Au naturale chamber pop
The phrase ‘chamber pop’ is often thrown around in indie rock circles, but Brooklyn-based six-piece Friend Roulette have the resume to show that they’re worthy of the title.
The core of the group met years ago as freshmen at New School’s jazz conservatory. “It was summer camp… we all moved to New York and we played with a lot of groups. My philosophy was to do everything,” reminisced lead vocalist and violinist Julia Tepper.
She met co-founder Matthew Meade (guitar/vocals) at the conservatory, who eventually ‘started hating jazz,’ but still holds true to his classical roots. He excitedly mentioned that he spent the previous night at Carnegie Hall to hear a rendition of renowned modernist composer Charles Ives’ pieces.
Friend Roulette blossomed in the summer of 2010 and they do fit into Brooklyn’s alt. rock landscape regardless of their background. “We’re not pimping rock and roll…,” Meade begins. “But, we feel like were still a part of it,” Tepper says.
Their debut album, “I’m Sorry You Hit Your Head,” which comes out on Goodnight Records on May 28, does follow a decidedly pop structure. Expansive tracks reveal intricate melodies and rhythms, and this underscores the production of the album. Most of the tracks are layered with violins, bass clarinet, electronic wind instrument (EWI) and drums. “Our recordings are an ornate, decorative, dynamic take [on our songs],” Tepper explains.
Their live performance displays their loud side, as their NYC shows often have two drummers and two electronic bassists backing them up. “The orchestration on the record is made up for by our intensity live,” says EWI/bass clarinetist John Stanesco.
“We like both [live and recorded settings] a lot. We can take the opportunity to showcase ourselves as a group in both settings,” Tepper says. At the same time, they have to adjust to the logistics of pop music. “We were all trained to be jazz musicians [and gig often]. This whole play two shows a month thing is really a bummer,” Stanesco says.
Catch Friend Roulette’s intensity live at their album release show on May 23 at Mercury Lounge.