FEATURE INTERVIEW with Samantha Urbani of Friends

Interview by Corrine Jensen

Friends are a playful indie-cool band with an old school Brooklyn vibe infused in their sound, music videos, live performances, and in each one of them. Comprised of real-life friends Samantha Urbani (Vocals), Lesley Hann (Bass, Percussion, Backing Vocals), Oliver Duncan (Drums), Nikki Shapiro (Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion), and Matthew Molnar (Keyboards, Percussion, Bass), the rhythm heavy dance-loving quintet has been generating lots of attention on sites like Spin and Stereogum.
The band is currently on a globe-trotting tour that kicked off in Amsterdam this past weekend and will end in the Midwest shortly before Christmas, but mesmerizing front woman and former Mystic resident, Samantha Urbani took time to talk to WailingCity.com about Friends, Music, and New London.

WC: Friends have been playing together for just over a year but in that time you’ve created a fresh sound with fun songs and funky beats. What inspires you musically?
SU:
I can feel inspired by other music but I don’t necessarily feel directly influenced by it. Things I am influenced by are all kinds of sensory things and when I am making music I think about visual art and stimuli. I’m usually inspired by relationships I have with people in my life and myself and nature and my sense of reality.

WC: The music videos, ‘Friend Crush’ and ‘I’m His Girl’, in which you were either co-editor or director for, are very artistic. Did you take the same approach when making them?
SU:
Yeah, I definitely like a certain type of aesthetics and production quality. I don’t like the sound or look of things being produced right now. It’s very over polished and kind of a hyper-reality that doesn’t sound or look like real life; it’s an HD version. I think it’s more interesting when you’re creating a piece of art. For the ‘Friend Crush’ and ‘I’m His Girl’ videos I was thinking of a 70’s playboy photo shoot/80’s home video look and it worked out and I really like both videos.

WC: You’ve been getting attention not only here in the states but overseas as well. You’ve played in the UK and also, this past weekend at the London Calling Festival in Amsterdam and there is a Europe Tour scheduled this February. How does it feel to be going international? Surreal?
SU:
It’s very surreal. It’s hard to have any perspective on it right now. Two years ago, seeing my life, I would have been really excited and impressed and blown away but the way that things have progressed it just seems natural and it’s hard to suddenly realize I’m doing what I’m doing and what I’ve always wanted to do. I think the world feels smaller, a lot of people probably realize that feeling, especially with having access to the Internet and being able to communicate with each other. Now, traveling and playing for thousands of different people from different places and easily being able to reach out, kind of proves that everything is connected.


WC: Ok, but there’s still no place like home and this Friday you’ll be playing at The Oasis Pub in New London, CT.... growing up in Mystic, this must definitely feel like a homecoming show for you. Are you excited? Nervous?
SU:
I’m excited because I don’t get to come home that often anymore and see all my old friends. I love to play in New London and I have been hanging out at The Oasis since I was way too young to hang out there. Ha, hopefully no one gets in trouble! It was definitely a home base for me before I moved to New York and I’ve seen a bunch of really cool shows there. To someone who didn’t grow up in New London, maybe The Oasis just looks like a regular, small-fries bar but to me it’s infamous and tons of people in New London still feel like hometown celebrities. It always feels really good to come home and have everyone be really excited about what I’m doing and not only about my music but about me, personally. Everyone there really inspired me and I really appreciate that they gave a shit enough to have a ton of touring bands come thru the area and have shows all week and didn’t kick me out of the bar.

WC: Hilarious! So, tell me about the New London music scene that you remember, any bands or musicians that stand out?
SU:
When I was younger there was a punk scene and all these cool bands. Specifically, I used to hang out with The Electric Noise Act when I was 18 or 19. It was with some of my best friends, these guys named Jared and Michael... and Randy who died a few years ago. Hanging out with those guys was kind of the high point for me. There was also Fatal Film, I love those guys and they’re really good friends of mine, and Brava Spectre, those kids always have a million different products going on but they’re great, and, of course, The Royale Brothers. But another thing that’s hard for me is a few of my favorite people from New London have died over the last few years so it’s a bittersweet feeling coming back because I miss those guys and it’s never going to be the same as it was. But I have faith that New London is going to continue to survive because there’s always people there who really, really care about and are trying to bring the city up and they’ll keep doing what they’re doing. It’s kind of an amazing place.

WC: You’ve been writing songs your whole life and now you’re lead vocals for a band that’s on the cusp of something big, what advice do you have for those bands/singers/musicians out there who are just getting starting or wanting to start?
SU:
I think it’s important to remember that you don’t have to “know” how to do something to do it. You don’t have to be taught. You can do it intuitively and if you’re passionate about it and it makes sense to you creatively and it works in a way that you want it to work, make it happen. Also, it’s really, really important to go on tour and expose yourself. If you have a band and some songs, don’t wait around until it feels perfect, just get out there and do it because it’s never going to feel perfect. Don’t be scared ever. Make music in your room until you’re not scared anymore and then play it for real. Do it. And living in New York doesn’t hurt either. As much as I love New London and I totally support smaller cities and their scene, I can’t lie, it’s way easier to get attention from labels and booking agents or other bands and network in a bigger community. It’s in no way a put down to a smaller city like New London but it doesn’t hurt to move. Once you feel like you need to get to the next level and you’re really serious about having a band, you need to figure out if you need to stay or go.

WC: Alright, so tell us, what can we expect from Friends in the future?
SU:
We’re going to put out our full-length album in the spring of 2012 and go on tour in Europe and in the U.S. around that time too. I just think, ‘don’t have any expectations, we could do anything’. I don’t know what we’re going to do in the future just like I didn’t have any idea what we were going to do when we started the band. My whole life’s philosophy has sort of been to take things as they come and recognize opportunities. Everything is fluid, just go with it and see what happens. This is all I can really say about what we’re going to do next because I don’t really know. Hopefully it will make a positive impact in some way.