I was asked to consider interviewing Friend Slash Lover and after hearing this great album I agreed heartily. I like their sound. I am going to resist throwing out comparisons, citing instead the quote (origin unknown and much debated online): “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”
Instead I thought I’d just jump to the interview with the band’s vocalist.
What was your goal with this album?
I believe in letting things in life happen organically. I always suspected that if I had good recordings then I would attract people who were on the same page and the music career would take on a life of its own.
I sort of approached it like a graphic designer needing a portfolio, or a filmmaker needing a reel. I always felt that this whole music project was pointless until we had good recordings, because nobody was going to just take my word for it. “I swear, it sounds amazing in my head!” I had to have something tangible to give people. If the band thing didn’t work out, I still would have been happy writing songs for other artists, for movies or TV shows, or who knows what? Any day that I get to sit and write a song is a good day.
Where did the band’s name come from? How about the album title?
I originally called myself “Stupid Human,” but when I started working with Frank (my bass player and collaborator for the past six years), he really didn’t like that name at all. So he made me pitch new name ideas at him continually for a year, because he’s a crazy person. After scribbling it in my notebook, I loved how “Friend Slash Lover” took on a different feeling when it was all spelled out. It sort of played with being a noun or a verb. It also of course had a cool sound to it when spoken, so it was the winner.
Album title: I wrote a song about how we live in a pill-grabber culture, but instead of critiquing it, I was really just poking fun at the notion, saying that the only reason money can’t buy happiness yet is because we don’t have the technology to do it yet… but we’re working on it. As Americans, we always seem to act as if technology will save us from any problem, even if that problem happens to be technology itself. That notion is so ingrained in our culture, it’s as American as apple pie.
Where do you hope to see the band in one year? Five years?
On the soundtracks of great movies. On stage at great venues. Collaborating with great artists.
What have been your high and low points as a musician and as a band?
The low points were when, after months of hard work and thousands of dollars wasted, we still didn’t have any usable recordings for the longest time. The high point was definitely when we finally created some good recordings, after years of false starts.
What would you describe as your influences and inspirations?
My inspirations probably come more from the fine art world, movies and the news than from other musicians. I love when I discover someone who has a completely original take on something, like Ryan Trecartin when he makes a video piece, or Banksy when he modifies a phone booth.
How did your early experience playing fife in a drum corps affect and influence your current musical work?
Haha! I guess you could say I grew up on the road, on tour. Every weekend, we piled into a dilapidated school bus and traveled around New England and the East Coast. No matter how much we partied (and I was a kid, so by “party” I mean we stayed up late), we had to be ready to march several miles in the heat and play our instruments for hours. It was brutal, sometimes we marched in five parades in one day.
On another note, I developed a real love for other time signatures, like 6/8, which you don’t hear much in rock music. I have two songs in 6/8 planned for the next album. It may seem strange, but as a kid I could sight-read classical music and play it on the fife (and I won dozens of competitions, including the national championship, playing a piece by Mozart) but over the years, I completely forgot how to read music. I successfully managed to unlearn everything I had been taught (Picasso would have been proud), which created this sort of blissful ignorance I operate within at the moment.
I understand you’re planning an art show to coincide with the album’s release. Can you talk about that? What type of art do you do?
Well, I missed the boat on getting an art show ready in time for the album’s release. My recent work has been playing with stencils. I figured out a way to convert large images or words into different size dots and then punch those dots out of plastic. I like how the pieces work in an outdoor environment: When you are far away, they look like normal images and the closer you get, the more abstract they become.
My songs are heavily influenced by mirrors that I made for years, with quirky made-up phrases etched onto the glass. You are essentially looking at your own reflection when you read and decipher the phrases, and the fact that you are literally part of the art usually gives it one more layer of meaning. One of my favorites said, “A little sperm goes a long way.” That phrase conjures lots of images up in your mind, but the most powerful being “you,” having come such a long way from being a sperm at one point to be standing in this exact spot, looking at your reflection and reading this phrase.
I made mirrors that said, “As American as ones and zeros,” “Money can’t buy happiness…yet,” “Where have I been all my life?” and “I brake for guilty consciences.” Those phrases would be on my mind when playing guitar and they make their way into the songs whether I like it or not.