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Friends: Friend Crush

Much bravado, and more bullshit, has been spoken in the name of the like-minded ‘free spirit’ amongst the underbelly of indie-cool hopefuls in NYC’s hippest borough, Brooklyn. Putting all that aside, the nascent quintet, Friends, is quite probably the finest and purest embodiment of said aesthetic.

Formed on Sept. 12th 2010, Friends, played their first show for lead singer, Samantha Urbani’s birthday party in her backyard just 6 days later, before being subsequently thrust into a CMJ showcase.  In the few months that have followed, Friends have played all the hotspots amongst NYC’s ever-expanding D.I.Y circuit, like Silent Barn, Shea Stadium and Death By Audio, and have just hit the road for a mammoth 29 date US tour with label-mate Darwin Deez.

Things have been moving this fast for Urbani since the spring of 2010 when, based in Brooklyn, Urbani recorded a batch of songs “bubbling out of her brain” onto ‘GarageBand.’  Summer saw Samantha temporarily relocate to Berlin to study, frequenting artist communes akin to the ‘Market Hotel’, where she currently resides, and further extending her unorthodox life approach, having been home schooled, by a free spirited, artistic small family unit in the suburbs of Connecticut. Upon returning to NYC, Urbani knew she needed a band to realize her ideas into something bigger.

Hence, Friends was formed naturally by the, well, friends surrounding her at the time.  Self-taught, play anything musician Lesley Hann, 22, a striking performer of bass and keys in the band, whom Urbani had known from childhood, and stand-up drummer, Oliver Duncan, 23, were playing in a rock band together, and crashing on Urbani’s couch to avoid their bed bug problem. Close friends Matthew Molnar, 28, and Nikki Joe Shapiro, 33, worked, together with the singer, at the now locally-notorious vegan restaurant in the east village, Angelica Kitchen, where Darwin Deez had also previously eked out a living, and so, the quintet was complete.

Instantly, from the immediate tape hum of ‘Friend Crush’, you know you are dealing with a living, breathing collective. The noise is soon followed by a swaggeringly simple beat, and then an intimate voice offers staccato couplets oozing a sensuality that is both primal and sensitive ; it’s a voice of urgency, and yet naively plaintive. It’s all topped off by a beautiful & affecting chiming riff from guitar pop heaven, reminiscent of Joe Meek’s concoctions.

B-side, ‘Feelin Dank’, furthers the band’s horizons. It’s a spacious arrangement of organic freestyle, with claps, bongos, and what could be an African call-and-response vocal style, built with nursery rhymes that could fit into a hip re-imagination of Lincoln Chase/Shirley Ellis’s ‘The Clapping Song.’

Imbibed with the naked party-starting enthusiasm of E.S.G. and The Tom Tom Club, cult NYC happenings like themselves, Friends perform a self-described concoction of ‘weird pop’ and ‘tropicool’, African-inspired rhythms splashed with a tropical dash.

So far, in the uber-fashion conscious ‘big apple’, Friends have established themselves quickly. They offer something transcendental, and yet exuberantly now. Perfect for this era when life seems tough enough to require regular reality checks, alongside our dreams of escapism and overachievement. “I am hoping we will dominate the search engine,” says Urbani, “There’s definitely space in pop music right now for something more genuine.” Well, here it is…