In our ‘album of the week‘ review, we said that Friendship’s second full-length ‘Dreamin’ “was more restrained instrumentally than ‘Shock Out of Season’ yet no less affecting. Any effects, any adornment, that could divert attention from the core of each song have been ditched. Though smaller in scale the songs are more affecting than ever; Dan Wriggins’ incredible wordsmithery more prominent, the invention of Michael Cormier’s percussion clearer to the ear”
Dan Wriggins, the Philadelphia band’s songwriter and singer, chats to us about ‘Dreamin’, influences and his questionable masonry skills below:
What for you are the main differences between this and the last album?
The first thing that the current Friendship line-up recorded together was an EP in 2017 called “F/V Hope.” I’m still very proud of it, and “Dreamin’” feels more like a development of those ideas than of our 2017 LP, “Shock out of Season.” “Dreamin’” has similar instrumentation to “Shock Out of Season,” minus two drum machines and a Rhodes piano, and plus a grand piano and a pump organ. We also recorded most of “Dreamin’” to tape. We also probably played less. So the whole thing feels starker, more concentrated, and more country.
A lot of the record seems to be about accessing each other as humans, relating to each other as humans. If you agree, why do you think that came out as a prevalent theme?
I don’t know what else I could write about. It’s pretty much always relationships, romantic and platonic. What I noticed, only after recording everything, is the number of mind-reading references. “Clairvoyant” is a literal joke about it. “You Might Already Know” has the chorus about predicting a text message. “Dusky” has a lot of lines about perceptiveness and observation. I love the song “What Part of Me” by Low, and it’s made more intense knowing how long Mimi and Alan have been together and hearing that they still have questions. Maybe I’ve got the what-can-we-know-about-each-other stuff out of my system and now I can just write good stories.
A lot of the lyrical content is about fellow humans and stories. Do friends and family spot themselves in your songs? Is that problematic in any way?
Yes, it’s happened, and no, it hasn’t been a problem yet… for me at least! Most of the characters in my songs are conglomerations of people, real and fictional, so it usually isn’t on the nose enough for anybody to get that pissed. I’ve worried about it plenty. There were a lot of salty break-up songs on “Shock out of Season.” I remember emailing my ex when it came out, and saying “Hey just so you know, I didn’t feel that bitter, it just made for some better songs.” Honestly, I think she might have preferred if I really did feel more spiteful about her leaving. She didn’t do me wrong, but she still felt sorry, maybe it would have helped with some conscience-clearing. All very speculative. Haven’t spoken to her since.
Do you use your songwriting as a way of processing your thoughts/feelings?
I always kind of thought that trope of processing emotions through songwriting was a myth, for me at least. But then there are certainly times and songs where I do end up doing it. But it’s definitely not the only thing going on. For the most part, I’m just trying to write something worth listening to.
The percussion on ‘Dreamin’ stands out and has an experimental side to it – it sounds almost elemental on ‘Low But On’. Was that a conscious decision? Why did you want to include that?
Mike would be able to talk about it better. His first sketches and ideas for drums on the record involved a lot more effects in Ableton. Mike called it an “Octopus drum kit.” We ended up scaling it back. There’s a little bit of Ableton on the drums for “Several Stations” and “Millionfish,” but there’s a lot we cut too. “Elemental” is a good way to describe the “Low but On” percussion, it defines the texture; drums and guitar carry the rhythm. Mike’s an unbelievably talented, creative, and thoughtful drummer.
You and Mike worked as groundskeepers at a private estate in Swarthmore. Can you tell us about that experience? Is it how I imagine with a separate house for the groundskeepers? Sounds like something out of Lady Chatterley’s Lover!
Yeah, we lived in an apartment above the “carriage house,” so it was a separate building. It was a weird building, and technically my room was also the bathroom (a big, carpeted bathroom, though, with a separate door for the toilet). It was a good job. We could live there for free, and the huge property was good for our dogs. It was also very flexible and gave us a lot of freedom to write, record, and tour. I did some suspect masonry and tree jobs.
We’re a blog focused on new music. So we’re interested in what artists making music right now influenced the album? Or if they had no influence, just who you’ve been enjoying?
I wrote about it in an article for the Talkhouse a few weeks ago – but Kath Bloom is a huge songwriting influence for me, and I think her music also influenced the rest of the band for this record. A few others for me these days include Lomelda, Lambchop, Advance Base, and Nicholas Krgovich.
Is the Philadelphia scene supportive? If so, how does that manifest itself? Do you road trip new songs with friends and fellow musicians there?
The music scene in Philly is supportive and inspiring. Of course, things change very quickly. A lot of the house venues we used to play a couple years ago, and the bands we would play with, are gone. But there are still a lot of friends and great places, and new things. One constant element is that there are always a lot of musicians playing different kinds of stuff, hanging out and going to each other’s shows. It’s never felt competitive.
What are your hopes for the record?
Well, of course, I hope people listen to it, like it, and relate to it. I can’t ask for more than that.