Youth Of America - Friends

Pets may be for life, but are Friends?
Youth Of America - Friends
Welcome to the wonderfully ever-changing world of Friends, a band on the cusp of major success. It’s strange to see them in this specific transition, a small band from Brooklyn that is literally about to break at any minute. They are so young in their career that they still find doing interviews and TV weird - even at the Clash photo shoot they find the idea of dressing up in borrowed clothes absurd, and opt for their own clothing instead (except for Samantha, who wears much of the booty she has just claimed for free from high street store All Saints).

Despite the constant airplay and press, things haven’t changed much for the band. “I don’t feel like I get approached by people I don’t know. I don’t think, personally, it’s fully realised for me at this point because there isn’t actually enough evidence of it in my life, it’s just a conceptual thing,” says bassist and backing vocalist, Lesley Hann.

“The band doesn’t have places to live, we’re not making a ton of money already,” Matthew Molnar (keyboards, percussion, bass) adds. “Our lives are in pretty much similar spots, only now we’re super busy with band related obligations. I don’t know if so much has changed for us that’s really visible to members of the band. Just some bubble of attention is being paid to us.”

Friends seem to be a victim of the hype machine. We use the word ‘victim’ loosely, as the attention should benefit them greatly, but constant exposure and high expectations has claimed many musicians once tipped for greatness, who sadly fell short and were forgotten. But Samantha doesn’t worry about fading into obscurity: “Our whole journey so far has been very intuitive and very spontaneous and fluid. We didn’t have a grand plan of where we were going to go when we started and we don’t have one now. I think that we’re just going to keep on doing this as hard and as enthusiastically as we want to, and if we’re not around in a year it will be because we chose not to be”.

This laid back style comes from Samantha’s mother: “My upbringing definitely influenced that. My mom is extremely free-spirited, she’s been a very transient dude all her life and she raised me and my brother that way, to be super individualistic and not feel necessary to abide by any social expectations, and to create art, our own image and our expectations of our selves, instead of having to fall in line with everyone else’s.”

This hippie-esque ethos has apparently worked it’s way into Friends’ lyrics, as she explains single ‘Friend Crush’: “That song is about a boy who used to have really long hair - we hung out one time and we were talking while we were laying on the floor. We didn’t kiss, it wasn’t anything sexual, but it felt very affectionate. We had never hung out before and I always felt the idea that long hair symbolises the length of time passing by. I’ve shaved my head before and let it grow so I kind of have that time-telling quality of having long hair, and I feel like people retain experiences in their hair.”

Hair fetishes or not, only the album (released in April) will settle the hype nonsense. But will it be straight-up pop, or will Friends offer something more than a catchy chorus? Lesley defends the upcoming release: “If ‘Friend Crush’ and ‘I’m His Girl’ sound different from each other then there are other songs on the album that sound radically different from those ones. I think a part of our whole thing is there are ways in which our individual tastes converge with one another.”

Samantha gives an alternative outlook on what the album could have sounded like: “I just wanted to keep it minimal. Originally when I made demos they were only with drum loops and layers of vocals, like pitch shifted vocals going up and down and vocal harmonies. I didn’t want any instruments, I just wanted a bunch of singers with different pitch shifts on their voices and a lot of percussion”.

With a very obscure past, there’s no way of telling Friends’ future. But whether homeless or basking in international successes, it’s guaranteed they’ll all be making music whether you like it or not.

Words by Jamie Curson

Friends play the Parklife Weekender festival in Manchester on 9th June on the Now Wave stage - check out http://www.parklife.uk.com/ for full event info and ticket details.

Clash is a proud partner of the Parklife Weekender, visit their hub page in our Festival Channel HERE.

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