Friend Within chats inspirations and ambitions for new LP ‘Hope’ [Q&A]
In mid-March, Liverpool’s Friend Within shared his new LP Hope. Released via Toolroom Records, Hope is stuffed with feel-good house anthems designed to help shake away the 2020 malaise. The album is produced with several live instrumentation elements which, when partnered with Friend Within’s undeniable drum machine grooves, give Hope a natural and immediately-enjoyable feel.
The record’s unique sound can be best exemplified by lead single “Know Each Other” featuring A-Trak, a summery track constructed with shimmering sounds and an underlying optimistic outlook. Another hallmark of Hope is the seamless transitions that give the record a live DJ set feel. All in all, Hope is a shining monument to house, summertime, and a deep hope that we can all move toward better days.
Dancing Astronaut caught up with Friend Within to chat about the inspirations behind his new record, working with A-Trak, and the impact the last year of lockdown has had on the dance music scene. Listen to Hope and read the full Q&A below.
Throughout Hope, you clearly draw influence from classic house sounds while putting your own fresh spin on the genre. How do you find the balance between using old school house elements without sounding overdone?
Friend Within: “In every track I make I try and do something that I’ve not done before. I never want to churn out tracks that all sound the same so even if I’m using a disco sample or a classic house piano I try and incorporate something new. I try and steer away from fads or copy techniques in the popular songs of the moment. If all you do is replicate the top 10 tunes on Beatport then, in my opinion, you’re not gonna last.”
After a year that had many people feeling down constantly, you named your album Hope. Do you have any tips for staying optimistic?
Friend Within: “Now that’s a big question! I’ve always been a calm person and very rarely fell down or flustered. I’m from Liverpool where finding the humour in things is a way of life. This is pretty much how I am. I just try and have a laugh in every situation. Being a DJ during a pandemic where all your work is wiped out instantly can be a huge burden, but thankfully I’ve been fine and have enjoyed being at home with the family. Surround yourself with good people and talk to them. That’s the best thing you can do.”
What do you hope people take away from your new record?
Friend Within: “I hope people get to know me more as an artist. The whole album is a perfect representation of all the styles of music I like to make in one complete package. I like the fact that now someone can go onto my Apple Music or Spotify profile, click on my album and just listen to one body of work. I think there is enough variety and interest on the album that people will listen all the way through and keep coming back. I also like the idea that people will get to know the running order and will be able to predict what tune is coming up next. I always liked that about albums. No putting it on shuffle please! Haha.”
What was it like working with A-Trak on “Know Each Other?”
Friend Within: “It was good. This track we did completely remotely from an idea that I had started. The previous track we did called ‘Blaze‘ we did do together in the studio. A-Trak had literally just stepped off the plane from America so I thought he would be knackered, but fair play to him he carried on and we pretty much got ‘Blaze’ finished in one go. I guess that’s why he’s as successful as he is as his work ethic is so good.”
How do you think dance music has changed over the last year of lockdown?
Friend Within: “I don’t think we’ll know the full extent of the change until another year down the line. Will clubs be able to survive? Will there be enough sound engineers? Will there be enough bouncers to be on the doors? In Britain there is a pathway for things to fully re-open in June, so we’ll have to wait and see how that pans out. I do believe there is going to be a massive appetite for clubbing from everybody. I’m hoping there will be more locally run nights and people will support small parties and resident DJs. In terms of the music itself there must be tons of music that has been held back for release. What will happen to it all?”
It looks like festivals are coming back soon! Where are you most excited to perform your new material when shows come back?
Friend Within: “Some time at the height of summer playing outdoors as the sun sets. That’s my favourite type of festival set. That transition from daytime to night time is quite magical. People change from trying to look good and being self-conscious in the sun to letting themselves go in the darkness. Gimme some of that.”
Featured image: Friend Within/Facebook