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SXSW: Friends

The New Yorkers speak to Dazed about their minimal name and their expectations in the face of so much praise

New York pop troupe Friends were already garnering attention for their sassy Eighties referencing pop long before SXSW started. Tipped as being ‘one of the must see acts’ by the organisers and critics alike they arrived at the event with a busy schedule that saw them strut their way to the front of many people’s attention. After one such day show at downtown bar and venue Mohawk, bassist Leslie Hann and keyboardist Matthew Molnar spoke to Dazed Digital...

Originally we were called Perpetual Crush. I thought it was a total R'n'B lite secondary band that had one minor hit on the r'n'b charts

Dazed Digital: How does playing a large event like festivals compare with playing one of your own headline shows?
Matthew Moinar: It's a different kind of show. It's cool though as you don't want to play in front of your fans all the time, you want to make new fans and you want to test yourself as a live act and see how other people react to you.
Leslie Hann: We're so busy right now, as we’re touring constantly we don't really think about it too much. At SXSW we're playing multiple shows a day so no matter the situation you just have to be ready for it and not be fazed by anything.  
Matthew Moinar: We started out playing a ton of local shows and out of town shows so we have learned to adapt to different circumstances. We've always had a pretty non-traditional live set up; a lot of hand percussion and we have a lot more vocals then most other bands, so we've gone to shows needing four mic’s and they have two.
Leslie Hann: You kind of get used to making do.

DD: Are you surprised that you feature on many critics tip sheets?   
Matthew Moinar: For me it’s surprising, obviously I'm very happy with what we do and I'm very proud of it but what I expected and what we're getting in terms of people's reaction and positivity far exceeds what I thought we were expected to get.
Leslie Hann: At the same time it is something that we want, so how surprised can you really be?
Matthew Moinar: Sometimes we are playing somewhere and I expect it to be half full but then I find it’s sold out and that there is a queue around the block, so you know.  
Leslie Hann: It gets to the point where you don’t know what to expect any more.

DD: I’m expecting there’s an album soon on the way, I’m guessing that when that’s realised people will have a firmer idea of who Friends are. What works on the road and what works on record usually differs quite a lot.
Matthew Moinar: The album’s totally recorded, it took a while, we basically recorded two albums as we worked on a lot of material. 
Leslie Hann: We really knit-picked over everything, we were really really details orientated and were huge perfectionists.
Matthew Moinar: We developed the songs for live, we are very much a live band and then when you go into the studio, you realise that obviously your live thing works but you want the best out of it, so for some songs we ended up doing completely different versions; different tempo’s to different instrumentation. Just because they worked live, didn’t mean that they would work in the studio.

DD: Finally are you fed up of people asking about the band name yet? I’m surprised no one’s used it before.  
Leslie Hann: It was kind of a joke, personally I’m a fan of over minimalist non-specific band names and am very much anti that whole “let’s put two really obscure words together” kind of thing, ... the band started because we were all friends with each other and it was like “We’re friends”, we joked about it for a while, going back and forth about being frustrated about it and not liking it to thinking it was cool, it is what it is and we are.
Matthew Moinar: Originally we were called Perpetual Crush, the first week we were a band. I thought it was a total R ‘n’ B lite secondary band that had one minor hit on the R ‘n’ B charts.
Leslie Hann: I thought it was a little bit too much, I think we are glad to have something that could leave room for us to be whatever, I don’t want our name to define what we are, I want our music and who we are too, it naturally leaves enough room for that.          
Matthew Moinar: My three favourite band names of all time and I think others are too are: The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth and The Stone Roses. Mind you if those bands weren’t so great, cool and ground breaking, would we think those band names are so good? I don’t know. I always look on it that whatever your band name, as long as you are happy with it and as long as it is not totally stupid, just do it because your band name is only as good as your band is.

Text by Nathan Westley
Photography by Chris Leung