Two girls, three guys, one killer sound. Considering their name when Googled is likely to get them lost amongst news stories relating to Jennifer Anniston, indie five-piece, Friends, have made a considerable dent in the musical WebSphere. They’ve rung up a boat load of praise on and off-line with their swagger-happy album Manifest (and at TopshopHQ we’ve yet to stop listening!) Friends stand out as a new, new-wave band worthy of the hype. So great has their debut year been they’re re-releasing their signature track that’s made everyone – especially 6 music – fall under their spell. “I’m His Girl” dropped once more last week and its cool factor associations were stronger than ever with a re-mix from producers of the moment Aluna George and another from legendary Arthur Baker.
We caught up with singer Samantha Urbani to talk tunes, lyrical inspiration and a summer of touring…
How did the band come together?
We met all different ways. Lesley and I met as kids, Nikki and I in a vegan café, I wrote a bunch of songs and wanted to start a band, it was a manifestation of a core desire we each had.
Where do you practice and live now?
We don’t practice at the moment because we have no time, if we do it’s a practice space wherever we are. Only one of us actually has an apartment right now, I live in the world.
What been your favourite gig of the summer and your favourite gig of all time?
My favourite gig of the Summer was my favourite gig of all time. It was in Austin, Texas, it was blistering hot. I’m rubbish at estimating weather but it felt over 100° and we were playing in a small packed out venue. Everyone was sweating. It was actually really uncomfortable, some guys started taking their shirts off so, then I asked for the audience to all take their shirts off. I ended up taking my shirt off, then Lesley did and a bunch of the girls in the audience. It felt really liberating, no one got creepy it just felt like a bunch of children playing, there was no pressure to be sectioned off into categories or anything.
How do you all prepare for a gig?
Oliver says “are you ready to rock?” and I reply ‘yeah.’ But it’s a half-assed ‘yeah.’ Apparently today for this live session we did on the radio he mouthed it to me, but I didn’t see.
How have you enjoyed touring around Europe and London?
Yeah, I love it here, when I was a kid I hated America and would picture coming here. I’m really happy to spend time here, I’ve made some really good friends, touring constricts what I get to see and experience, but I can’t complain it’s better than working a sad job in America.
Have you found any good places to eat/party/drink?
I don’t really drink very much, but there’s a really cool spot in Camden called ‘InSpiral’ it’s a super vegan raw food restaurant. It was across the street from a venue we played, they did an amazing raw vegan ice cream and everyone who worked there was super sweet.
What do you think it is about I’m His Girl single that has got so many people talking?
It’s powerful minimalism, a lot of people can relate to a song when it’s simple and not in your face, also because I’m saying important stuff about relationships people should remember however they interpret it. People who are in open relationships approach me about it saying it’s cool and they get it. I think there are a lot of needy love songs but I’m His Girl is like ‘I’m in love because I actually love them and I feel proud of that, not because I need them.’
Who do you write your songs for? And what sort of things or moment can inspire them?
I have a dialogue with myself so the songs are like a shrine of emotion. If I have an emotion I don’t feel I need to have a conversation about, if I don’t need to have it figured out or validated but I feel its important enough to be encapsulated like a photo of a landscape then I do that, its like externalizing an internal dialogue. Although I am less and less interested in doing this, your interpersonal feelings change, and if you want to take them back then what can you do? I want to write more directly about politics and philosophy.
What inspires your album or single cover art?
My favourite thing I have ever done is the album art for Manifest! I have an affinity for art deco stuff, and I really like 3D technology like optical illusions that can create effects. The cover is a stereograph if you cross your eyes just right rather than four images it becomes three, and one is 3d, so the consumer receives an object they can engage and interact with, more so than just an image of a band trying to look cool.