A cryptic status update on the Facebook page of US pop-punks, Real Friends, appeared on 26th January: “Soon.” Whispers began circulating (as they usually do) that they were up to something. More tweets began appearing. A video uploaded by their label, Fearless Records said to expect something from Real Friends in 2016. And apparently it would be soon. “Writing writing writing.”
“We’ve been a band for five years now,” bassist Kyle Fasel explains, “and it feels like we approached this next record knowing who we are as a band and we just went with it. It was like, let’s just write what comes out and this is what Real Friends is, you know?’” The band began in 2010 and have since produced six EPs as well as their full length ‘Maybe This Place Is The Same and We’re Just Changing’ in 2014. The songwriting was fast, producing one after the other in quick succession. This time, they decided to take some breathing space while writing. Heading out on tour allowed them time to digest new material for a couple of months so that when the band returned to the music, it was with “fresh ears”.
For the first time the band experienced pre-production, and they praise the way that producer, Steve Evetts, dissected their work and allowed them to see a different perspective to the songs. “He really helped us see relationships between certain things in the songs that we didn’t even think of, like how changing the kick and snare in the drum pattern can affect how hard the chorus hits you” says Kyle. “All the songs we went back to changed tremendously from what they were when we started”. Vocalist Dan Lambton adds that working with Steve “definitely helped get the best performances out of everyone and with what we want to do with this record.”
One thing that both talk passionately about is how the dynamic within the music have been affected by their songwriting. They cite one track in particular, tentatively titled ‘Cinnamon Apple Crisp’. Kyle describes it as going “through different vibes, whereas before one song would have one feeling or emotion. No one will know what song we’re talking about when this comes out though, because it won’t be called ‘Cinnamon Apple Crisp’,” he laughs.
Another feature on this album that pushes Real Friends forward from their previous releases is the addition of lyrics being written by Dan – in the past only Kyle had been responsible for them. “It’s been really cool and exciting for me, because it’s something that’s a little different. In the past I kinda knew what’s coming, so it’s been more of a surprise and that’s really cool. Our lyrics blend well together – they’re not night and day,” Kyle enthuses, before concluding that “lyrically this album is a much better balance than past releases for sure.”
As well as working hard on the songwriting, Dan explains how he’s been working on improving his performances to ensure the new songs sound the best they can. “I’ve been trying to vary my vocal performances to take advantage of the softer aspects of my voice that I haven’t taken advantage of in the past. If the songs feel more intimate, I need to convey that in my performance.”
Looking at the overall themes or messages of the album, Kyle feels that it’s simply the band falling naturally into the next stage of Real Friends. Dan muses over his concept of the album, stating: “You have this picture-perfect idea in your teens about what you want to do with your life and how your relationships with certain people are going to be, and then growing up and realising that it’s not at all how things work out. You can have this perfect life and be doing what you want to be doing, but there are gonna be certain things that aren’t how you visualised them. Certain people you look up to aren’t this grand monument, they’re just people like you. It’s seeing your perceptions of reality versus what it really is.”
In the meantime, they’ll be heading out on a tour of non-traditional venues, such as skate shops, retail stores and even batting cages in the States that they’ve named “the $5 tour”, with entry to each show costing – you guessed it – a mere $5. Kyle explains that the tour is very important to the band in that it almost takes them back to where they started. “It’s a reminder to ourselves and the fans to just have fun with it. It’s also cool to mix it up and give people shows at a venue they wouldn’t normally go to.” Too true, Kyle. He points out some of the reasons Real Friends love to tour outside the US. “When you go far away and people really care about your music, it’s a really cool experience for us and we want to experience that more.”
Dan continues. “Music can transcend language barriers, like it doesn’t matter if you speak German or Dutch or French – we come here and people give enough of a shit about the music to not care that it’s not in their native tongue, they still attach themselves to it and care about it just as much as any kid in the US. No matter where you are everybody can appreciate it, and we all come together. We heard from some kids in Japan that they would use our music and the music of our peers who spoke English to help them get a basic grasp of the language and that was so fucking cool. I can’t put it into words other than it breaks all barriers, and shows that we all have a lot more in common than we might otherwise believe.”
2016 certainly looks full and exciting so far for the band. Following their $5 tour of the States, Real Friends will also be heading back to the UK for Slam Dunk in May, alongside Panic! At The Disco, Yellowcard and Mayday Parade. And as for that album? “Soon.”