Onstage, bassist Jon Samuels is the only Friendship member who stands up. He is usually swaying back and forth as the songs bear down, pulling together and apart. Friendship’s new record, Dreamin’ (out Nov 8 on Orindal Records) is an exorable wave of motion, endlessly rocking between intimacy and loneliness.
The contemplative alt-country songs on Dreamin’ were recorded to tape in July last year with the help of The Low Anthem’s Jeff Prystowsky. The band moved away from the inclusion of digitally programmed drums and Rhodes piano for Dreamin’, opting instead for a warmer, more organic aesthetic and a starker performance. Most of the songs on Dreamin’ took shape while Dan Wriggins (vocals and guitar) and Mike Cormier (drums) worked and lived as groundskeepers at a private estate in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, frequently driving into Philadelphia for shows and friends. The record is set both in the country and the city — community, peacefulness, and isolation can all be heard and felt throughout the superb new record.
Friendship have retained a loyal cult following since their first offering in 2015, You’re Going to Have to Trust Me, which was released on Burst and Bloom Records that year. The F/V Hope EP on Sleeper Records and another record on their current label Orindal Records followed in 2017 — the acclaimed Shock Out of Season.
(Photo Credit: Jeff Berkowitz)
When I was in fifth and sixth grade, my family lived on Little Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine. The school was very small. Once a week, we had a music class with a woman named Sally Bloom who came over on the ferry from Great Cranberry Island. I don’t remember her lessons so much as one particular cold day on which all 14 school kids climbed on her golf cart, hanging off the sides and clinging to the roof, and rode across the island.
I had forgotten Sally Bloom until sometime last year when I mentioned Little Cranberry Island to the folk-singer Kath Bloom on the phone and she recognized the name. Sally had married the oboist Robert Bloom, Kath’s father. I don’t know how much of a relationship Kath had with her step-mother; nevertheless, it was a little spooky finding out Kath knew my tiny home.
I first heard Kath Bloom’s music in college. Pete Gill, a friend since high school and Friendship’s pedal steel player, had posted the track “Come Here” on his Facebook wall. The night I heard it was also the night before my final presentation for a music class on the composer Folke Rabe. A friend gave me some Adderall (I can’t say who, he’s in med school now), and I stayed up all night researching the Swedish National Broadcasting Corporation in a euphoric trance, listening on repeat to the most beautiful music I had ever heard.
Kath’s melodies, voice, and words have been guides for me ever since. Her early music is a world of vulnerable love, living the pleasure and pain of intimacy. In her song “What If I Found Out,” she sings, “What if I tell my dreams and you don’t think that they’re so hot/What if I am naked and you are not/What if we were together and you found out/How I love you?” Three songs later, on a live take of “The Breeze/My Baby Cries,” she’s on the other side, lonely and confused: “You can never be sure of the people you know/ When they don’t want to show you their sadness/Last night I talked with my father/He says that we can never win/It’s so hard for me to tell where I end and my father begins.” Ugh. The life Kath sings about on these records is as personal as it is hugely incomprehensible.
I pretty much only know how to write first-person songs, addressing a nebulous “you,” and describing a relationship. Every time I write one I think, crap, another one of these. Maybe I will learn and branch out, maybe I won’t. Maybe listening to Kath made me this way. Loving Kath has definitely made me more OK with it. That I could live forever in Restless Faithful Desperate and Moonlight is a good sign.
In that way, Kath absolutely influenced the songs on Dreamin.’ If I ever write a good, simple love song, I’ll be thanking her. Until then, “You Might Already Know” is the closest I’ve got. I think some of the intervals are lifted from Kath’s vocal world.
I remember a night last year, sitting on Kath’s living room floor with Kath and Pete, practicing songs for an upcoming tour. The sun had gone down, and nobody had turned turned the lights on yet. Kath played “Look at Me.” She finished the song and said “Oh, come on, what are you, crying?”
— Dan Wriggins
Friendship’s Dreamin’ is out November 8 on Orindal Records.
(Photo Credit: Jeff Berkowitz)