With a debut album
already in stores and a North American tour kicking off this week, the Brooklyn post-punk-cum-new-wave quintet is set to pop.
BY SELENA FRAGASSI
A group of 20-somethings living together in a New York apartment,
musing on relationships? Yep, we’ve seen that before. Yet, the band Friends doesn’t feature any of
those nerdy Gellers; these five-member Brooklyn
co-eds are all Phoebes on high. Lust is the subtext of the anonymous “Friend
Crush” the band grows doe-eyed about on the lead track off their debut album Manifest! (Fat
Possum): “I wanna ask your advice on a weekday/I wanna plan
something nice for the weekend,” singer Sammi Urbani pleads, as innocently as
if she rehearsed her lines in a mirror while soldiered drum beats and radio
controlled guitar lines zoom in the clouds above her.
Urbani is glitter and guts, so effervescently cool yet calm
she can carry the swagger of Karen O, CSS’s Lovefoxxx, and Corin Tucker all in
the same breath. So when she teases, “I want you to come over to my house” on
track “Sorry,” there’s no apologies and no delay. Queen bee lady aside, Friends
is a band that no doubt plays well together with a multi-instrumental A-team
(Lesley Hann, Matthew Molnar, Nikki Shapiro, and drummer Oliver Duncan) who
have no shortage of mood enhancing talent.
The Hypercolors on this album blend Scarface heat on “A thing Like This,” Tom Tom Club digitalism on
“I’m His Girl,” riot grrrl grit on “Ruins,” and a familiar Yeah Yeah Yeahs
tribal howl on “Mind Control.” Sure, influences run wild on the album but each
three-minute zinger is an aptly
kilned piece so crossly pollinated, it should be studied. The band’s airiness
makes it ripe for the summer, but we’ll see if the blog buzz can carry past this
season’s trends or die they way of the coiffed “Rachel.”
Bassist Lesley Hann explains how bonding over bed bugs
brought the band together….
BLURT: We hear bed
bugs played a pivotal role in your band birth. Do tell.
LESLIE HANN: Samantha [Urbani, lead vocalist] spent the
summer of 2010 in Berlin
and fell in love with this boy and wrote a bunch of songs about it. While she
was gone, her subletters went crazy and threw out a bunch of her furniture and
changed her locks. At the same time, I was living in an apartment with Oliver [Duncan, drummer] and we
got bed bugs and had to leave for a week while they were fumigating. Nobody
would let us stay with them except
Samantha. It was then that she played the Berlin demos for Oliver and me and
introduced us to Matt and Nicky. We decided we wanted to do something fun so we
started a band. It was an opportunity to get away from all the shit our lives
were at the time.
Is that how the band
name was born then?
Yeah, we are all friends with each other and we didn’t feel
the need to have some overcomplicated or over-discussed band name. The idea of
friends represents our music, our aesthetic, and our live show. Contextually
it’s about the community and togetherness and non-judgment, which are really
important and recurring ideas for us individually and as a group. On a certain
level it is arbitrary word to a lot of people, which is weird because it can be
such an important word.
Your first single is “Friend
Crush.” You must have had a serious case to give it that much importance.
Samantha wrote that about somebody in particular but I think
that it’s a feeling we’ve all have had before. Crushing on somebody because you
think they seem like a cool person and you want to hang out with them more, in
an innocent way. More than anything, that song was a starting point for us
across the board-the first song we figured out how to play, the first we ever
recorded, the first music video. We wanted to keep the theme going.
Friends begin their
North American tour tonight, June 13, in Brighton, Mass.,
running through early July. Then it’s off to the UK
and Europe. Tour dates can be found here.
[Photo Credit: Erez Avissar]