If you were an A & R in Brooklyn right now, you’d be staking out the vegan restaurants. Before he found his place in the musical cosmos, Darwin Deez worked at the same one in which Devendra Banhart used to toil over hot tofu salad. Now, NYC’s newest heroes have emerged from another. When half of the restaurant’s staff succumbed to bedbugs, they were forced to move in with each other for a few weeks. Together, they became, um, Friends.
“We discovered we had the same ideas about creativity,” recalls Samantha Urbani, the songwriter and up-n-coming sex siren at the heart of the five-piece. “We were all passionate, but also had a sense of humour about it. We understood that in the great scheme of things it didn’t matter: what I’d call a sort of positive nihilism.”
The pieces fell into place in short order: the rickety, sweet ESG-ish stalker anthem of ‘Friend Crush’ turned a few heads back in April, but it was October’s ‘I’m His Girl’ that knocked off blocks: a sharply set piece of indie disco-funk that sleazed straight onto NME’s Tracks Of The Year rundown. It’s their skill in mining the ‘funk’ side of that conjunction as much as the ‘indie’ that has set Friends apart from the hordes of cutesy post-punk things that Brooklyn has coughed up lately. “I like a lot of R&B,” Urbani explains. “I grew up with things like Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, and more modern R&B stuff. It’s definitely not forced.”
Behind the frosty beauty, Urbani’s cut from exactly the cloth you’d expect from someone who used to work in a vegan restaurant, believing that magic and quantum theory are “definitely linked”, and sketching out a world view akin to what devotees of The Secret might call ‘psychic ordering’.
“We were home-schooled. My mom is this incredibly creative, spiritual person who taught us that you didn’t need to be taught to be creative. If you want something, just go out and do it. Which is what I’ve always done – I didn’t go to art school or anything like that. I just started doing things.” You don’t have to be psychic to guess what larks 2012 has in store for these guys.
Need To Know:
For Fans Of: ESG, MGMT
Hear It: Early track ‘Friend Crush’ is getting a re-release on Lucky Number on February 6
See Them Live: They play Manchester and London in the first week of February
Believe It Or Not: When he was 15, drummer Oliver was in a band who opened for Fugazi and The Misfits. They were called The Snobs
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This article originally appeared in the January 14th issue of NME