Sometimes music is great because it’s loud and bombastic, sometimes it’s great to hear something technical and awe inspiring, quite often though it’s the quiet songs, the gentle songs that somehow shout the loudest and create the biggest ripples in your gut. That’s certainly the case with Friendship’s latest album, Dreamin’. Ten tracks of gentle alt-country, that without ever rushing or yelling, resonates like only the very best albums do.
The Philadelphia band aren’t a new prospect, they first emerged back in 2015 with their cult classic of a debut, You’re Going To Have To Trust Me. Now some four year’s later, Dreamin’ is their third album, and in many ways one that continues along the same path that Friendship, and their principle songwriter Dan Wriggins have always followed. These remain songs about the little things, the moments that might seem insignificant at the time and only later come to shape the very core of who we are, our relationships with others and ultimately what impact we leave on the world around us.
Dreamin’ doesn’t so much come roaring out of the traps, as gently pours into the world. Opening track, I Don’t Have To Imagine Your Love, enters on a woozy drone of organ and fluttering, muted percussion, before Dan’s, Dan Mangan-like vocal croaks into gear, “if I had any common sense, I’d owe it your heavy duty presence”. From there he delivers a subtle tribute, an honest reflection of how easy it is to forget that there’s still love in the world, “I think of this world of hatred and lies, I feel utterly helpless and then I realise, that I don’t have to imagine your love”. That search for human connection is a common thread through the record, regular mentions are made to finding someone who understands your world, whether on You Might Already Know, where Dan sings “you found a portal to my world and you walked right in”, or the sublime Clairvoyant, where he asks, “how do you always seem to know the details of my world?”.
It’s easy to wax lyrical on the words on Dreamin’, the attention to detail in the writing is undeniably stunning, yet perhaps more than any other Friendship record, that also seems to carry through to the music as well. Throughout, the tracks sound like dense swirls, you can feel the tension, as if looking into Dan’s head and watching the cogs whir as he attempts to escape the self-doubt. It feels like an album constructed from moments of silence, as if you’re hearing the inner monologue as Dan stares out of a window trying to process his thoughts. We’re put in mind of artists like Adem or Bill Callahan, those great musical thinkers, who know the story is as much in what the music says as the words themselves.
A gentle masterpiece, Dreamin’ is one of the year’s quiet triumphs, and recently Dan was kind enough to answer our questions, discussing influences, future plans and not being entirely sure whether making music was by fate or design.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Friendship?
Friendship is Pete Gill, Mike Cormier, Evangeline Krajewski, Jon Samuels, and myself (Dan Wriggins). Pete, Mike, and I are originally from Maine. We all live in Philadelphia.
FTR: We understand you recorded with The Low Anthem’s Jeff Prystowsky, how did that come about? What appealed to you about working with Jeff?
I’ve been a Low Anthem fan since high school. I’ve always appreciated their unique experiments with production, and I thought there might be a lot of potential with these songs. I can’t remember who first recommended Jeff and Ben’s studio. I just emailed them, and asked if they’d be interested in working on it. It’s a beautiful place, over the Columbus Theater in Providence, Rhode Island.
FTR: Who are your influences? What were you listening to when you wrote Dreamin’?
Kath Bloom, Vic Chesnutt, Lomelda, Advance Base, Nicholas Krgovich, Lambchop. Those are some of the biggest current ones, and some of the artists I steal from most egregiously. I think Mike had a plan for the drums that was based on the guitar parts on Hejira. Can’t remember what everyone else was listening to.
FTR: What are your aspirations for this record? Do you see music as a viable career?
Like any recording, I hope folks get something out of it. Of course it helps if it sells. “Viable career” is a pretty loaded term! It’s an incredibly difficult, competitive, and unstable job. But the other things I’m good at, or fields I’ve worked in, have their own perils. I might as well give this one shot.
FTR: What’s the music scene in Philadelphia like right now? Is there anyone we should be looking out for?
It rules. Cultural capital of the world! Ha. Listen to Moor Mother, Abi Reimold, Shannen Moser, SOUL GLO, Spirit of the Beehive, Dril, 22 Degree Halo.
FTR: The album is coming out on Orindal Records, how did that come about? Are record labels important to you?
Our last record, “Shock out of Season” came out on Orindal. We are incredibly lucky to be able to work with Owen. Orindal is very important to us. Owen’s given us a huge amount of support, and it’s impossible to overstate the value of working with somebody you trust. We’re also big fans of all the other artists on Orindal, which just feels great.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
That’s a funny question. Theoretically, I feel like it’s chance – I’d like to imagine that folk and country music is the closest thing in the world to my heart, but I’ve also spent the most time in it, and there’s basically no turning back, so what came first? I do enjoy writing without music. I write poetry pretty often, and would maybe publish it sometime. I’m sure not going to become a painter.
FTR: What can people expect from the Friendship live show?
It’s gonna rule. Mike, Pete, Van, and Jon are amazing. Sometimes we’ll play a cover or two. This fall, it’ll be all songs from “Dreamin’” and a few new ones.
FTR: What’s next for Friendship?
We’ll be playing a lot of US shows in 2020. There’s always new music in the works. Maybe we’ll get to Europe eventually? I’ve heard they don’t make normal coffee.
Dreamin’ is out now via Orindal Records. Click HERE for more information on Friendship.