Friko are just getting started

Friko interview with Northern Transmissions by Conor Rooney. Corner chatted with Friko's Niko Kapetan about their new LP, love of Brian eno
Friko Photo by Jackie Lee Young

The opening track to Friko’s newest album ring out like a line in the sand, or a statement of purpose. On their debut record,“Where we’ve been, Where we go from here, the Chicago-based two-piece (or duo, as some might say) sound fresh and exciting, pulling from a buffet of influences that span decades from The Replacements, Hiroshi Yoshimura, The Beach Boys and Mitski. It’s an album that feels decidedly youthful and new. From the cathartic release “Crashing Through” to the dreampop-drenched “Statues,” their debut is a strong collection of tracks that sound even better live. The group is currently on tour with Willis, and we caught up guitarist Niko Kapetan to chat through his approach to songwriting, past influences and John Dwyer.

Northern Transmissions: How would you describe your approach to making this record?

Niko: So with this record, it never really started as like “We’re we’re making a record…It’s time to make a record” because we had basically recorded the whole record before working with the label. But from the beginning, the mindset for all these new songs was “we need to record this, like our live show.” And so that was our intention and we aim to do that – that liveliness.

NT: Oh wow – I didn’t know it was recorded live.

Niko: A lot of it is, yeah… there’s a lot of overdubs and stuff but you know, the energy is at the core of it.

NT: Well what does your curiosity look like when you encounter a fresh idea for a song or record, and how do you begin the process of exploration?

Niko: So a lot of times I’ll bring an idea with vocals just like chords on a guitar, chords on a piano. I’ll bring that to the band, then we’d arrange them and finish them out. But especially like with the newer stuff now … I kind of think of my job with the band is getting to the core idea of the song that you can grab on to, with that melody and the chord progression, and then building up around that with the band.

NT: Yeah – Just like starting from that nucleus and then it kind of forming itself around that.

Niko: Yeah.

NT: Have your songs changed through performance?

Niko: Well we played so many of these songs live before we recorded them for like a year / year and a half. So they kind of were at the point already where they’d finished their live, like evolution. There’s songs like “Statues” where it’s like, we’ve still only played that once live.. it was at our Metro release show in Chicago, because it’s actually really hard – we can’t play it three-piece and it’s even hard as a four piece. That’s the one on the record that we recorded that was like.. the most like production-y type one we built. But yeah, all the other ones, they’re still always evolving and we’re adding to them.

NT: Well what are you listening to right now?

Niko: So right now I’ve been on a huge like Japanese electronic and ambient kick, and I always listened to it like “Music for Nine Post Cards.” That record I listened to all the time my one year in college ’cause it’s the most amazing study record and reading record. As of lately I’ve been getting more into it as its own thing, like conscious listening. It’s just really the stillness in it. And then like, ’cause I’ve always loved the Miyazaki movies and the compositions for those movies.

So there’s like this beautiful stillness there. And having that combined with loud rock music – that concept excites me ’cause you know it’s just harmonically very different.

NT: Oh yeah – like, for me, it was Discreet Music by Brian Eno. I just found it at 3:00am one time at my college radio station’s vinyl library and was blown away. Were there any albums like that for you that completely blew your mind?

Niko: Well when I was a kid, like 10, Revolver blew my mind. Just the Beatles stuff; the mid career Beatles stuff blew my mind. But as I got older, I feel like Another Green World was a huge one.

Oh, Blonde changed my life when I was 16. Blonde was kind of that record that made me think of music and writing music in a different way.

NT: What about shows?

Niko: God, there’s gotta be one big one. When I was in high school, I saw Dehd and Whitney. I mention that because that’s so like.. Chicago and it’s so relevant and close to us. Cause I saw Whitney play at a record shop when Light Upon The Lake came out, and I saw Dehd play at Empty Bottle opening, opening for Hinds in Chicago in like 2015 or something. Thee Oh Sees I saw Empty Bottle. That was crazy. I mean, they’re just, they’re a workhorse.

NT: I see them every time they’re in New York. They’re nuts.

Niko: Yeah dude they can play! John Dwyer is like the DIY guy of the 21st century, or of our generation.

Order Where we’ve been, Where we go from here by Friko HERE


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