Interview: Real Friends [March 2015]

By Ben Tipple

With the release of their debut full-length, ‘Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing’, last year, Illinois emo pop-punks Real Friends took the alternative community by storm. Their open lyrics and infectious melodies drew fans in from all corners of the Earth, generating an unmovable and dedicated following. As they now prepare to return the UK for a small string of headline shows around their European run with All Time Low (including a potentially career-defining support slot at London’s Wembley Arena), we chat to vocalist Dan Lambton about their rise to fame and keeping a level head.

How are you doing?

Really well!

How’s your time off going?

We are home for a little over another week. The weather has been very awful lately, so I’ve just been stuck inside. Touring now would be a little bit of a blessing, especially if we were South in Florida. Is the weather over there going to be pretty shitty?

It’s probably going to be awful… You’ve been here before, right?

Yeah, but we weren’t there in November and May, so we never went in March. We don’t know what to expect.

How are you preparing for your UK tour?

It sucks because we are only there for three of four dates. We have three off-day shows that we are playing apart from the shows with All Time Low and Neck Deep. It’s not really that extensive, which is unfortunate. We get to play a lot of market we have never got to play, like Paris. We’ve never been to Paris – that’s going to be sick. We’re starting it off in Italy which is going to be wild. It’s going to be very wild with All Time Low.

How do you mentally prepare for stages as big as Wembley in London?

You don’t. It’s going to be the scariest show we ever play. Just to go out there and see all those people. It sold out before either us or Neck Deep got announced, so we’re playing to a load of people who had little or no idea we were playing in the first place. To share our music with all of those people, and to have that opportunity so many miles away is awesome.

We got lucky the first time we came through with The Wonder Years, to around 400 or 500 people. To even do that was phenomenal. Now we get to do it with All Time Low to that magnitude, it’s fucking wild. Unless you’ve done it before there’s really nothing you can do to mentally prepare for it.

Blissful ignorance?

Basically. I’ve just been pretending it’s not happening.

How did you react to finding out you were on the tour?

We were torn because our spring touring cycle got a little bit messed up. We’re touring with The Maine, Knuckle Puck and The Technicolors from April to May, but that was originally supposed to be in March. That got pushed back so we had to figure out what we’d be doing for March. We didn’t want to be sitting around for three to four months. The All Time Low tour came up and it just fitted perfectly.

We were kind of stressed because our schedule got shifted, but it worked out in the best possible well. When we got presented with it, we thought “when would we get the next opportunity to go to all the places on the list, and to play shows to more than 20 people in Paris?” To get to play those places and guaranteed awesome shows, we thought “hell yeah, let’s do it.”

It must be a bit surreal to sell out your own headline shows across the ocean ahead of the tour.

It’s really weird. One thing that really blew my mind was Warped Tour 2013 at Alexandra Palace. To have Warped tour that usually doesn’t happen in the UK, happen in the UK and we were there! To grow to the point where we can play these side shows is extremely humbling and flattering. It’s something you never imagine you would be able to do when you’re getting together in a warehouse with three other people and figuring out whether being in a band is going to work in the first place. Those shows are going to be great!

What let you guys to create the ‘Moving Forward’ documentary?

It was mostly our bass player Kyle [Fasel – bass] that orchestrated it. His roommate Gary does a lot of graphic design. He does around 90% of our designs. Even if we outsource, he still formats the t-shirts, sends out the merch, designs our CDs, does photography and videography.

We wanted to give more of a personal glimpse into our band. Unfortunately sometimes people don’t look at bands as people. We wanted to abolish being this higher entity. It’s weird being at a point where people will look up to us, to an extent. You have to show them that we are people too, and we were the people going to shows and reacting to bands in the same way as they do now. We wanted to show that growth in our band; that is isn’t something that happened overnight.

There’s no difference between us and the kids out there. Just now we’re assholes on the stage with microphones and guitars. To be on the other side of the fence and have the opportunity to do this is crazy. We just wanted to show a more personal side – the bullshit we do when we’re not touring. When you’re going from city to city, it’s good to show people that’s not the only thing we are.

It helps to build on the community feel you have in your fan base. What do you think it is that makes people relate to Real Friends?

I really don’t know. It’s hard to describe how people can attach themselves to a band, even in the first place. I guess we’ve just experienced similar things to our fans. We’re able to convey it to them in a relatable way. We see eye-to-eye on a lot of situations that have happened in our lives.

When we present ourselves we like to make it feel personal. Social media is not necessarily just a machine to push releases. It’s nice for people to see that we are also people. Everything about being involved in music, and going to shows, is about community. Whether you like the other people, or half the bands playing, it’s still a community. We just try and relay that to people. We want people to accept themselves, and that it’s OK to be them.

We want people to accept that it is OK to feel broken. They don’t have to give a fuck about our band, so we want to make it a special experience for them.

Lyrically, you’re quite open and honest…

I’ve written maybe 10% of the lyrics, but I work closely with Kyle. He’ll send me lyrics and essentially I’ll be the editor. If I think we can reword it, occasionally I’ll whip out a thesaurus.

Kyle is very to the point. When he wants to say something, he will say it. His style has plasticity where you can bend the meaning to whatever is relatable to you. You can write a song about a dog, but the way the scenery is set could let someone take it to be about their grandmother, or uncle, or a school they went to. Something as simple as straight to a point like a dog can be interpreted in so many different ways.

I like the way it’s easily accessible to other people.

What’s next for Real Friends? Are you planning a longer tour in the UK?

We tend to do international once a year. Last year was around Slam Dunk, the year before around November, and this year is March. I’d hope we can fit in more this year as we aren’t doing an extensive UK tour, but I can’t say for sure.

Any new material underway?

We are demoing at the moment. We’ve been getting together here and there to get a slew of ideas together before we leave for Europe. When we get together we tend to write something new. We are slowly but surely working on our next record.

Thank you.

Catch Real Friends in the UK on the following dates, and check out their recent ‘Moving Forward’ documentary below.

19 MANCHESTER Sound Control [Sold Out]
20 LONDON Wembley Arena [Sold Out – supporting All Time Low]
22 LONDON Underworld [Sold Out]

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