Real Friends: Right In The Feels
Chicago quintet Real Friends may only be the new kids on the Tumblr block but that hasn’t stopped their new album connecting en masse with sensitive types worldwide in record time. BLUNT makes a diary entry with Kyle Fasel.
When BLUNT catches Real Friends’ bass player and lyricist Kyle Fasel on the phone, the voice of a new generation’s emotional turmoil is busy packing merch orders. Excuse me? You haven’t got someone doing that for you?
“Yeah, I’m at our headquarters where we have all our merch, I’ve been sending out orders all day. Lots to Australia too,” he mentions pointedly. “We hired a friend of mine to help out when we’re gone and when we’re home, I am just here helping out. It gives me a job to do when I am home and keeps me surrounded by the band, which is cool. I can’t sit still and enjoy being off tour, I need to do something!” Shout out to nervous energy, then.
Striking a balance between mopey introspection and circle pit-sparking double time, that energy is readily apparent in Real Friends’ full-length debut: the chart-smashing mouthful Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” says Fasel of the record’s outstanding reception, both critically and commercially. “So many emotions were running through my head, ‘Is everyone going to love it? Is everyone going to hate it?’ We debuted at #24 on the US Billboard charts which was really cool. We never thought that that would happen. We sold over 11,000 records in the first week; it’s crazy. So that was very, very cool.”
With a fan base incredibly vocal in their new age digital support, were Real Friends really surprised that many people wanted their new music?
“I guess no one knew what to expect, I certainly had no idea. People at Fearless [Records] were asking me what they thought it would do, ‘How many records do you want to sell?’ I was like, ‘I have no idea!’ We’ve never cared about that sort of stuff. I still don’t really care about it that much to be honest. You can never know how many people are actually listening to your record. Spotify, downloading, sharing and enjoying it, that’s what matters to me and you can never really gauge that.”
One thing that has really exploded the Real Friends fan base is the band’s super personal lyrics. If you immediately thought of last decade’s heyday of media-fueled emo pandemonium, you wouldn’t be far from the mark, though Real Friends prefer the more grass roots, suburban side of the genre than the pink eyeshadow, Emily The Strange and screaming side of things.
“We listen to tons of different stuff but when we agree on a band, it’s artists like The Starting Line, Brand New, Saves The Day and Taking Back Sunday. We’re really influenced by those bands. The Starting Line are a huge influence and it really shines through, that’s one of the bands we collectively all enjoy,” says Fasel. The Starting Line influence is readily apparent, so much so that vocalist Dan Lambton might consider a back-up career as a medium such is his channeling of TSL vocalist Kenny Vasoli’s honeyed tones. Hand in hand with those lyrics and musical inspirations is painfully honest self-examination, something Fasel has no issues with.
“I’ve never had a problem [with being open],” deadpans Fasel. “Over the years and doing this more and more I always found that whenever I wrote something that was more honest it was more fulfilling for me to get it off my chest and kids connected with that a lot more. Kids like the more honest lyrics than the clever ones. The ones where I would try to sound smart, I gave up trying to be that guy a few years back. I just want to write real lyrics, you know?” Yeah dude, we know.
Following in the footsteps of fellow Windy City rule breakers Fall Out Boy, Fasel isn’t Real Friends’ frontman but rather their bass player, not normally where you’d expect to find the band mastermind holding it down.
“It started out like that because me and our guitar player Dave [Knox] started the band. After Dan came in, we already had songs written and I was like, ‘Here are the lyrics for this one’ and so on. We’d already written them.
“I’d always been the lyricist of my bands, even before this, other bands I played in before and in high school, I’ve always been a writer,” Fasel explains. “I don’t know where along the line that happened, I’ve always just felt a connection with writing which I think is cool. When I write these songs I don’t have to think about how to sing them, Dan does that, I can just focus on the emotion of the lyrics and not the actual melody.”
And Dan is cool with that?
“There is some stuff he has written, like a line here and there, but I think when we start writing more material we’ll try to incorporate him in more. I do remember that he did write a song that we ended up throwing away!” Fasel laughs in recollection.
BLUNT needs to know: at what point did Real Friends know they were onto something, ahem, real?
“Our very first tour we did, it was just us doing local shows. We did 13 shows in the summer of 2012, just over two years ago. I didn’t know what to expect, I just booked the shows myself, I didn’t care about money. The last one was a house show in Cincinnati. It was insane, every person in the house was singing every word to every song and I had a moment – ‘This is crazy, people are connecting to this!’ That night we had a talk and decided that we were going to do the band full-time. We gave it a timeline, six or eight months from that day we were going to do the band full-time. Work, save money, do anything we could do to make it work. We quit our jobs to go on our first full US tour almost nine months later to the day. That was cool.”
Very cool indeed.