You could say Real Friends’ second full-length album, The Home Inside My Head [Fearless Records], is a coming-of-age story.
It’s about the common realization that things won’t be the same as they were during childhood, and that’s okay. It’s a timeless tale we’ve seen everywhere from Catcher in the Rye to Dazed and Confused, but it’s something everybody goes through. So the Tinley Park, IL quintet—Brian Blake [drums], Kyle Fasel [bass guitar], Dave Knox [guitar], Dan Lambton [vocals], and Eric Haines [guitar]—chose to put this journey on tape.
As always, their honesty drove the music.
“When you’re younger, you have a picture perfect vision in your head about the future,” says Kyle. “As I grow older, I find that not to be true. I dug so much deeper lyrically this time around. I found inspiration through my family. My parents turned out to a little different than I had imagined when I was a kid. There are several mentions of that. It’s really about the battles in my head every day and worrying about how others feel around me a little too much. Regardless of any sad and negative events in my life that fueled lyrics, they all turn to positives when they give me something to write about. It’s an outlet for me.”
Colored by brushstrokes of punk, pop, and emo, this outlet is a big reason why the group became one of 2014’s biggest breakout acts following the release of their debut, Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing. It bowed at #24 on the Billboard Top 200, moving over 10,300 copies first-week and garnered a nomination for “Album of the Year” at the inaugural “Alternative Press Music Awards,” while “I Don’t Love You Anymore” vied for Best Song and Kyle received a nod for “Best Bassist.” Rock Sound pegged it at #10 on their “Top 50 Albums of the Year,” and Alternative Press named “Loose Ends” one of “The 18 Best sing along moments of 2014.” Moreover, it attracted praise from Fuse TV, Ultimate Guitar, and more as the band embarked on the Vans Warped Tour and numerous headline runs. Along the way, they collectively focused on what would become their next offering.
“For nearly two years, we would demo songs, take a break, and go back on the road,” says Kyle. “We never did that before, and it was nice because we had a bank of ideas to draw from. There was also no pressure, since we were just writing together when it felt right. This was a very cool, laidback writing process.”
In late 2015, the boys treaded new territory once more by recording in California for the first time. Tapping the talents of two producers, they cut three songs with Mike Green [Pierce The Veil, All Time Low] and nine with Steve Evetts [The Wonder Years, Dillinger Escape Plan] in Huntington Beach. As they expanded the sonic palette, the lyrical vision also grew. Another first, Dan would split writing duties with Kyle, penning lyrics to four songs.
“I had a surge where I had been writing lyrics,” recalls Dan. “I was feeling creative. I thought it would help vary the perspectives in the music to have two people looking at certain situations.”
“It was really great to have Dan’s help with lyrics,” adds Kyle. “I was impressed with a lot of his work. I think it blends well with my lyrics. I felt less pressure this time around.”
The first single “Colder Quicker” highlights Dan’s perspective. Driven by a kinetic riff, rhythmic shuffle, and spirited hook, it sees the frontman ponder death.
“There was a point in my life where I went to three wakes and a funeral over a short period of time,” he sighs. “My grandmother was one of the people who passed away. She actually bought my first guitar for me. For so long, I thought she’d be around forever. It’s the idea everybody is human. Nobody’s invincible. We all deal with that.”
The airy guitar and stark vocal pairing of “Mokena” proves hauntingly gorgeous as Dan gutturally croons, “I’m fucking up and getting over it.”
“It’s a different kind of ballad,” explains Kyle. “It blends a lot of past vibes into one song. The beginning is a timeline of my life. I mention one of my earliest memories lying on my front lawn hanging out. There are mentions of singing songs and hitting all the wrong notes when I sang in my high school band. Then, there’s my graduation. It’s growing up. I’m admitting I’m over this stuff from the past. The song defines the place we’re at.”
“Stay In One Place” stands at the crossroads of a propulsive beat and six-string gallop, while “Empty Picture Frames,” with its vibrant recollections and distorted hum, spawns the title phrase, Home Inside My Head.
Most importantly, it becomes what Kyle dubs as “therapy.” It’s a safe haven to deal with stress, anxiety, thinking too much, and worrying about everything around you. It’s a chance to be free from that. It’s something everybody can identify with.
“No matter what the subject is, there’s always emotion in our songs,” Dan leaves off. “I just hope people can connect to it.”
“For our fans, the main message is to relate to the music and get something out of it,” agrees Kyle. “When we started the band, that was the coolest thing—seeing how people react. Anytime we get a letter from a fan, a drawing, or anything like that, it’s the best feeling in the world. That means it’s connecting.”