INTERVIEW: Netherfriends

 INTERVIEW: Netherfriends

I first heard Netherfriends about a year ago. Their debut EP, Calling You Out, opens with “Friends With Lofts,” an insanely catchy track attacking the independent scene as a whole:

I’m too cool to nod my head
to the rhythm of a seventies post-punk band
that played at my friend’s loft
we got way too drunk
we forgot the band’s name by the end of it all

With lyrics like these, other bands would come off as insipid or oblivious; Netherfriends has no trouble pulling it off.  It is, perhaps, the perfect opener for a work by a band that isn’t regressing into “blog popularity.”  The rest of the album bolsters this message beautifully; sonically, most newer psych-pop bands cannot touch the flawless execution of Calling You Out.

In late June, Netherfriends self-released a new album, Barry and Sherry.  The LP demonstrates a serious growth in a band which I thought had no room to improve.  Tracks are fuller and better realized while maintaining the catchy sound previously exampled.  Band leader Shawn Rosenblatt touches upon personal experiences and family life while meditating upon the eccentricities of life, both lyrically and musically.  Standouts like “Lead You Through the Misty Fog of Milwaukee Avenue” and “Brett Easton Ellis Novel” explode and regress in the most unexpected and beautiful ways, changing keys to suit subtle emotions, flying from one sound to another.  Netherfriends are perhaps one of the best bands untouched by the media right now, and Barry and Sherry, if nothing else, should propel them to greater attention.   I spoke briefly with Rosenblatt about the new album and Netherfriends’ upcoming performance at Pitchfork.

SICK OF THE RADIO: For those who haven’t heard your music, can you give a terse explanation of your sound or the sound you strive to achieve?

NETHERFRIENDS: Neo-psychedelic Mid-fi Pop music.

SICK OF THE RADIO: Your MySpace has a pretty cluttered listing of members of the band. About how many people normally perform live?

NETHERFRIENDS: 3 is usually the limit. Sometimes I play solo and I will loop beat boxing and harmonies and other times I play with just a drummer and try to be as loud as I possibly can.

SICK OF THE RADIO: How often are you compared to Animal Collective? I showed you to one of my friends and that was their first comment without hesitation.

NETHERFRIENDS: Who’s Animal Collective? I guess I get compared in every review and interview, but it’s never negative which is a good thing. I really like Animal Collective and I feel like they are the biggest band doing the psych pop thing today, so it is understandable that they will be the first band used to compare anything similar. Though, there are some bands out there today that really truly rip off the sound and technique and they are somehow being rewarded for it. NOT COOL. I sometimes wonder how many bands in the 60′s got compared to the Beach Boys or the Beatles.

SICK OF THE RADIO: You guys are set to open on Saturday at Pitchfork.  I think, largely, it’s a celebration of the independent music scene, but many of the smaller acts are rooted in Chicago. How do you feel about the Chicago scene right now? Are there any other acts you are really into?

NETHERFRIENDS: I enjoy Chicago music, but when I first started playing I knew way too many bands in Chicago that never left Chicago. In my own narcissistic mind, I feel like since I started touring full time, I think I might have persuaded a few bands to hit the road… probably not. I am really digging the Kilo records bands, Hollows, Loneliest Monk, Loyal Divide, and Stephen Paul Smoker. I feel like they have a good thing going in Chicago.

SICK OF THE RADIO: Which of the other acts playing the festival are you eager to see?

NETHERFRIENDS: Why?, Big Boi, Cass Mccombs, and Major Lazer.

SICK OF THE RADIO: The new album has a fuller sound compared to Calling You Out.  How was the recording process different?

NETHERFRIENDS: I went to my girlfriend’s parent’s house in Minnesota to record the new album. They were moved out and had it on the market for sale. I wrote and recorded the first 10 songs that came to my head and spent 7 days there. I guess it was a similar process from previous recordings… I just think I got a little better at recording. I also had a friend help with suggestions on mixes.

SICK OF THE RADIO: You guys use samples to great effect.  It almost seems like they are really catered to the individual track.  Do you ever build your songs around them?

NETHERFRIENDS: Almost all the samples are actually used from the recordings on the songs. I will process tracks from the song and put effects on them. Songs almost always start on piano or guitar as a simple song and then alter them after that. All drums on the new record were added last, which was not by choice.

SICK OF THE RADIO: A lot of your lyrics seem really self-reflective, even approaching critical in some ways.  How do you approach songwriting?

NETHERFRIENDS: Barry and Sherry was an album unintentionally about turning into my parents. I tend to either write about other people or write about myself. I very rarely write fiction.

SICK OF THE RADIO: What is your favorite Brett Easton Ellis novel?

NETHERFRIENDS: I like The Informers a lot. That’s partly where I got the idea for the song.

SICK OF THE RADIO: You announced plans to write fifty songs in fifty different states in a year.  How is that going?  Upon completion, will you contact Sufjan Stevens to brag?

NETHERFRIENDS: Well, he was planning on albums. I am doing songs. I know it’s not that different, but it is. It’s a lot easier. I already have 20 songs done. No plans on bragging.

SICK OF THE RADIO: If you had unlimited funds to design costumes for the band to wear on stage, how would they look?

NETHERFRIENDS: Costumes are lame. Unlimited funds would be put towards better equipment.

Check out Netherfriends at the Pitchfork Music Festival or on tour this summer.

Stream/Buy Netherfriends’ new album, Barry and Sherry here

Cassandra Gillig

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