We’re never going to get through this critique without discussing their band name, so we may as well address it straight from the outset. Friends is pretty rubbish isn’t it. Apart from the piss-poor Chandler, Phoebe, Joey et al connotations, it’s like the opposite of Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Pessimization is perhaps more appropriate. Thankfully the music has enough gravitational pull to ensure people find them eventually. In fact, that’s exactly what ‘buzz’ is isn’t it? Anyway, lead protagonist and vocalist, Samantha Urbani, flips the issue on it’s head, stating “I am hoping we will dominate the search engine”. Well, we think they’ll start by dominating your iPods.
Friends are a quintet from Brooklyn that Samantha has forged together from those people around her. They seem a refreshingly natural collective, getting together in the way indie-kid hipsters look like they should do – dressing the part, having the attitude, acting like an impenetrable clique, hanging out at all the counter-culture places – except hipsters never make it out, instead selecting to stand around judging each other. Friends on the other hand seem to be an unorthodox community with genuine intentions and real abilities, perhaps born from Samantha’s free-spirited family upbringing. She ticks all the ALT boxes, even spending time studying in Berlin and working in the East Village’s vegan kitchens, yet what she’s created is a group that’s warm and welcoming.
They were first found on the scene at New York’s CMJ last year, where they played one of their first ever shows – not including their launch gig at Samantha’s birthday party some weeks earlier. This was quickly followed by a tour supporting Darwin Deez, with whom they now share the Lucky Number Music label. It’s being whispered that their first UK shows will be due this Autumn, as they arrive to support another pack of NYC label mates, Caged Animals. This will hopefully follow the release of their single, I’m His Girl, in September, although we may have to wait until 2012 before the full album is finally out.
The first track that had a handful of bloggers flirting outrageously with them was the single, Friend Crush, which came out on March 21st this year. It’s a wonderful introduction to their mixture of sounds. Dreamy 60s pop beats begin a tune that quickly merges into a blend of Best Coast and Santigold. Samantha’s vocals lead the melody as Lesley Hann’s bass throbs behind. The B-side, Feeling Dank, is just as low-fi and equally as mesmeric, as we find them pushing the Best Coast comparisons further, but it’s all backed by an enjoyable jangle of instruments and beats that sound like more of a jam on kitchen paraphernalia. It’s like they’ve decided to simply hit what’s next to them to see what works. And it works!
Ultimately this is music that has plenty of the addictive factor, pushing all the right buttons between simple pop and leftfield experimentalism. Their look, their sound and their history give the scenesters a well-needed facelift in a world where the word is hipster is now derogatory. Whether it will make you reconsider your disapproving looks at the usual bunch of unemployed wasters in your local alt-cafe is yet to be proven, but there’s clearly some hope here. The issues with the SEO may prove harder to overcome, but something tells us that these guys weren’t designed with the Internet in mind, more for the counter culture. It’s this story of an alternative kinship that gives them the kind of authenticity that other bands will never attain. If you have to try hard, then you’re just a ‘try hard’. With Friends the task of gathering together a band and making some excellent music was in fact the most natural thing in the world. (MB)
FRIENDS – FRIEND CRUSH
FRIENDS – FEELIN DARK