide what we would put on the album. Maybe a song would have been great live but not necessarily right for an album because it was too funny or cheeky or whatever I don’t know. Whatever buzz there is I like to remain oblivious too it.

What’s the artwork like on the album? Did you have a big input on it?

It’s awesome. It’s a photo of us. Two photos of us and it’s what is called a stereogram. Its two photos side by side there almost exactly the same only they are taken at a little bit of an angle like two inches off. You stare at these two pictures and because your eyes are out of focus the two pictures come together and make one 3D image.

 

 

Have you had an experience of the business side of things hindering your creativity.

Yeah of course. I have this saying “it’s the music business not the music playground.” We have to play a million shows because you have to promote what you do. Your songs are your babies and you love them like your children. We believe and love these songs enough to go from having them not exist to exist and getting versions of them that we are proud of. I feel like the least we can do for the songs and the people that start to appreciate them is give them a full run and deal with all the shitty aspects of the music biz that come up when they do.

 

 

What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome on the making of the album?

I think for different people it’s been dealing with the finalisation of the album. It’s our first album and once we finalise it it’s there and it’s permanent. We kind of realised that if we had recorded our album with our own money when no one gave a shit, or no one gave enough of a shit to distract us or keep us busy, it would have probably been easier to do. But it goes with the territory. It was hard to be touring and recording at the same time.

 

 

Was there a moment when you knew you would work together as a band?

Ten minutes into the first band practise. There was an instant feeling that “I’ll leave behind everything to do this.” And we all have. We’ve all been homeless and sleeping on friend’s couches and stuff. We’ve all put everything on the line to do this. Not because we thought we’d make money or be a huge success but for all of us it was a necessary reality that we were all going to be in bands, because we all had been apart from Sam. So when we came together and it felt really great we knew it was the one.

What was the first band practise like?

Sam had given me some demos and I knew we were gonna be in a band together for a while. She had been away in Berlin so pretty much right when she got back, we had our first practise together. We had already started booking shows before we had a full line-up. Sam had said Leslie and Oliver were going to jam and do a couple of shows but I hadn’t even met them yet. So I met them the night before, they were wasted and I had come off the nightshift of the restaurant I worked at. Then the next day they all came over and we played for hours and hours. Within the first day we got about four songs together. We just went for it. We practised every single night for a week straight in my living room, which is not the type of place you can rehearse but we did from 9 in the evening till 4 in the morning.

Did everyone else have jobs?

Oliver had a job and Sam was in college but dropped out really quickly. Everyone had jobs in the beginning but then everyone realised it would be easier to just do the band if we lived as poor as possible. But then it got to the point that even if we had to work we couldn’t because we got so busy.

Words: Emily Ames

Manifest! is available to purchase from today!

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