Kyle Fasel on Real Friends’ Growth Without Growing Up: “Everything That Has Happened To Us Is Wild.”

Interview by Nina Schirmer

After the announcement of one of the most massive pop-punk tours all year, it was no surprise that Real Friends would be playing to sold out venues all across the U.S. this fall. It was clear that many fans were incredibly excited, with some die-hards buying tickets for multiple dates of this tour. With a lineup of Seaway, Moose Blood, Knuckle Puck, Real Friends, and The Wonder Years, it is one show you don’t want to miss.

After re-adjusting from the crazy schedule of Warped Tour, going from playing in large outdoor venues on stages set up each morning, to playing more classic-styled concert venues for these shows, Real Friends are off to a smooth start. With new songs from their recently released album, The Home Inside My Head, the band has kicked things into full gear with a fresh and energetic set list full of older songs such as “I Think I’m Moving Forward” and fun newer favorites like “Mess.”

While on the way to the fourth date of this tour at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg Pennsylvania, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I normally stick to shows in Philadelphia, known for their incredibly wild crowds, and was excited to see what the change of scenery would be like. Thankfully, I was definitely not disappointed whatsoever. As soon as each band hit the stage, it was hard to not feed off of their energy, move around and get really into the music. Throughout the entire night, the whole crowd sung along to each band, and you could clearly see the passion on everyone’s faces. Seeing the songs that people emotionally connect with performed live is always an incredible sight, and this night was no exception. With the people lifting each other up to crowd surf, to the gripping lyrics and the happiness on everyone’s faces jumping up and down and moving throughout the pit, it was truly a passionate crowd.

Before the show started, I was able to talk with bassist Kyle Fasel about this tour, their new album, the meanings behind lyrics, and much more!

The Prelude Press: You guys have pretty much just kicked off this tour. We’re at the third date but fourth date for you guys because you had an off date show last night. How have the shows been so far?

Kyle Fasel: It’s been cool! We’re all getting used to being on the road again. We were on Warped Tour, but that’s a whole different thing of it’s own, so with this tour we’re playing clubs and stuff again and it takes some getting used to but it’s good. We had a very smooth start.

Is there anything you are really hoping to gain or experience from this tour?

There’s always the thing that some people don’t realize for a band like us is that we’re always trying to make new fans. We’ve been doing it for a while, and there’s a lot of people who know who we are and we’re fortunate to have that, but we’re always trying to gain new fans. That’s always the number one thing and it’s kind of interesting because there’s been kids that I’ve seen on Twitter that have said, “I saw Real Friends last night and I’ve never listened to them before!” It’s exciting to see that.

Yeah there’s always a new face in the crowd!

Yeah always! I love it.

You released a new album, The Home Inside My Head, not too long ago. What was the process like for picking from the new songs to play throughout this tour?

We did a lot of it off of what we thought everyone wants to hear and what would translate well live too, like songs that are energetic and more upbeat or something that you can kind of move around to. You don’t really want to play songs that people don’t really know that well. The last half of records are usually the half that people don’t know that well and we’re playing “Colder Quicker,” and that was the last song on the album, but it was a single so that kind of slips through the cracks. I think the other songs we’re playing are pretty much on the first half of the record. It’s been really nice playing these songs. I’m really enjoying it because for us, we’ve been playing the same songs over and over again and I love them, but playing new songs is really exciting.

For sure! It’s refreshing and I would think it would be your fans as well.

Yeah, we were talking about that the other night. It’s a love/hate thing. Some people are into it and some people might not have listened to the new record yet. They don’t always go over as well as the older songs, because those are the songs that people had more time to really invest in and relate to and grow with, so there’s never quite the same reactions for the newer songs but I think it all comes in time.

Was there anything specific that you really wanted to explore musically when you were writing the album?

I know we really wanted to try to create a record that was more timeless and something that wasn’t in a box. We wanted to try different things and experiment more with different guitar tones and vocal stuff. I know we ran some vocal parts through guitar pedals, which is really weird but certain effects were very natural and weren’t computerized. It’s a very natural sound yet it’s also a crisp sound as well. You know, it doesn’t sound shitty [laughs].

We were just excited to work with someone else too. We always recorded with a friend of ours, this guy named Seth who has a studio called ABG Recording Studio, and he did all of our stuff before this, and he’s done all of Knuckle Puck’s stuff as well. He started doing a lot more bands, but we just felt like we needed to try something else. We went in with Steve Evetts, who has recorded The Wonder Years’ records, he’s done some Saves the Day stuff which is really cool, and we also did a couple songs with Mike Green who has worked with All Time Low, and Pierce the Veil, and even 5 Seconds of Summer, which is funny. But we went in with him and did a couple of co-writes and just tried new things and that’s what’s cool about music is that there are just endless possibilities. So we did a lot of new stuff on the record and we’re all really stoked on it.

A lot of bands either try to keep the same sound or change it up a lot between albums. Would you say this album shows more of where the band wanted to move towards regarding sound?

Yeah I think so. We never really try to change our sound necessarily. It’s hard for me to judge because being someone who’s involved with writing, it’s hard to say what it sounds like. To me, it sounds like a progression of our last album, which is what we want. Then there’s kids that are like, “It sounds totally different!” Then there’s the other kids that are like, “Yeah it sounds good! It sounds like the older stuff!” I don’t know [laughs].  I mean it doesn’t really matter, it’s just take it for what it is. If people like the songs that’s cool, if not that’s cool too. We like them and we’re proud of the record.

If you’re proud of it that’s what matters.

Yeah and I mean we’ve had a great response on it too. Not to say that everyone hates it or something, but we’re really stoked on it and to go back to the whole playing live thing, it’s so refreshing to play these new songs. It kind of breathes new life into them for us too. I’ve listened to the record so many times and even before it got released I’d listen to it over and over and now being able to play it makes me more stoked on the songs then I was.

How do you think that this album helped to enhance the band and push you more in the direction you want it to go?

Dan [Lambton], our vocalist contributed some lyrics to the album, and normally I’m the main lyricist. He has contributed in the past, but we made an effort on this album to include him more in that and I think it shows. We also pushed ourselves musically as much as we could. I remember writing songs and listening through the demos with Dave [Knox], our guitar player, and saying, “Yeah it’s not good enough.” Then we would just start over. In the past we used to write a song and say, “okay it’s done!” and not go back. For this album, there was a lot more fine tuning and too much of that can be bad, but I think we had a good amount of it. We were able to do certain parts and things in songs that we’ve always wanted to do but never did so I think it was very fulfilling.

On “Mess,” you have the lyrics, “I’m still a lost boy.” When I first heard the song, I was surprised yet happy to hear that reoccurring theme of being a lost boy. What made you want to continue on with those lyrics and stray away from the “sleepy eyes and bony knees?” 

On the last full length album, we didn’t say anything about sleepy eyes and bony knees.

It was the EPs right?

Yeah on the EPs we did, and if anyone googles it they can see the meaning behind it, but it’s basically to signify a time frame in my life and that time frame had passed, so I didn’t use those lyrics anymore. The lost boy thing we’ve used before in other songs in the past and we used it in this song because it’s about youth. Lost boys is a reference to Peter Pan. It’s basically saying that I still feel like a kid because I’m almost 28 which is weird and I don’t feel like it. It’s saying that one, I still feel youthful but two, I don’t have it all figured out either. I feel like a lot of people can relate to that and I relate to it everyday because no one’s got it all figured out.

So you definitely keep an open mindset towards life – would you say you apply that to your music too?

Yeah definitely! I mean we try to let our music reflect who we are as much as we can.

Do you think in the future you might revisit those lyrics again or do you think you’ll keep it in the past?

It’s tough to say. Actually what’s funny is, there’s probably not a lot of people who know this and I might’ve said it in another interview, but there was this lyric that I wrote and I can’t remember how it was but it was going to be the last line of our last album. It was going to say something with sleepy eyes and bony knees, and it was going to be the very last thing. I can’t remember how it went and I wish I could, but the definition of the lyrics was that I’ve grown past it. We never used that idea. Maybe I’ll use it again, I don’t know. We thought it would be cool. To go back to when we said about having time to write and experiment more, it probably was the point when we were like, “we have to go record in two days.” We’ve always been rushed in the past so I’m sure that idea got thrown under the bus because of not having enough time. I think it’s a cool idea!

Yeah! Maybe throw it in the next project? I think fans would really like that!

It’s funny, because we haven’t used those lyrics in so long but it’s funny how much they resonate with people. I remember the last album we were releasing singles and then we released the whole album and throughout that time people were like, “No sleepy eyes and no bony knees? What the heck!” It’s funny because in the past we would get shit for it like, “You say it in every song!” You’re never going to satisfy everyone, but that’s not why we do this. We do it to satisfy ourselves.

That’s true. I mean, I’ve even seen people with tattoos of it which I think is really cool!

Yeah! It’s crazy. I mean I’ve always said for a while that I want to get the S, E, B, K, with the X tattooed and so many people have it and I even don’t have it and I should but I think I’m done getting tattoos.

“You’re never going to satisfy everyone, but that’s not why we do this. We do it to satisfy ourselves.”

I want to talk about the idea behind empty picture frames on the new album. You have a song on it with the title “Empty Picture Frames,” and mention them in the song, but it’s also reflected in the album artwork and even in the “Scared To Be Alone” music video. What’s the message of the empty picture frames?

The message behind the empty picture frames is to show that sometimes the memories aren’t always what you think, or sometimes you think back to the past and there are no memories of certain things. It’s there to signify that and also just to be relatable to people and for people to be able to look back and feel a certain way when they have an empty feeling about something.

As a whole, the album explores a lot of different emotional concepts and lyrically tells a lot of different stories that listeners can take away and apply to their own lives. Is there anything in particular that you want listeners to take away from the album?

I just really hope people can relate to it in any way. There are very specific lyrics in the album that have to do with very specific things to my life or to Dan’s life but I don’t want people to think of the person I wrote the song about or the situation it’s about I want the person to take it for their own meaning. So that’s really all we want fans to do. Enjoy the music and hopefully it’s uplifting in whatever way they need it to be and hopefully it’s relatable.

You guys have made a couple of documentaries in the past. Do you think you’ll be making another documentary in the future?

We’ve talked about doing other stuff, but that was such a big project and it’s tough to find the time to do that and before a friend of mine that did the two documentaries, he used to work for us but he doesn’t work for us anymore. He got a real job, but he’s actually my roommate – my friend Gary – and he made all these documentaries and everything and it was easy when you live with someone, and you’re doing that and they’re close. You can say, “Hey let’s go shoot this for an hour!” There’s a lot of logistic things that are different now because he has a real job now and is engaged.

Big boy things [laughs].

Yeah he’s he’s a big boy now [laughs]. But yeah that would make it kind of difficult, but I mean I definitely want to do something. The five of us had a conversation the other day about how we want to utilize video more in general because we have a lot of different personalities in the band, and it’s good to utilize the internet and video stuff to show that.

You guys also have a new music video for “Mess” coming out soon! It was probably a lot different filming that one compared to others because you were able to work with fans!

Yeah! We’ve always done music videos in the past that tend to be more emotionally heavy.

The video for “Summer” is kind of like that. 

Yeah and for “Summer,” we weren’t in that because we didn’t want it to focus on ourselves. We never want to come off as that kind of band. I think it’s healthy to have that kind of content that isn’t like “the band!” We did another video, as you mentioned, for “Scared To Be Alone” which kind of went through youth, flashbacks and emptiness and it was heavy. Same with the video for our song, “Sixteen.” My sister can’t watch that because she says it’s so sad. In the video the kid is sitting there and no one comes to his birthday party so it’s sad. For the new “Mess” video, we wanted it to be more lighthearted, fun, and Halloween based. We weren’t even thinking that it was going to be around Halloween time either. We were thinking that Halloween is fun and fits the suburban vibe that we always attach to ourselves. It was a lot of fun to be around everyone too.

Did you come up with the Halloween concept or was that the director?

We came up with the Halloween thing because we knew we wanted it have an 80’s movie vibe so we said, “Let’s do a music video with a Halloween sort of vibe.” Then he came up with the whole story of it and we were like, “This is awesome!”

In the song “Late Nights In My Car” and in your spoken word videos you mention listening to songs that have helped you while driving in your car. How does it feel as a musician for your fans to have that same experience but with your music? 

I mean, it’s pretty crazy and that’s something that I’ll never get used to. It’s kind of weird to think that during the day or right now, someone is listening to our music. I logged into our Spotify the other day and on the website it shows how many people are listening. It was really weird and it’s in real time and during the middle of the day it showed like two hundred and fifty or three hundred people listening, and wow that’s weird to think that at that second, two hundred and fifty people just from Spotify are listening. Then I was thinking, “Life’s weird.” I can speak for all five of us when I say that because it’s true!

We’ve never been a band where we think this is normal life. Everyday I’m like, “This is weird.” But it’s cool, it’s not a bad kind of weird. It’s just, we never thought it would be anything. Being able to listen to music on my own and relate to it, like you said, driving around and connecting with music and getting into that kind of headspace and connection with a song, to turn around and be that for someone is amazing. It’s really cool, so if anything ever happens to this band, we can all agree we’ve done everything we’ve ever wanted to do. Everything that has happened to us is wild. We don’t lose sight of that and we’re lucky.