real friends return new vocalist cody muraro
[Photo by: Danielle Parsons]

When Real Friends announced that they had mutually parted ways with former vocalist Dan Lambton in February 2020, the band wrote, “This is not the end of Real Friends. We have simply turned the page to the next chapter.” And the Chicago group have kept their promise.

Introducing their new vocalist Cody Muraro, formerly of Parting Ways and Youth Fountain, the band have found a rejuvenated path with the announcement of their signing to Pure Noise Records, two new singles and a video for “Nervous Wreck.” Reminiscent of their former values and lyrical sentiments, Real Friends’ new singles address isolation, anxiety and more, with Muraro at the mic.

Read more: Travie McCoy honors those he lost with “A Spoonful Of Cinnamon”—listen

Despite the group’s seeming inactivity over the last year-and-a-half, they have been hard at work cultivating a fresh dynamic and approach to their output. “As far as a lot of the writing for the newest stuff, it came from past experiences that I had,” Muraro says. “Usually when I’m writing lyrics, I pull from the really dark times in my life and experiences that I’ve had, so it’s not always the moment that I’m living.”

In their debut interview showcasing the group’s return, founding member Kyle Fasel and vocalist Muraro caught up with Alternative Press to exclusively discuss new music, signing to Pure Noise and more.

You can listen to “Storyteller” and watch the all-new video for “Nervous Wreck,” as well as read the full interview with Fasel and Muraro, below.

Before we get into all of the details of Cody joining the group, I want to first take you back to the beginning of 2020. At the time that Real Friends and Dan Lambton parted ways, less than a month later, the world was entirely shut down due to the coronavirus. Because of the pandemic, there were no expectations, album releases were massively delayed and tours were canceled altogether. How did the last year lend itself to the growth and development of the band—if you had to find the silver lining in it all?

FASEL: It definitely wasn’t a positive thing, obviously with everything that happened in the world, but we did keep coming back within the last year or year-and-a-half, going back to like, “Wow, this worked out for us with the world on pause.” Especially this music scene, because I feel like our music scene just thrives on live music more than maybe any other music scene. So it really did feel very paused and frozen. And during that entire time, we were writing and recording. There were even multiple people that we were talking to, and they would say, “Wow, this is working out for you guys.” We were able to really take our time because I think I would, speaking for myself at least, have felt a lot more pressure. If we were seeing all of our peers on tour and everything and everyone having an awesome time, that’s what my life is supposed to be. But I think the fact that our lives were totally turned upside down, along with everyone else’s, it was like, “All right, let’s take our time here. Let’s focus.” We did a bunch of our writing sessions with people, and we did a bunch of demos at home. We really just took our time. And it just ultimately felt nice to not have that pressure of the outside world. And I think now we have songs that we love, and we just were able to take our time, and we’re grateful for that.

MURARO: Yeah, I agree with Kyle. We definitely would bring it up all the time. It’s like, “Wow, this is really allowing us the time and space to figure out the music that we want to write and just how we want to operate as a band now moving forward and everything.” It gave us space to breathe and figure ourselves out and not have that pressure of the world continuing to move with everything.

The band haven’t been active until this point since February 2020, but internally for you all, you’ve been working together as a group. You’ve been finding your rhythm as a group. How did you all first connect?

MURARO: So they reached out online, and we connected on the internet, and they knew me from previous music endeavors that I was in. They liked my voice, and they reached out to me, and [we] just went from there.

Prior to joining Real Friends, what was your background in music?

MURARO: I’ve been playing music for a long time. I had a bunch of different bands, and I had a band that was before this called Youth Fountain, which was actually on Pure Noise as well. And so that’s how they found me. And then I had another band called Parting Ways, so I was in bands that were much smaller. They just came in with this offer of Real Friends, and I had to.

Kyle, I want to jump over to you now. You’ve always been extremely involved in the writing process and instrumentation of the group. How has it affected you or changed the dynamic of the group now that Cody is involved in the process?

FASEL: I’d say that we still have a pretty similar process. I think now it’s very much more collective, and it always was, but I think even now, like when Cody joined in, we were naturally moving in that direction anyway. It was like, we’re all writing lyrics now. Everyone in the band is throwing out suggestions and everything. To have Cody join, though, really felt very natural. The second time we met him was when we picked him up at the airport to go and record songs. So that was like the second time we actually met in person. We didn’t know what we’re getting into. You’re like, “All right, well, here we are picking you up,” and the next day we’re in a room being like, “All right, sing, write some lyrics.” It’s intimidating, I think. I felt like it just clicked with him.

MURARO: It was interesting walking into this room, knowing each other for not even a total of 24 hours and then, “OK, let’s write lyrics. What are some of your deepest, darkest moments right now?” I’d be like, “OK, here’s some lyrics about this really rough thing that I was going through. Nice to meet you guys. You think I’m crazy?”

FASEL: And also too, adding to that, it’s like being in a room with other guys that have been writing music for almost a decade together. I think it can probably be a little intimidating.

You also made the decision to release two new singles versus one—what inspired that decision?

FASEL: I think it was an idea that we toyed around with for a while. We were like, “We want to release multiple songs at once.” And then we were like, “Nah, we’ll just do one.” And then when we started working with Pure Noise Records, they actually mentioned doing the two-song thing, which was something we had mentioned months prior. This idea just surfaced again, like maybe that’s a sign [of] what we need to do. And the more we talked about it, we were like, “You know what? Having a new vocalist and the position that we’re in, I think that it’s great to have two songs out because it gives people a little bit more to work with and to feel out Cody’s voice more and hear more stuff.” And just considering how long we’ve been absent now in the music scene, I feel like we owe it to the fans. I told you earlier before [that] these two songs are super special to me because when we were writing them, I literally said, “These two songs are Real Friends. These two songs are exactly what I want the world to hear when they first hear this new version of Real Friends.” And we wrote a lot of songs after that even, but those two songs I just had this feeling about.

What was the visual inspiration behind “Nervous Wreck”?

FASEL: For the video, we got a lot of treatment from directors. I never really like to give too many ideas with it because I always try to believe in the director. I also really like what people interpret from the song outside of our opinions, too. So it’s always interesting to get that other perspective, especially for music videos. So with that, we got this awesome music video treatment from Raul Gonzo, who [does] music videos for PVRIS, and he did one for I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, and they were just super unique and just weird. And we were like, “That’s cool.” He sent over this treatment, and it just was so different. And the thing that stuck out the most was it was all one shot. So we had to practice that a bunch of times.

MURARO: In the lyrics, it goes, “A ghost in my reflection/I want to see me again.” And so that’s where we got the ghost sheet from. It’s very much a song about anxiety and the uncertainty that anxiety brings. And I feel like that state is very much like being in a dream state. You feel like sometimes you don’t even exist when you feel like that because everything feels like there’s no importance at times. And so that very much feels like a dream. And I think that’s what we got through visually. We wanted it to feel like a dream, like you’re drifting through this video and things are just happening. And I think that matches with the lyrical content where it’s very much that feeling of floating through anxiety, basically.

You’ve always had a very clear vision of what you were writing about. What has inspired your writing recently?

FASEL: The pandemic inspired a lot of darker thoughts and also the uncertainty of everything. For a while there, it’s like we were like, “We don’t even know when we’re going to feel ready to come back. We don’t even know if the world is going to be in a state where we’re going to be. Is it time for us to come back? Is everyone going to be ready for that? Or is everyone just so tied up with everything else?” So I’d say that all those things brought on a lot of uncertainty and definitely brought on a lot of isolation, too. “Nervous Wreck” really touches on that. I’d say that it just inspired just that isolation, anxiety, all that stuff. But in return, as always, as I’ve said about lyrics, it’s all these darker, heavier struggles, and everything turns into a positive because we made it into a song. And if one person can listen to the song and say, “I feel that I relate to that. This helped me,” then we did a good job, and it was all worth it.

What can you tell us about what’s next for Real Friends and what’s coming down the pipeline for the band?

FASEL: We’re going on tour with State Champs, Four Year Strong, Just Friends and Bearings, the Pure Noise Records tour, which is cool because we just joined Pure Noise. So it’s cool to join the label and then the tour is branded as Pure Noise. I could not think of a better way of kicking off this new chapter of the band.

Since you are going on a tour and will have two new songs at this time, how are you approaching old music?

FASEL: We were just talking about a setlist the other day, actually. We definitely are going to be playing some newer songs like these two for sure, [but] we’re going to be playing old songs too. I think an exciting aspect of our lives is hearing Cody sing the old songs. So I think that’s going to be a fun thing for the fans as well.

Pure Noise Records Tour

Featuring State Champs, Real Friends, Four Year Strong, Just Friends and Bearings

09/14 – Nashville, TN @ Brooklyn Bowl

09/19 – Detroit, MI @ The Fillmore Detroit

09/22 – Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore Charlotte

09/24 – Ft Lauderdale, FL @ Revolution

09/25 – Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House of Blues

09/28 – San Antonio, TX @ The Aztec Theater

09/29 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues

10/02 – Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory

10/05 – San Diego, CA @ SOMA

10/06 – Los Angeles, CA @ Belasco

10/08 – Berkeley, CA @ The UC Theatre

10/09 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot

10/10 – Denver, CO – Summit

10/12 – Indianapolis, IN – Egyptian Room @ Old National Centre

10/13 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues

10/15 – Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore Silver Spring

10/16 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore Philadelphia

10/17 – Boston, MA @ Big Night Live

10/20 – Brooklyn, NY @ Warsaw

10/21 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza*

10/22 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza*

* Currently On Sale