Kyle Fasel never expected to make a living playing music. But at age 29 he’s talking about Real Friends performing on the final Warped Tour and their third full-length record, Composure.
When Real Friends started recording their newest album last winter, they came into the studio intent on making a stronger record than their sophomore release, The Home Inside My Head. The songs on it “blended together and didn’t stick out,” Fasel said. Coupled with taking time off the road last year due to vocalist Dan Lambton’s mental health, Fasel recalled the challenges of running and growing band. At one point, he asked himself “Are we going to revive this band?”
In spite of both personal and professional uncertainty, Real Friends came out of this past year with catchier songs and a deeper message. “We learned a lesson from this,” Fasel said, “we wanted to make our songs more memorable.” On Composure, the band sought to “write stronger melodies without sacrificing the emotion.” While part of this came from the shortcomings of their previous release and taking time off of touring, part of this was informed by current technology.
“We can listen to nearly any song ever recorded through our smartphones,” Fasel pointed out. To compete with ever-shrinking attention spans, the band needed to push themselves further. “We put the strongest emotions in the choruses and we made every song have something to offer.” Taking time off the road allowed them to hone their message and to take care of their mental health. “It’s about getting to a point: if you have an issue, you have to seek help. We saw first-hand that in this band, and we saw the importance of communication.”
Real Friends has been advocating for mental health before the new album, too. Earlier this year vocalist Lambton has publicly mentioned his diagnosed bipolar disorder and prioritizing his mental health. “Mental health is often looked down on and we want those who need help to get it,” Fasel added. These experiences shaped their new message. “A lot of the album is about things not turning out as you expected it to be,” Fasel said. “These songs touch on anxiety and uncertainty. We’ve all been through this, at one point or another.”
Songs like “From the Outside” and “Smiling on the Surface” speak to feeling anxious in spite of how one appears on the surface. But their new songs also serve as a point along the path to recovery and self-love. Although Dan Lambton sings about his struggles in finding balance and happiness throughout the album — “On the inside I’m still sick / The pill’s a temporary fix,” he sings on “From the Outside” — he also sings about recovery and “reclaiming my composure” on the title track.
“The path to self-compassion probably never ends,” Fasel said, “and as far as the themes go, these songs may differ from the past material but also go in line with what we’ve gone through,” Fasel said. After all, Fasel and his friends started the band when they were 21.
After piecing together the new record and taking time off the road, the band made a catchier record and succeeds in being a stronger band than before. But on top of their fun songs lies a deeper message by learning first-hand to make mental health and self-compassion a priority.