Friday, May 19, 2017
Listen: Friend Roulette - "Joan"
Brooklyn experimental chamber pop sextet Friend Roulette are back after a little bit of a break. Since the release of their very excellent Grow Younger EP in 2014, they've been relatively quiet playing shows in Brooklyn and going on tour in different configurations of their normal six person lineup. "Joan", the first single from their upcoming EP finds the group in repose. It's a rare moment for the band who normally pair moments of tranquility with dynamic tonal shifts. Part of that lies in the fact that the song isn't totally there's. "Joan" and the whole of their upcoming EP are songs written and composed by an old friend of theirs, Matt Sheffer, who wrote and recorded songs ardently and shared them with the band only to decide they weren't worth sharing with the rest of the world. Friend Roulette's history is intrinsically linked with that Sheffer. Take Grow Younger's "Kitty Song", the psychedelic romp is equal parts Friend Roulette's technicolor arrangement and Sheffer's wonderfully weird lyricism. Much like Grow Younger and their sophomore full length I See You. Your Eyes Are Red., Friend Roulette's greatest leaps forward in sound occur when they're mining their rich history and The Matt Sheffer Songbook Vol. 1 aims to be no different.
"Joan" is a down tempo number much like "Or Berlin" or "Rocket Dog", and though arranged for the band's diverse instrumentation, Julia Tepper is still given the spotlight soaring easily above the sparse accompaniment. Songwriters Matthew Meade and Julia Tepper have always had an affinity for ballads and through adapting Sheffer's song for their own use, they craft a stunning work of emotional quiet. It's a breath of fresh air from a band who is normally at home mired in relative chaos and by upending pop norms in favor of interesting moments that subvert expectation. "Joan" is as typical as Friend Roulette are probably ever going to get and even in that uncharacteristic restraint, they continue to push their sound forward by stripping it all back and laying it all bare. The Matt Sheffer Songbook is a tribute to a friend that's been a driving force behind the band and by letting "Joan" stand pretty much on its own merits, the band highlight Sheffer in a way they really haven't before.
Friend Roulette's upcoming EP The Matt Sheffer Songbook Vol. 1 is out June 16th on Pretty Purgatory. You can pre-order it now and if you order the cassette you get Matt Sheffer's original demos which have never been released before.