Real Friends ‘don’t care about trying to sound clever anymore’

Real Friends have always felt like their own driving force in the ever-expanding pop-punk world. Their profound and vivid lyrics place them a cut above those in the scene who rely on hardcore edges or screeching vocals. These poetic lyrics are mostly penned by bassist Kyle Fasel, who spoke exclusively to from the backseat of his car via Zoom video call. Throughout the chat, he always seemed deep in thought. “We’ve missed getting new EPs from Real Friends,” I tell him; his face didn’t give anything away. It wasn’t until Kyle started opening up about the inspiration behind the band’s new EP that everything became clear.

Real Friends’ new EP, There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late, hits streaming services and vinyl this Friday, and the nine-track record is a return to form for the Illinois-originated crew. Back are Kyle’s heartbreaking lyrics intertwined with the trademark Midwest Emo guitar trills. With echoes of the band’s second album (The Home Inside My Head), it kind of feels like a comeback for Real Friends; of course, there is a big difference. This is the first new EP with their new singer, Cody Muraro. He replaces the previous vocalist, Dan Lambton, who quit the band back in 2020.

Kyle didn’t want to talk about Dan at all during the interview, but the split was reportedly amicable.

Still, this change is a good thing. Cody’s more refined vocals enhance Kyle’s symbolic and evocative writing, and his heart is still beating through every word of the record. Even the EP’s title has a real meaning to him.

“I’ve lost some close people in my life over the last three to four years,” Kyle explained. “And I think there’s things you think of… [like] I wish I had said this, or appreciated this time more. I think that’s a very real thing.”

Looking away from his phone’s camera, he continued: “It’s also something that has bothered me the older I get. As people pass away or get sick, everyone sort of like appreciates them then – which is a positive – but at the same time, I’m like, try to give people their flowers while they’re here!”

Sadly, Kyle’s visceral, surface-level emotions (and, as a result, this EP) have been fuelled by a loss in his life. He shared that his father recently died. Because of this, he started to see people in a new way.

“I feel like it’s hard to explain to people who haven’t dealt with a big loss in their life,” Kyle confessed. “Kind of like when people [say]: ‘Oh, I heard you lost your parent,’ and then they text you. Then they want to get together.”

This abstract onslaught of emotions brought the band’s latest single, Six Feet, to life. Kyle later backtracked to tell me the song was based on a poem he wrote “about attending your own funeral”.

It’s easy to get that visceral vision stuck in your brain once you listen to Six Feet’s lyrics. They croon: “It takes my lowest low for me to cross your mind,” before the chorus demands: “I don’t wanna have to be six feet underground to feel loved / I don’t wanna have to be a memory to feel like I’m someone you thought of.”

“That’s what [Six Feet] is about,” Kyle continued. “People not reaching out to be like, hey, let’s just hang out.”

It’s very clear Kyle is the kind of person who is acutely aware of his emotions and how they affect him. He also probably thinks about songwriting more often than most. And while these aspects have always seemed like key parts of Real Friends’ songwriting, the writer said There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late is a new level-up for the band.

“I was trying to expand the emotional depth of [the lyrics],” he explained before looking off into to distance again. “I feel like, for a while, we were focused on trying to sound clever. I don’t really care anymore about that.”

Instead, Kyle wants the band’s lyrics to hit the ears of the people that need them. “I care more about someone hearing the lyrics and being like ‘damn, I feel that.’ If I can write music that people can appreciate and feel less alone then that matters … that’s what writing songs is all about: getting that emotion out.”

Kyle added that this method of writing songs – with his heart on his sleeve – is exactly how Real Friends plans on staying relevant. “There are a lot of bands that feel very… ‘of this time,'” he politicised. “Sometimes I’m like: ‘This is not going to age well.’ It’s like you put [a song] on and [you know] this is from 2007. That’s going to happen now with some bands.”

“That’s something I’ve always been really proud of, and something we keep in mind now more than ever – being timeless,” Kyle said. “I want to write music that sounds like it could have been out in the heyday of pop punk. 2005, Taking Back Sunday, Paramore, Yellowcard…”

In a way, Kyle already feels like Real Friends have achieved that goal. Considering the band started well over a decade ago in 2010, they are still utilising tracks they wrote as teenagers. “We play songs from over ten years ago,” he pointed out. “And nobody feels weird about it. I’m proud of that, I’m not ashamed of that.”

With a rare toothy grin, he added: “I feel good about that. It makes me happy.”

Real Friends – There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late is out tomorrow.

Real Friends are playing Slam Dunk in the UK this year.

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