“Oh what a pleasure to be in your presence,” Alex Daud, the lead singer of Freind, scoffs on “The Pleasure Is All Mine,” practically laughing: “You’re everybody’s pride and joy.” Shortly thereafter, all five members of the Brooklyn-based rock group break out into maniacal laughter, their derision echoed by wiry guitar shrieks. Freind isn’t always on the offensive like they are on the second track off their new EP Lemon, though. In fact, the very next song “Loops” is a dizzying trance of guitar loops and soothing vocal samples, no prickly attitude, and a clear indication of the band’s eclectic style.
The funny thing about new music releases is that they’re often not new, just newly ready. Freind is a Brooklyn-based five piece made up of Daud on lead guitar and vocals, Gus Callahan on electronics, Eli Guterman on bass, Vanessa Castro on guitar, and Andrew Emge on drums. Their new EP is a testament to the many phases most releases go through before it’s ready for an official release; most of the songs on the EP premiering here today were initially written and recorded by Daud alone in the summer of 2014.
Inspired by the aggressive shredding of Black Sabbath and St. Vincent as well as the sparse, electronic-oriented approaches of Stereolab, the Lemon EP doesn’t pigeonhole Freind in any one musical genre, a liberating approach for a first release. It begins on an explosive note with the ear-splitting “Chemtrails,” which absolutely pummels from start to finish by way of a ceaseless bass and guitar hook, and continues to explore other territories such as the bouncier “Bebop” or the abrupt shift from buzzing psychedelic rock to a breezy bossa nova outro in “Earthbound.” Based on this first release, it looks like we’ve all made a great new Freind indeed.
Stream the EP below and read our interview with Daud below about Freind’s origins as a band and her influences.
How did Freind come together as a band?
Freind started in August 2014. I had been writing songs by myself I would record them in my room with a drum machine, a guitar, a bass, and the synthesizers I had. I fleshed out all these songs and released them under the moniker Hi Priestess. They’ve all been reworked, except “Earthbound” is a completely new one. Andrew, who plays drums, and I were dating and we wanted to start a band together. Originally it was just me on guitar and vocals, and Andrew on drums, but we wanted to get Gus involved.
How have the songs changed since you wrote them solo?
It depends on the song. Andrew added fills and made the drum parts more interesting, Gus made things a bit more hectic and uses guitar pedals with the synthesizers. We played our first show on Halloween 2014, then recorded our EP in April of 2015 at Rubber Tracks in Williamsburg. We did the whole thing ourselves, Andrew mixed it. Andrew, Gus, and Eli all live together, and Vanessa and I also live together.
Who are your biggest influences?
Stereolab, Broadcast, St. Vincent is my hero. Totally all about guitar, and she’s a monolith. A guitar wizard and so musically savvy. She’s a goddess. I’m pretty into Black Sabbath. I really like big distorted guitar tones, like multiple octave distortion. Shredding.
You guys recently decided to include choreography in your live show at Shea Stadium with PWR BTTM, can you talk about that decision?
It’s definitely something we want to develop more. I think that choreography just gives you something to look at other than a bunch of musicians who are just like ‘Oh I’m so into myself right now.’ It shows a degree of not taking yourself too seriously.
As you go forward, do you want to open up the writing to whomever?
Yeah, I’ve always wanted to. Andrew writes songs but they’re more like snippets of songs. Vanessa has showed a couple of songs, and she’s maybe braving up to work on them a bit more. One of the songs we play live Eli wrote. Gus has sent me some stuff too. I’m excited to share that responsibility.
For example, “Chemtrails” vs. “Loops.” They’re totally different styles. Which one do you see Freind continuing more with?
Probably “Loops” we do tend to jam for a while now. Repetitive but slowly changing melodies with the help of Eli who lays it down.
Repetition is a big thing for you guys.
I think I use repetition as a means to just write a song because I’m a novice songwriter. I’ve never written a bridge in my life. Can and Stereolab use repetition really well. Layering, slow changing. I also like drastic changes between repetition sort of like in “Chemtrails” and the end of “Earthbound” and our song “Shut Up” has pretty strong changes.