Brookyln-based Friends are making some pretty darn good impressions round these parts. Even without an album release, Zane Lowe’s already cottoned on and named their 3rd single release ‘Mind Control’ the ‘Hottest Record in the World’. Plus they bagged a shortlist honour on the BBC’s Sounds of 2012.
Since E4 canned the Friends repeats I’m missing my ‘bunch of New York mates have a jolly good time’ hit. So I’m pretty chuffed Samantha Urbani (vocals), Lesley Hann (bass), Nikki Shapiro (guitar, keyboards), Matthew Molnar (keyboards, percussion, bass) and Oliver Duncan (drums) have got it on.
Friends, named after the Beach Boys album, are pure hipster-pop: mixing funk-disco; honest, gritty, girly vocals; a touch of electronica with sassy-ass sexiness. Imagine Ladyhawke, Goldfrapp, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Peaches and CSS had a massive, glittery orgy and a few months later out popped a funky lovechild named Friends. Perhaps they all agree joint custody on alternate weekends, I’m just guessing. I don’t know the exact ins and outs.
I’m here, ahead of their Manchester’s Academy 3 gig watching the energetic sound check. It’s just me and the band, like my own very personal Friends show. At one point Samantha, the sunglasses- indoors wearing front lass, climbs on top of the monitors whilst jigging around in a gold sequinned top. Girl crush, hot.
Straight after, the band jump off stage for a good old chinwag with Silent Radio. I’m joined by Matthew and man of very few words, Nikki, as we take a pew on the stair well of the Academy and cover such bases as Manchester legends, touching Pete Doherty’s crap, stage invasions, selling out and Eccles cakes….
Victoria: Let’s take it right back from the very start….
Matthew: We started a year and half ago, Samantha and Nikki had been working together. Me and Nikki are two of a few people who heard her demos and ideas. We were really psyched on doing a band with her when she was ready. She went away for a summer to Berlin. At the end of August 2010, right when she got back, we started playing together.
A month after our first band practice we went into a studio and recorded four songs, two of which were Friend Crush, on the album and its B-Side. Oliver and Lesley were in a band together at the time and we swiped them. They were originally going to play some shows with us, but within a week of practising and playing they were ready to drop everything and do it. It was great. We put our first show on just a week into us being a band together.
V: So, were you all Friends before?
M: In different ways. Lesley grew up with Samantha in Connecticut. Me, Nikki and Samantha were all friends and Lesley knew Samantha and Oliver. These two different sides merged. That was the beginning of it. The rest is a lot of shows, recording and touring.
V: Was there a defining moment in your life when you thought – “Right, I need to make music, I need to entertain!”?
N: Yes, but it wasn’t about entertaining people, it was a decision just to be creative – anything else was just a by-product.
M: I’ve never wanted to do anything else, since before I can remember.
N: I hated the attention actually – I still do. I’m like “just leave me alone, let me play”.
V: (points to the camera) So, shit like this you don’t like?
N: No, shit like this is cool. Any recognition is fine, it’s nice. But that wasn’t the reason why I started.