By Georgina Langford

Chicago’s pop punk upstarts Real Friends have put out – count ‘em – five EPs since 2011, but having signed with Fearless Records, they are finally about to drop their debut full length, Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing on July 22. Having won themselves some UK fans with their support slot on The Wonder Years‘ spring tour before causing chaotic scenes on the Atticus stage at Slam Dunk, Real Friends are all set to make their permanent mark on the pop punk scene with this album. They recorded at Always Be Genius Recording Studio, which has previously played host to Knuckle Puck and You, Me, and Everyone We Know. Vocalist Dan Lambton gave Punktastic all the details.

Considering the amount (a lot!) of EPs you have delivered over the last few years, does finally putting out your debut full length feel like a great relief, or a huge pressure?

Kind of both to be honest. It was our first effort with a label, but Fearless has been awesome. It was definitely a lot of pressure because we knew that it would be able to reach a wider audience, and we definitely wanted to make sure that we made the best album we possibly could at that point. Having stricter deadlines this time around added a little bit of stress, but looking back on the entire experience all of the headaches and lost sleep, it was totally worth it.

The album’s title is (IMHO) a classic emo statement. It could be taken from a character in some depressing cult indie film, Ghost World or something like that. Is it a collective thought that the whole band really shares, or did you imagine someone else saying that?

The title was taken from the two title tracks of the album, the introduction and the closing song. I would think it is an accurate description of how we are collectively feeling after spending a good portion of the last year touring and sparsely being at home. We would come back after six weeks of touring thinking that everything would be on pause until we get home. After being away so long and experiencing how all of these other people and cultures go about their everyday lives. It’s really eye-opening and I think we bring pieces of these places back with us, which can make us feel out of place being back at home. We’re essentially questioning whether it’s who you are or where you are/from that shapes your life and personality.

The title, the track names (‘Sixteen’ ‘Summer’ ‘To: My Old Self’) all seem to tap into the classic pop-punk theme of growing up. Did you intend it as coming-of-age record?

There are definitely coming of age elements to the songwriting, but there’s also a lot of reflecting on where you’ve been, figuring out where you’ll be, and this uncertainty about whether or not you’ll find the right place. Moving around as much as we do it’s hard to maintain a sense of permanence, and sometimes you just feel like you can’t find a place to dig your roots in the ground.

After a short stint last year, you are on Warped again this summer playing alongside Issues, Echosmith, Bayside and SECRETS. Who have you bonded with?

We’ve been hanging out with Neck Deep, Beartooth and State Champs a lot. Brian’s made some random friends that he runs off with a few hours and comes back to the buses piss drunk. One day I’ll figure out the secret society he’s joined.

You gained some great tour experience earlier this year supporting The Wonder Years. Considering how inspiring TWY have been over the past few years, did you learn or experience anything on that tour that will remain important to Real Friends in future?

That was definitely the best tour we have done to date, and we took in as much as we could. The Wonder Years, and everyone else supporting the tour with us, were some of the most hardworking and humble guys we’ve been able to tour with. TWY took great care of everyone else on the tour as well, and they even got us all hotel rooms on an off day in Pensacola and took everyone out for dinner. They made sure that everyone on that tour was having a great time, and I really admire them for that.

Have you listened to Soupy’s new solo record as Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties? If so, could you please give us your most professional review?

 I have heard the record and I saw him play yesterday for the first time. I’m not a journalist, but it’s a damn good album.

You also played one of your biggest UK shows to date at Slam Dunk in May – did anything surprise you about that festival?

Everything was fucking great. Everyone would tell us nothing but good things about Slam Dunk, and it met and exceeded our expectations. We didn’t get to play all-ages shows in some of those markets, so it was a great way to get the younger kids out so they can still come out to a show.

Kerrang! magazine gave your set a slightly weird, negative review from Slam Dunk South; implying that you sounded ‘a little bit like everyone else on the Atticus stage but not as good’ (that’s not the exact wording, sorry, but it’s as close as I can remember). How did/do you feel about that?

I actually didn’t hear about that until now, but it’s alright. To each his own, we can’t sway everyone and I don’t expect us to.

Are you still at the stage where you read everything that is written about your band?

Haha obviously not. I see a few things here and there, but I don’t go out of my way.

As Real Friends began to break through, you were frequently hyped as ‘the next The Story So Far’. Aside from them, whose musical career do you most admire?

I’m a very big fan of The Starting Line. I really admire how they were able to be so diverse and give each record its own sound and feel. I would really love to explore more influences and to be able to change things up from album to album.

While there have been many before and after them, Fall Out Boy are one of the most successful bands to, like you, come out of Chicago. Are you fans? How would you feel about achieving their global status?

I love Fall Out Boy, they’re a great band. I’m not necessarily sure how I would feel in their shoes though. I’d sure as hell tell you I’d be paranoid as fuck if I ended up in tabloid magazines.


Read the Punktastic review of ‘Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing’ by Real Friends

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]