The Stranger, 8.21.2003

Friends Forever Kick Out (In) The Van
By Jennifer Maerz

I think it was the part when the bassist slowly flopped out of the passenger window of the van, draped in Christmas lights and followed by billows of smoke, still playing chords, that really got my attention. Or maybe it was the wear-and-tear portion of Friends Forever (the DVD about the same band of the same name), which showed the guitarist's dog's vomit carpeting the vehicle floor. But really, there isn't anything that draws me to the Denver act more than their mission to make and play adventurous music whenever and wherever they feel like it--even if that's not something, say, the fuzz in San Luis Obispo wants to see on the un-permitted sidewalks of their city.

In their five years as a band, bassist Josh Taylor says 85 percent of Friends Forever's shows have been performed in one place: a beat-up, presumably very stinky Volkswagen van, which serves as a mode of transportation, a home away from home, a kennel for their dogs, and, most importantly, a venue that can be planted in any parking lot or loading zone and transformed into a stage free from all the confines of a regular club--including, unfortunately, the legal right to play.

Friends Forever--originally Taylor and Nate Hayden (and since 2001, keyboardist Jason Isaacs)--started in 1997. As Taylor explains, the concept was a matter of necessity. "Me and Nate were living in Hollywood, and we were so sick of life out there and trying to get shows for our band," he says. "It was just impossible because you'd have to schmooze with everybody, and we were so shy we couldn't even do that. So we moved out of our apartment and into our cars and decided to play wherever we wanted to."

The plan started out on a disastrous note, as the duo realized not everyone appreciated their vision. "We would totally crash people's parties, and looking back on it I guess we were pretty jerky. We'd never talk to people; we'd just start playing--and it was probably pretty rude to do that," he laughs. "We just figured that if we bought a power source and generator, we could pretty much play any show we wanted to, which has been cool because if an awesome band comes through [Denver] that we want to open for and none of the promoters wants us to play, we can still play out front and have fun."

Since then, the band has performed on multiple cross-country jaunts, their music a muscled-Lightning Bolt style of instrumental metal heavy on the repetitive passages and experimental twists. Director Ben Wolfinsohn captured one of their tours on film for the 2001 Friends Forever DVD. Although Wolfinsohn gives the public access to a very of-the-moment underground act, the DVD also focuses on a lot of the low moments in the band's history--Taylor and Hayden complaining about their self-image, sitting around bored, and getting shut down by cops. "At first it was so embarrassing that I hated [the movie], but after like a year it was kinda cool because we're able to reach more people through it, even though I still think he somehow didn't capture our message," says Taylor. "The movie seemed so bleak and serious, whereas our memories of that tour were a lot more fun."

Now you can judge for yourself how "serious" Friends Forever have become as they tour for the release of their Load Records debut, Killball, a conceptual album about a sport involving "getting your players totally messed up on PCP and giving them weapons in a crazy, futuristic view of football." In addition to the typical arsenal of strobe/Christmas lights, smoke machines, and other tricks, expect other accentuating items around the killball theme.

Despite the hassles from the cops, the low pay, and the occasional dog vomit, Taylor says he wishes "more people would start doing a whole other way of doing [shows]. Because booking them is the hardest part of being in a band, and it takes away from the magic of wanting to express yourself to people." He pauses and adds with a laugh, "Although I guess [going through bookers] might weed out a lot of idiots who probably shouldn't be expressing themselves."

The Stranger, 8.28.2003

By Jennifer Maerz

The show last Sunday, August 24, ended in a back lot under a mess of blue smoke, fireworks, and bubbles after Friends Forever finished playing, a fitting finale for a band known for putting on memorable performances. The Denver trio played behind the Aftermath Gallery and their van was a tangle of complicated homemade contraptions, but it all came together somehow as sparks shot off the keyboardist's backpack, the bassist attacked the crowd with an inflated ball, and the drummer played inside the van behind a set of party lights and a smoke machine, all of which was enough to bring the cops--luckily after the set finished. The band followed two local metal acts, one of which, Cephied, I'd never heard before, but despite the lack of working vocals--and eventually the lack of a working bass--they sounded great.

copyright 2003 loss leader