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Making Friends with Nikki Shapiro
Brooklyn, NYC, it seems, has its finger firmly on the zeitgeist: a fertile breeding ground for hip bands and cool producers. Welcome in to this FRIENDS, the sassy, strutting five-piece who are continuing their home city’s fine history of indie rock with attitude, and are doing so with über-cool panache. One of our writers (N. Philip) caught up with the group’s well connected instrumentalist Nikki Shapiro to talk about his thoughts on Friends’ meteoric rise to popularity.
Bido Lito!: Named as one of the NME’s top 50 artists of 2011 and nominated for the BBC’s Sound of 2012, it seems that Britain loves Friends - why do you think that is?
Nikki Shapiro: I have no idea - because we’re awesome? Seriously though, I think British people have a fascination with America, particularly New York, and we sound like where we’re from. Britain has a really big radio culture, when people hear songs on the radio they end up liking them and we were lucky enough to get played on the radio here, so people like us.
BL!: Are you anything of an Anglophile?
NS: No, I haven’t really been in the UK much. Last time I was here the weather was terrible and I base my opinions of a place on the people I meet, but I didn’t have the time to build relationships with anyone because we were moving around so much. I don’t know much about Liverpool - besides the obvious, but I’m looking forward to seeing it.
BL!: For such a young band, [started in 2010] you’ve made an astounding amount of progress, how has that happened?
NS: It all happened really quickly, by accident, it just fell into our laps. Sam [Urbani] made demos and me and Matt [Molnar] talked about starting a band with her and we did. Basically we just wanted to play shows and make music together, people came to see us and all these other people wanted to work with us and it just snowballed. It seems a bit unfair to me when I think about other bands, who work so hard at promoting themselves and they don’t get anywhere, and we’ve done nothing and there’s this massive buzz about us. I’m curious to hear what people think of the album but there’s been too much growth already, I don’t want it to burn out.
BL!: I’m sure that won’t happen, you’re an enigmatic band - people have no idea what your genre is, which is always interesting.
NS: [Laughs]. We call what we do X-pop, I guess that could stand for exploratory or experimental pop but I don’t really like genres. Titles limit you and what you can do, you shouldn’t pigeon hole your style. We do what feels right at the time, we’re a confused band because we like lots of different music but we’re also all perfectionists, we constantly want to better ourselves and make the best stuff possible. We want to take the mainstream pop scene, and make it better.
BL!: You’re certainly doing that with Sorry, it’s a phenomenal track - and your songs have great hooks. Is that intentional?
NS: It’s a coincidence! It’s more Sam’s melodies, they’re super catchy. I can’t really say much about Sorry, I didn’t write the lyrics but I did write most of the music for it. Sam sent me a demo of her singing over some drum loops and I shut myself in my room on my own and wrote it in about an hour. I’m His Girl was written in the same way, I work best when I’m alone in my room.
BL!: The videos you make, Friend Crush for example, are very impressive - how important are they to your creative process?
NS: Super important. I think that’s why people like the songs so much; the images fit, it’s like the sound of the song but in image form. We made the videos ourselves, with some friends and that’s what our songs are. I personally don’t watch music videos, typically they’re distracting from the song, but if the quality of the video matches the quality of the song, then it works.
BL!: There’s very little information to be found about the band online and such, is all this mystery purposefully done?
NS: No, we just don’t have our shit together! When I say this all fell into our laps - it’s true. We haven’t had time to write a bio or get band statements together, it started and it was fun and exciting but we didn’t know what we were doing at all. I hate promoting the band though, it’s awkward talking about yourself all the time and a bit baffling that people are so interested in hearing what we have to say.
BL!: That’s very refreshing, but what about your tour - is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to going to over the ten weeks?
NS: We’re going to Australia and I’m really looking forward to that, I’ve never been before so that’s pretty exciting. Iceland too, I’ve heard great things about the nature there, the hot springs and the ice - nature is so much more impressive than architecture.
BL!: I can agree there - anywhere you’ve been that’s been naturally impressive already?
NS: Mexico. We were riding horses down this mountain road thing, it was an almost vertical slant - completely exhilarating!
Friends play The Kazimier on Friday 8th June, supported by Wet Mouth. Tickets are available now.
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