Sam Monendo

Friday Pilots Club – Back With a Bang

A rock band open about being silly, not always knowing what’s happening, and working hard to perfect their songs on stage? They exist. And if you’re saying, “Who is it? Tell me more,” then this is the group and album for you: I LOVE YOU, ROBOT SUPERSTAR!, the new EP from Friday Pilots Club.

A jagged indie twosome turned rockin’ alt five-piece, Friday Pilots Club, and the new era they’re embarking on, is the band you’ve been waiting for. They’re not a manufactured group of wannabes trying to do something cool, edgy, and different. They are instead a cluster of musicians, all with individual styles and sounds, coming together to create – point blank. If people love their music (which they do), then they’re doing something right (and they are). Memorable rock and roll with contagious, pop sensibilities and rough around the garage-band-edges… well, we should really just let the art and the artists speak for themselves.

The Aquarian had genuine fun upon hopping on a Zoom call with 4/5 of the rising stars. One was in a studio, another on a train, one coming back from a meeting, and another about to catch a flight for another tour. When we say Friday Pilots Club is diverse in the music they make, we also want to highlight that they’re also diverse in their own lives and musicianship. Personalities shine, stories are told, and talent stands out from each and every member: Caleb, Drew, Eric, James, and Sean (the latter missed our conversation, but his presence was not lost).

The name of the EP: where to come from, what does it mean? I love it so much.

Drew: It was weird. For a while we were maybe unsure of what to call it because I think the first EP was so obvious: Friday Pilot’s Club, self-titled. It was a statement of who we are as a band. “This is our first EP,” sort of thing, while the second EP was kind of a more interesting thing. We were driving somewhere and I just saw this big spray paint in the middle of like Nebraska or something that read, “I love you, robot superstar” or something like that. I don’t know why those words popped into my brain, but we were listening to the record a lot at the time as we were demoing it and we were on these drives, so I remember thinking about it. It’s also a weird moment in time to be an artist where you have to be feeling publicly – you have to be so willing to share your deepest traumas and emotions on the internet to complete strangers. In order to do that you almost have to be unfeeling, cold, and callous to have that thick skin and be okay with sharing those things with people. It’s this weird catch 22 where I was like, “I feel like we are kind of all shooting for becoming the ‘robot superstar’ of our life – feeling like I’m on the top of the world and I can do anything.” 

I love that because this ‘robot superstar’ can be whoever or be whatever to you and your world. You can be your own robot superstar. You can strive towards being somebody else’s robot superstar. It’s very supportive and very lighthearted, and I do think that the songs themselves kind of feed into this open-minded, fun, personal narrative. The title is silly in the best way as it draws your eyes to something and makes you think a little bit.

Drew: I’m so happy you say it’s silly too ‘cause I think that was also a part of it. We take the creation of the music very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves really seriously. The songs do have a fun, tongue-in-cheek, and sarcastic element to them that I feel like needed to be reflected in the title, too.

It’s similar to the versatility of the bandmates and the lyricism and instrumentation that you all bring. It’s such an exciting blend.

Drew: Thank you. I think that’s makes us all really happy to hear because I feel like we have a really diverse background of influences. Everybody kind of comes from a completely different musical world so we definitely were striving for the record to feel that diversity, and sound very soundtrack-y in a storytelling kind of a way.

Caleb: I think we were striving to make a record of singles that tell a cohesive story.

Of course – you want it to feel good and you want to feel whole, but you want to be able to kind of just pluck one out and be like, “This is what I feel at this moment. This is what I want to listen to at this moment” and have it make sense. I also think we are in an age where as much as full albums are amazing pieces of art, we are in an age, an era, of singles. Especially with streaming services, something that you guys definitely know a lot about, singles sort of rule the world. 

Caleb: Thank you – we totally agree.

One of the songs that I love is “Bury Me.” The outro on that track is really cool, really special. I’m just wondering how that came to be and why it’s there because it could be a concluding track in the way it kind of fades within the outro, but I also admire that it doesn’t close the album – it teases an ending and allows for more to come. The album actually closes with a bigger bang, but, for “Bury Me,” what was the feeling of that outro and why is it there?

Eric: We’re not sure yet. [Laughs]

Drew: It’s kind of a funny thing – how it happened. We did the song originally with these two really cool producers and writers, Carlos de Garza and Ryan Patrick Doley. We ended up taking the song to this other producer named NJ, who did the entire record with us. When we gave him the stems to the song, we were like, “Just go crazy with it. Do what you think is cool.” NJ sent it back with this weird crazy like bombastic chorus thing. We’re listening through and we like to get to the end and there’s just this thing tacked on. And I was like, “What the? What is this thing?” [Laughs] I don’t know, we just thought it seemed just kind of nonsensical at first… but then I think I took it and I guess internalized it. As a song about being signed to a deal that you don’t wanna be signed to and basically feeling like you’ve taken everything from me – you’ve done everything to destroy me and the last thing you have to do is just bury me – the outro is the elevator music you hear leaving your record label. You’re in the elevator from the most horrible meeting you’ve ever had and it’s just the elevator music kind of playing you out. I love that you brought that up, too. We pushed around the idea of featuring somebody over that bit and doing something with it… or then we went to this idea of having it be a robot podcast and we were like, “No, it just kind of works better on its own as this weird interlude thing.”

I enjoyed it. I hear the song “Bury Me” and I think of this idea of being trapped, kind of trampled over and stuck in one place. Then I heard the outro as more of a feeling of moving forward – sort of like taking an elevator to the next place, next meeting, next step. You’ve been trapped but there’s something coming next so here’s this kind of inkling of hope to set the stage for what is next.

Caleb: Thank you. Yeah, I love that. I love that that was the first song you kind of brought a question about on this record because for me, I really do love that song so, so much. That first line is just sort of a letter to our listeners, talking about this thing that’s been happening with us and the career and that will explain a lot of the nonsense that you may have seen in the past year-and-a-half to two years. 

It’s a great song. It almost could be an opening number with the way it starts, but I like that “Hot Mess” is what kicks off the record; each song, like we discussed, can stand on its own. “Better With” can, too, and might be one of my favorite songs from the year as a whole, but I don’t know yet! Ask me in a month. [Laughs

Drew: Well, thank you. Just going back to the tracklist thing, it’s so funny because I think, at least starting the EP with “Hot Mess” was an interesting thing because we actually wrote “Hot Mess” basically while in this, like… career turmoil I will call it as we were not knowing what was happening with the band in the middle of COVID. We didn’t know we would tour and we didn’t know if the first EP was even gonna come out, but “Hot Mess” was kind of like the North Star for this band while we don’t know what’s happening. “We don’t know where we’re going but like let’s chase ‘Hot Mess.’ Let’s follow that wherever it takes us.” I feel like it was the perfect start to this record and to this era. Friday Pilots Club is back and we are back with a bang kind of thing – and that’s “Hot Mess.”

Well, you are touring now, and “Hot Mess” is going to be out just in time for those couple of shows coming soon in December. I know there are no shows in the New York area just yet, but it’s ok… for now. [Laughs] With these shows coming up and with this EP being out when the shows arrive, is there a certain song off the record that you are all excited about taking to the stage? I think they all could be really great moments, like with “Better With” and “Never Say No,” those would probably be the standouts on stage.

James: I feel like you just mentioned the two songs that I would’ve brought up [Laughs]. “Never Say No” and “Better With” we’ve actually played before, but, to be completely honest, especially with “Better With,” they were so hard for us to nail live. […] It just goes so crazy, though, and it’s so difficult to play, but when it’s right, it’s so right.

Drew: Yeah. I feel the same. Yeah, that song is a tough one to play, but when we did that live recording sort of thing for that one it got me super excited to play. Also, I don’t want to be someone that just because it goes as hard as another one, we change it up on the road from what we used to do. […] Even piggybacking on what Eric was saying was, “I Don’t Wanna Be Someone” is a song that has existed since 2018. The reason we actually changed it was so that it would work better live. And I think, to echo Eric’s sentiment, I’m so excited for that one because I feel like we engineered it to just be the most unrelenting song. I feel like it’s going to be an absolute barn burner live.

Caleb: James said it earlier, but we played “Better With,” “Hot Mess,” and “Never Say No” on our last tour over a year ago. I’m really excited to play those three in particular because they reacted really well, even though people had never heard it. I’m really excited to see those songs kind of become the new bits in the set where it’s like I basically don’t have a job for some three minutes and 30 seconds because people are singing it.

Eric: Yeah, and Drew actually just put up a poll on our socials about this since we’re still trying to build our setlist for the next shows. He put up a poll and was like, “What songs do you wanna hear us play?” It was so cool to see so many people all vote for the new singles on top of the one ones and to have people be so stoked to hear ’em live.

That’s just a testament to the energy you guys are cultivating with this new era, with these new songs. You’re on a new level with a new EP and fans are definitely ready to hear them become even more dynamic live vocally and sonically, whether or not you have played some of them before and will be playing some some of them for the first time.

Drew: Totally. Something we strive to do is have each piece of media or whatever have some world building that happens around a song, whether it’s a lyric video or a music video or the physical recording or the live version, it all needs to like… re-contextualize everything. We want you to come to the show and hear it and be like, “Oh my God, I’ve never heard the song like that!” Then you should go back and listen to the recording and notice more things that you didn’t notice before. I feel like with this record and how we’re getting ready to build this live set, we are really trying to be purposeful and intentional with the choices we make and how we play the set and how we play the songs and how we continue to build the universe of Friday Pilots Club to be this thing where you’re always uncovering and unpacking new layers all the time.

Caleb: It’s great that you brought up vocals, as well. With all the big vocals and stuff like that on here, it’s one of the things I’m most excited about [because] when we were on our label, I feel like we were pushed to do these huge soaring vocals a lot – that was something that got brought up in every single meeting, especially when they were making creative suggestions. With this record in particular, it’s really nice because there’s a lot more intimacy. Some of the vocals are hard but it’s because they’re a little bit more intimate. I’m excited to do that live because it requires a little bit less energy but definitely requires a lot more finesse and I love that we have the opportunity to go out and do them live. These huge songs that are fun but that also have very intimate parts, like “Better With,” in particular and the verses on there, and then “Never Say No” where it really comes down to be tender with the background vocals and all, they have me very excited.

“Never Say No” is a song that has layers. That’s one of the numbers that I immediately picked up on the tone and the tenacity on each take and on each listen there is something new to hear. Then there is a song like “I Don’t Wanna Be Someone” which definitely has some very large moments vocally, but it’s just as somber and and personal and intimate as you mentioned, Caleb. “Poison or Patience” is the song that got a feature, though, so I would love to ask about the thought process behind that, why that song had a feature, and how you feel about it.

Drew: So, it’s actually kind of a funny story. “Poison or Patience” was a song that I had started basically around the time that we wrote “Hot Mess.” I wrote the first verse and chorus and I remember sending it to the band group chat and nobody really responded to it, which generally means people don’t like it [Laughs]. I was like, “Ok, that’s ok. Nobody likes the song? Whatever.” Then I sent it to my girlfriend, Oston, and she was like the first person who really believed in it – she was like, “No, dude, there’s something here. This is really cool.” I ended up like going back and kept working on the production with her and I always joked like, “Oh my god, Friday Pilots Club” doesn’t want this song. Maybe you and I should just sing it together as if it is this funny thing.” It just so happened that, like, I got it to a better place where the band vibed with it more. Caleb came in and and sang on it and then we like wrote this second verse with Oston and it was weird how it worked out, like “Oh, Oston should totally feature on it,” as if we hadn’t been joking about for literally two years now. It just kind of panned out like that, which is so random, but she’s like family for all of us and it did turn into this fun moment on the record…. I also wanted to add, she also helped us write, “I Don’t Wanna Be Someone” and “Hot Mess,” sp she was like part of the record. Oh! She also sang backing vocals on “Better With,” so she’s all over the record and it’s kind of nice that she like actually has a like a moment in the spotlight there.

Oh my goodness, that makes me love this as a feature even more than I already did! How coincidental and cosmic.

Caleb: She sounds great and it’s good to take a moment, have a moment. Drew is being very modest right now, though.

Eric: Yeah, agreed.

Caleb: As the singer of this band, to have to listen to Drew in the studio sings songs sometimes way better than I could, it just made me happy that he’s finally singing on a Friday Pilots Club track.

Drew: Thank you [Laughs]. Yeah, it’s the first song I’ve ever sang for this band and it’s the first song we have three singers on, so it’s kind of an interesting thing, but very exciting.