On May 27, Chicago pop-punk band Real Friends will release their sophomore LP, The Home Inside My Head. The title of the album seems to wholly encapsulate who the band are in 2016: Nice dudes intensely invested in the relationships around them, the people they choose to get close to. It makes for a lot of self-reflection and a record that attempts to tackle it.
Their debut full-length, 2014's Maybe This Place Is the Same and We're Just Changing, did something similar by positioning the narrative of growth in leaving a toxic, romantic relationship. The Home is even more internalized: this is the sound of growing up.
We sat down with bassist/main songwriter Kyle Fasel of the band to talk about their next release, that Kanye West song and more.
It must've been weird when Kanye West dropped "Real Friends."
We played off of it because people were tweeting about it. Kanye is from where we're from. He went to the high school right near us so we tweeted that we were friends, which is totally untrue. We made a joke out of it. I don't really follow that music at all and then people were tweeting and "Real Friends" was trending but it wasn't us. I'm sure there are some people who discovered our band because of it, at least a couple. I'm happy about that.
You'll have to cover it.
One of these days, maybe, we'll do a collaboration.
Your second album, The Home Inside My Head, drops May 27. How does it differ from your first, Maybe This Place Is the Same and We're Just Changing?
We had a lot more time to write this one, which helps. We actually started writing it, technically, in the winter of 2014. I think we wrote five or six songs musically and when we demoed them out, we didn't listen to them for like five or six months. That was cool because then we had a bank of songs to go back to. All the original writings of the songs are totally different, there are moments where we only used one part from the demo and we built around it. With this we were able to say, "Let's go back to those songs and see which one we want to work on" and essentially made those songs better.
[Singer] Dan [Lambton] told Alternative Press last year that in the songwriting process, lyrically, you're the writer and he's the editor—he's performing the words you write. Was there a shift in that dynamic?
The album is 12 songs and he wrote four of them, which I thought was cool and nice for me because it kind of gave me a little more space to use my best writing. This gave me the opportunity to cut out songs I didn't feel strongly about, and it gave the songs a different dynamic, automatically, from someone else writing lyrics. You're going to have a different feel. That was nice because it all adds to the progression of our band. This album is different.
Are you similar writers? How do you make that sound cohesive, if you're writing separate stories?
Dan has been looking at my lyrics for over five years now. When Dan showed me some of his lyrics they were similar enough to mine that they work really well together. Mine are a little more straight to the point, that's just always been my style. Dan's lyrics are [more complicated], he uses bigger words. I think it's cool to have something that's a little bit more detailed like his writing because it plays off mine well. It makes the album more dynamic.
Because your lyricism cuts to the core, it makes it more feel more accessible, relatable. With the success of your first album hitting No. 24 on the Billboard 200, was there a particular pressure with this new album?
I think that's always there. The only time I never really felt any pressure was with our earlier stuff, when there wasn't really any eyes on us. I think every band feels that in some way. We had to followup an album that people enjoyed. We've been a band for almost six years now and I feel like we've gotten good at disconnecting ourselves from that and just writing what we want to write. I think that will always be there but we didn't get into the writing process or anything and think, "We need to write a hit song." We stuck to what we wanted to do.
And if you ever wrote something disingenuous, the kids would know immediately. "Scared to Be Alone" is the latest single from the release. You've said it's about your mom and how it's challenging to see someone you love make decisions that are unhealthy for them.
This happens to me with a lot of the songs I've written, I write a song for someone and it starts to relate to multiple people. The thing with my mom is that she's in a relationship that I don't totally agree with. It's a lot different than where I pictured her to be when I was younger. Me and my mom have a great relationship but it's a weird thing that we don't really talk about so it's obviously a perfect outlet for me to write about. I think that's something we all feel in life, at some point. Loved ones and friends, someone makes a decision that we wish they didn't make. We want them to be in a better place but at the end of the day, it's their life. All of my songs are genuine and real but that one really cuts to the core. It's something I don't talk about with my mom, but from a writing standpoint, it's something so relatable for our fanbase as well.
It's a critical song, but one that comes from a loving place. In older songs like "I Don't Love You Anymore," your band seemed to be focused on romantic relationships. Now it feels like you're zeroing in on relationships across the board.
I went through a bad breakup and that's what our earlier stuff was about. The band gave me a really good outlet to get out of that. I dated a girl for like five years and it ended really bad. It took me a really long time to get over it. Now I'm in a position where its been multiple years since that relationship ended and I kind of had to dig a little bit deeper inside myself to get some inspiration for writing and I think it makes it a lot more genuine. I wrote a lot about family. I wrote from a place of self-reflection, all of the things that go on in your head. I'm 27 years old. There's a lot that happens in those years of getting older. Sometimes it can be a really scary place. I'm still young but not a kid. That's something that has been kind of hard for me, and still is, shifting into adulthood. A lot of the songs are about that. There are a lot of undertones to the songs about getting older. These aren't songs like, "I'm never going to grow up." These are songs about "I'm getting older, and it's scary. I don't know what to do." Even though I'm 27 years old I still have this mindset of a kid. If I go into a restaurant and there's a waitress or waiter, I just immediately think they're older than me. I have this stigma of "Authority is older than me." That's very childlike. I think I'm very young at heart. It's a weird transition.
“These aren't songs like, 'I'm never going to grow up.' These are songs about 'I'm getting older and it's scary.'”
Maybe you're just really respectful of authority.
I've never been arrested!
"Colder, Quicker" was the first single from The Home Inside My Head. It's different from "Scared to Be Alone."
That was a song Dan wrote which was cool because the first single we put out was one he wrote, giving it a different feel. We co-wrote it with Mike Green, whose done stuff with All Time Low and Pierce the Veil. We were kind of iffy about the whole thing. The opportunity came up and we thought it was kind of weird to co-write a song with someone. We went to California in December, it was before we went in to record the album. We were like, "Alright, were going to try and write a couple songs with this guy, if it's weird, we don't have to use them." The first day, it just clicked. He was cool, we wrote the songs and he was just kind of there to help and give a different opinion on it. Co-writing is different for every band but with Mike Green he was just kind of like, "Think of me as another member. I'm not gonna pull out my computer and click on a song and say, "Do you like it? It's yours!" It wasn't like that at all. We did three songs with Mike on the album. I still really believe in our ability to write the songs, just us, but doing some song like that gave it a different feel. It's healthy, for an album.
In the video for "Colder, Quicker" we see a Polaroid which ends up revealing the album artwork. In the "Scared to be Alone" video we see more of the house. Is the entire album a running narrative of the home?
The artwork and the videos play off the idea of The Home Inside My Head which I think is really fitting. We don't have this big, thought-out thing. It's more of a natural [progression] because it matched the album, it matched the themes. We've always been a subtle band. We've never been a flashy band and I think the idea of a house matches our band. People grow in a house. Families go through things and get over things and it matches us as a band. We're in a growing phase. It's a really good representation.
The Home Inside My Head releases on May 27 and is available for pre-order now.