Real Friends debuts their third full length record, ‘Composure’
July 18, 2018
When I was a 14-year-old punk rocker with atrociously heavy eyeliner, my mom drove my best friend and I to many pop punk and hardcore shows at Centennial Lanes, a bowling alley in Tinley Park that hosted DIY shows in it’s semi-soundproofed party room. At the time, Real Friends was one of the biggest names in our small suburban music scene, and the group’s shows always felt like sold out homecoming concerts, even if they had just played a show the weekend before.
Besides still not knowing how to properly apply eyeliner, a lot has changed since I was a 14-year-old watching Real Friends perform at suburban bowling alleys. A lot has changed for the Tinley Park pop punk band, too.
On July 13, Real Friends released their third full-length album, “Composure.” Prior to the album’s release date, the band released four singles from the upcoming ten-track album: “From the Outside,” “Smiling on the Surface,” “Get By” and most recently, “Unconditional Love.”
Based on these four songs, long-time listeners can expect a more musically complex and lyrically mature album than Real Friends has released in the past.
“With ‘Composure,’ I think the subject matter of the songs is a lot more real to what we are dealing with today. I write about half of the lyrics and then Dan [Lambton], our vocalist, writes about the other half,” said Kyle Fasel, bassist and secondary vocalist of Real Friends. “There’s a lot more subject matter that touches on some mental health stuff and touches on a lot of self-reflection.”
To fully understand Real Friends’ newfound maturity and the significance of “Composure” in relationship to the band’s past releases, it is necessary to take a quick trip back through the Real Friends’ discography.
I can recall a defining show that, to me, symbolized the end of an era at Centennial Lanes. On June 1, 2013, Real Friends held a CD release show for their EP “Put Yourself Back Together.” The small party room was beyond packed with fans from all over the Chicagoland area, and I knew in my heart that this show would signify the end to a long string of Real Friends shows at the beloved bowling alley. At this point, the band was clearly too big to continue playing D.I.Y. shows, and shortly after they were signed by Fearless Records.
The title “Put Yourself Back Together” implies that the album is directed towards a person who feels as though they are in pieces. The lyrical content of the seven songs on this release discusses feeling incomplete and hints at relationships gone wrong, self-blame and feeling lost, alone and confused. While the songs’ lyrics imply a need for change and self-improvement, by the end of the EP, the narrator seems to be in the same mental place as they were in at the beginning.
The title of the band’s next release, 2014’s “Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing,” conveys that the narrator is beginning to become more self-aware and is working towards the changes they set out to make in “Put Yourself Back Together.” However, the majority of the album’s lyrical content is still a bit trite.
“Those albums [“Put Yourself Back Together” and “Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing”] were kind of like heartbreak and very cliche emotions; kind of what you hear in a lot of other songs. But they were very real and they were very honest,” said Fasel. “When we wrote those albums at 20 to 23 years old, I didn’t expect a lot of things to be like how they are today and I’m almost 30 now, which is weird to say.”
The band’s 2016 release, “The Home Inside My Head” continued this thematic storyline, implying that the narrator was beginning to find peace within themselves. Now, with their latest album, Real Friends is taking those sincere emotions to the next level by addressing more relevant topics in “Composure.” The record’s title tells listeners that the narrator is finally discovering a sense of identity and composure whereas just five years ago, the speaker was seemingly “in pieces.”
“This album is fantastic. It has lots of diversity and shows a lot of growth, musically and lyrically, and you can really hear the influence producer Jeremy Mckinnon, the vocalist of A Day to Remember, had on the record,” said Thomas Bulvan, 20, a long time Real Friends fan.
The band’s third album is not only a step forward for the band in terms of songwriting. Opposed to sending out a more traditional press release, Real Friends also experimented with new marketing strategies by first announcing “Composure” at exclusive listening parties that were originally advertised to fans as small acoustic shows.
When fans arrived at one of the three listening parties on June 15, Real Friends did not play an acoustic set as they had promised; instead, the played a recording of their new album in its entirety and mingled with fans. Bulvan, 20, was one of the lucky fans who was able to attend two of the three exclusive listening parties on June 15.
“Real Friends had their fans RSVP for the shows and they emailed them back whether or not they could go,” said Bulvan, who attended the listening shows at Sip of Hope Coffee Bar in Logan Square and at evolution Music in Downers Grove. “It was a very intimate experience. You had the opportunity to chill and chat with the band, as well as a photo booth. I got to chat with Eric Haines [rhythm guitar] about wrestling for a bit and got to hardcore dance with Brian Blake [drums]. A picture of that even made it on their ‘zine’ recap of the event.”
Real Friends is currently promoting “Composure” on the Vans Warped Tour circuit and will be in the Chicagoland area on July 21 when the festival has its final run at Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in the band’s hometown of Tinley Park, Illinois.
“We’re trying to figure out one other tour for this year, but we don’t really have any details; just trying to figure out what our options are. But hopefully we’ll do one more tour before the year is over,” said Fasel.