Real Friends, the Illinois pop-punk quintet consisting of vocalist Dan Lambton, drummer Brian Blake, guitarist Eric Haines, bassist Kyle Fasel and guitarist Dave Knox, have a real knack for making listeners feel nostalgic for the good ole’ days. Armed with emotion-filled lyrics, Lambton’s refreshing voice and a humble camaraderie within the band, Real Friends have found themselves representing a music scene that they were once fans of themselves—and still are. Fresh off of releasing their newest album, The Home Inside My Head, they are spending their summer on Warped Tour and continuing to enjoy the view from the other side of the barricade.
We recently caught up with singer Dan Lambton to discuss The Home Inside My Head, Warped Tour and more. Excerpts from our conversation are below:
Congratulations on your second full-length album, The Home Inside My Head. What was the experience like recording it?
For every other record, we recorded with one of our friends, who was out of northwest Indiana, so basically like an hour away from us. We had a comfort zone of being able to just go home and chill and really do whatever we wanted when we weren’t recording.
This time around, we went with an actual producer, Steve Evetts, and we were in California. Everything we were doing there was pretty much for the album. We didn’t have the comfort and relaxation of knowing we could go home and turn off whenever we weren’t working on the album, so I think we were more focused. Having Steve there helped a lot too because we never did pre-production or necessarily delved into certain aspects of the songs as much as he did. We would go back, change things and go over whatever we could, but there was a certain point where our ideas could only go so far. To have an outside opinion was definitely awesome this time around.
How does this record compare to Maybe This Place Is The Same and We’re Just Changing?
With Maybe This Place Is The Same and We’re Just Changing we explored the idea of ‘where you fit in/where you are’ and coming to terms with that. I feel like a lot of people, especially younger people, get a distaste of where they come from because they feel like there’s nothing new. You can’t bring this place that you spent so much time in back to life. You have to experience new things. Things change, but if you’re there to experience every little baby step, you can’t see the whole jump.
With The Home Inside My Head, we look at how we fit in and who we are—kind of this idea of expectation versus reality. When we are younger, we have this picture perfect idea of how it’s all going to pan out. When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a stand-up comic, then a cartoonist, and the list goes on. Obviously I’m none of those things right now so people change and people are perceptive of that. They are able to adjust accordingly but some people can’t. Even if you have the perfect dream job, there are still going to be tiny things you don’t necessarily see that can affect you. We can’t get to where we want to be without there being some obstacle.
Another thing we talk about on this record is how people you looked up to when you were growing up have flaws. We’re getting to the ages of our parents when they had us, so it’s like, where I am in my life versus where they were when they were my age. You think to yourself, ‘maybe they did go through more than we thought’ and realize they’re flawed. They’re not perfect so sometimes they’ll fuck up, give shitty advice and just like we do, let other people down. They are people too.
You’re from Illinois, which seems to have a pretty active scene. Fall Out Boy also hails from there. How would you describe the vibe out there to someone who has never been?
Chicago as a city is the best combination of Los Angeles and New York because it’s a bigger city but it’s not super crowded, and not as dirty. As far as the local scene goes, around the time “Sugar, I’m Going Down” was all over the place, that’s when our music scene from the South Side started booming. We’d have local shows with 200-300 people there. We had this awesome venue called Mojos in Tinley Park. We also had all of these bands and venues that gave a shit and all of these kids that were more willing to take chances on going to local shows. You didn’t have the ease of access with Spotify and YouTube, where you can find and check out a band from the comfort of your own home.
We still have no actual dedicated venue in the South Side, as far as I know. Our bass player Kyle booked shows at this bowling alley called Centennial Lanes a couple of years ago and since then it’s had more shows. They kind of turned a party room into a venue but that’s not really ideal because part of the year you can’t use the room because of the leagues. Still, there are a lot of bands and kids really giving a shit. I still see a lot of house shows going on—there are more house shows going on than when I was in high school.
The album cover for The Home Inside My Head has empty picture frames and there is also a song titled “Empty Pictures Frames”. What is the significance?
This album deals a lot with introverted tendencies: keeping things to yourself and not having the confidence to share your problems. Not doing anything with anyone, feeling like your problems are insignificant and that other people shouldn’t have to deal with them. When you have something that you’ve accomplished and you’re so proud, but you don’t want to talk to other people about it because you don’t know how to convey the emotions.
The empty picture frames represent how home is supposed to be this place where you settle down and collect yourself and reflect on all of the good things or bad things that happen in your life. When you have something nice happen in your life, you take a picture and frame it up. The empty picture frames convey the absence of being able to share that and have intimate moments with people and be vulnerable.
In “Well, I’m Sorry”, there is the lyric ‘show me how to be something other than nostalgic’—it’s such a simple sentence but it really speaks volumes. What parts of your past make you want to go back?
For me, a lot of nostalgia comes from the house we lived in with my family. It was the house my grandma lived in while I was growing up and she passed away right before we were working on the album, so she made it in there with the subject matter. The room I have in the house was the room she had when I would spend the weekends with her, watching Saturday Night Live. We’ve been at that house for 15 years and we made some changes, like when we got rid of the obnoxious pink carpeting. We made tiny changes here and there and now the house doesn’t look anything like it did when my grandmother lived there when we first moved in. It still holds that significance in my life: all the memories that I had with her being in that house.
What song are you the most proud of on The Home Inside My Head?
“Scared To Be Alone”. It shows a lot of growth for the band and it shows a different kind of musical style. We were able to go out of our element and I hope in the future we are able to explore a little more of a different sound sonically, vocally, and musically. It’s actually my favorite song that we’ve done.
With this record I tried to be more varying with my voice by using different dynamics: hitting a little harder or a little softer to complement the emotions that we were trying to convey in the song. I feel like that was one of the songs I was able to do that in.
What is it like going on the road for Warped Tour?
It’s awesome. The first time I ever saw Warped Tour was 10 years ago in 2006 and the first band I ever saw there was Senses Fail. Now we’re on the main stage, which is absolutely fucking wild. Our first year playing Warped Tour, we also got to open up for Senses Fail on their full US tour so that was pretty fucking crazy too.
Last year Kevin Lyman and Warped Tour took a lot of heat due to some unsavory behavior by some musicians.
I don’t like the rap that that stuff gets because unfortunately, one rotten apple spoils the bunch. I do understand what Kevin was trying to do with the Front Porch Step situation—he was trying to help rehabilitate him because in reality, he does need help. It was too soon to put him in front of kids. Just the way he acted there was a big slap in the face to Kevin. Kevin caught all of this shit to have this kid on the day of the show and he starts trash-talking people for heckling him, saying he got paid more than everyone else did to be there. He didn’t get paid at all, he was just talking his ass off trying to put himself on a pedestal. Like I said, it’s a fucking slap in the face to everyone on that tour that stands for something and wants to help everybody feel safe. I don’t think it’s right that there are women, minorities, and LGBT people who don’t feel safe.
Kevin reached out to me about helping out with a sexual abuse non-profit called Voice Of The Innocent. You need to promote a dialog between people. We need to convey in a non-confrontational way that these things are not right. If we talk to each other and figure out why people are hurting other people, we’ll be able to start taking steps.
The 2016 lineup seems like a pretty good fit so hopefully it’ll be a better year.
Yeah. Based on the people we know and the friends we have on the tour, everybody we know are great people. Hopefully we’ll be able to do stuff this year that will be able to shed a more positive light.
If you could share the stage with one band, who would it be and why?
Shit, probably Motion City Soundtrack now that they’re breaking up. The first year we did Warped Tour, Jesse from Motion City Soundtrack was super cool to us. We’d be standing on the side of the stage waiting for their set to start and he’d be like, “Yo! Come up, have a beer, chill, be a part of this with us!” That was super reassuring to us because that’s when we were new to full-time touring.
Anyone else that would be on my bucket list, we’ve already had the chance to play with, like The Starting Line, Set Your Goals, and Senses Fail.
You guys are really living the dream.
Yeah. I mean, everything that we’ve gotten to do in the band since the first time we played Warped Tour was icing on the cake because we’ve already accomplished everything that we ever wanted to be a part of. We didn’t even have any goals when we started the band, we just had an idea of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to get things out to people, but we didn’t have a plan. We were like, “If we ever get a chance to tour, do you think you could take a week or two off of work?” Now six years later, here we are—it’s fucking crazy.
Check out Real Friends on Warped Tour July 8 in Camden at BB&T Pavilion, on July 9 in Wantagh at Nikon At Jones Beach Theater, and on July 17 in Holmdel at PNC Bank Arts Center. Their new album, The Home Inside My Head, is available now through Fearless Records. For more information, go to realfriendsband.com.