Photo by Olga Baczynska
Brooklyn band Friends have been busy accruing some serious hipster buzz in anticipation of their imminent debut album, with their song “Friend Crush” a perpetual Hipster Runoff meme.
Brought together less than 18 months ago in a Brooklyn fairytale of vegan restaurants, record stores and bedbugs, Friends is comprised of sassy 23-year-old star-in-the-making Samantha Urbani and second-grade friend Lesley Hann, together with fellow Bushwickers Matt Molnar, Nikki Shapiro and Oliver Duncan.
The five-piece’s post-1980s disco-pop fuses R&B wet dream-dripped synth, solid rhythms and earworm hooks with babes and super QTs in top knots. They kiss Bi Nuu, April 25.
Sam, you lived in Berlin for a while.
Samantha Urbani: Yeah, in 2010. I was living by Viktoriapark for the first two months, and then I was supposed to go back but I fell in love with a guy. I missed my airplane.
SU: No. I mean, I didn’t really try that hard.
Matt Molnar: And I had taken the day off work to pick you up at the airport...
You couldn’t keep away from Berghain.
SU: I never went to any of the techno clubs – though we might actually try and go to Berghain tonight. I was into a lot of squats and stuff, and that was really inspiring for me. I wrote a bunch of songs while I was here. A lot were about feelings I had about home.
One of them, “Feelin’ Dank” was like a play on vielen Dank, but also feeling dank, like, smoking weed, you know. It says, “I don’t want to go home” again and again, because I didn’t want to go home.
How does life in Berlin compare to Bushwick? Is it the same artist hubs and cheap rent?
SU: Yeah, Bushwick is definitely one of the places drawing a lot of young creative people from all over the world and DIY venues. It’s probably as close as you can get to squats in America. Here it’s cool because there are real squats, but there you kind of have to pay rent.
MM: I’ve lived for seven years in Bushwick, and in the last three years it’s gotten a lot more safe and nice and stuff. When I first moved there, friends were getting jumped all the time. It was really scary.
SU: The thing is, in places like Williamsburg, it’s all gentrified, all condos. Some people still think that’s like the cool part of Brooklyn, but it’s not. It’s very yuppie. It’s like Manhattan.
Nikki Shapiro: Worse than Manhattan.
SU: The real place is Bushwick.
I keep reading about how you guys are part of this ‘Bushwick sound’. Is it bullshit?
SU: It is total bullshit.
MM: There’s no ‘sound’.
SU: I’ve written songs about people in other bands but those songs don’t sound like those bands... We’re not elitist. We’re like, “Fuck yeah, we’ll play that shitty show with that goth band and that performance artist.”
What was the impetus to finally start making music?
SU: When I came back from Berlin, Lesley and Oliver had been living together, and they got bedbugs at their house and needed a place to stay.
Lesley Hann: New York is one of the bedbug capitals of the world.
SU: No one wanted to take them in, but my apartment was totally wrecked because of the people I’d sublet it to. Then, a couple of days later, we got robbed. It was super depressing. It was like all these nasty things coming together. So Lesley, Oliver and Matt were all in the house, and I played them a couple of songs.
They didn’t know that I sang at all. I had always felt really confident with visual art and I was drawing a lot, but I was getting so confident that it was boring for me, and music was my secret love. Like, you know when you have a really big crush on someone and you can’t tell anyone because you like them more than anybody else and people don’t think they’re that cool?
The album’s coming out in April?
SU: Well, April/May/June...
Are you worried about falling prey to blog hype?
SU: That’s something I can ignore a little bit, because I’ve never been super into reading music blogs. And maybe that’s a bad thing because sometimes I feel behind. The internet just flattens the whole world. I’m not really worried about any backlash. Or we could be using that to our advantage. We could be turning down Hipster Runoff a little bit harder, guys! [laughs]
There’s a real sexual confidence to your music.
Oliver Duncan: Thank you. [laughs]
All: Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! [monkey chant]
SU: Sometimes I feel like a lot of the energy I project is satirical. I’ll be dancing on stage and I’m like ‘Ooh, pop singer!’ [dances and pouts]. It’s silly, right, it’s super silly! And I realize that, and I feel like that’s my part. It’s interesting for me, because I’m a young cute girl and I fit that role very well. I think a lot of people are confused when I act the way I act on stage.
Would you say your music has a feminist bent?
SU: I’ve always had a weird sense of my own gender identity and been interested in boys and girls and boys that dress like girls and girls who dress like boys. But I feel obstinate against aligning myself with any particular social movement.
I would never call myself a feminist, because I feel like I’m a humanist. I think that sexuality is a really strong, important part of being animals, being human beings, and to abide by a set of social standards of sexuality or what type of preferences are appropriate and what type of gender roles are correct is really bad for a lot of people who don’t realize what they are doing.
You said that your radio hit “I’m His Girl” is about being in an open relationship.
SU: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s a really interesting idea. I was in an open relationship for a while. I guess I’m in one again now. I feel like polyamory could be the next big thing. There’s been a huge movement globally in the last decade. I would march in a parade for that.
Any other causes you’re championing in the new album?
SU: Mind control. The next single is about mind control.
Is that something you’re worried about?
SU: Yeah, it’s something everyone should be worried about. Everybody’s being constantly influenced by the media and by people who have agendas.
NS: It’s like the people who read the blogs that say Friends the band is cool. [laughs]
OD: We’re not that cool.
Friends | Wed, Apr 25, 21:00 | Bi Nuu, Schlesisches Tor, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Schlesisches Tor