One surefire way to get me into your band or music is to just foster a great sense of melody. Be as heavy and unrelenting as you want, I love that too, but conjuring a good head nod is nigh irreplaceable. This isn’t a special quality – you’ll find people love the music they do because of melody – but it’s something that really matters to me. Next in line in terms of importance is probably the evocation of emotion, a heartfelt attempt to stir something in the listener, to nurture human connection, or allow moments of empathy either from the artist to the listener or vice versa. A band wielding both with strong confidence is bound to become a favorite of mine.
This is about where I’m sitting with Friendship Commanders, a duo from Nashville, Tennessee that we’ve had a bit of history with. We were lucky enough to premiere a single from their 2020 EP, HOLD ON TO YOURSELF, which my pal Hanna handled expertly as they are wont to do. It was real solid melodic sludge! I unfortunately fell out of following them for the last couple years because I have one (1) brain cell and it’s usually on loan elsewhere, but I was reacquainted this March when the wheels of a new album cycle started turning for them. This is when they dropped “BLUE”, the first single from their newest LP, MASS, which comes out on September 29 independently, our favorite ‘record label’. It is, no exaggeration, one of the best songs I’ve heard this year and beyond. Buick Audra’s voice is masterfully bold and placed perfectly in the song’s mix. Jerry Roe’s drums are massive, beyond the fundamental expectation of rhythm and keeping time. Its guitars reverberate right in the sternum with a warm melancholy. The lyrics are poignant and telling, relatable even for someone who hasn’t lived Buick’s specific life. For my money, it’s the best single song experience you can have with headphones on in 2023.
That was reason enough for me to reach out to the band, so I did, and tried to correspond it as closely as possible with the release of MASS because, you know, timeliness and marketing. I just knew there was a good time to be had from speaking to them about their work, influences, and more. You can tell there’s a lot of heart and life in this music and that was duly confirmed with what they’ve told me. As always, I’m super grateful for the time and attention they’ve paid to me and this feature.
If you’re like me, you may be wondering why their name is Friendship Commanders. You see the name, you hear their music, and you may think ‘what EVEN is going on here? This doesn’t fit!‘ Well, kinda. That’s all relative I suppose, but what you may truly not expect is just how deep and emotional the reasoning behind the name is. Buick divulges why their name is:
‘Oh, that’s an easy answer! Years ago, before we started the band, I found a vintage varsity jacket at one of those antique markets with the different vendor booths. It was an emerald green wool jacket with the words ‘FRIENDSHIP COMMANDERS’ across the back in yellow and white satiny letters. I loved the words together; they conjured some kind of superhero team image. It’s been my winter jacket ever since. When we started the band, we tossed different names around, many of which seemed awfully self-serious. I threw the name Friendship Commanders in the ring and it took. At that time, we thought FC was some kind of side project we might do just for fun. We both had other projects, and FC was where we came to try the weird stuff we weren’t doing in those. So, the name was like, yeah, why not?
‘It obviously isn’t a side project anymore, but we kept the name, and I still wear the jacket. As it turns out, there’s a school in a part of Tennessee called the Friendship Christian Academy, and the Commanders are their football team. My jacket has someone’s name embroidered on the front and I looked him up when I first found the jacket but didn’t find anything. A few years ago, I looked again and added the word ‘obituary’ to the search. Found him. The name on my jacket was his nickname. And in his online obit, I saw pics of him as a kid at that school. I think my jacket was his junior high jacket. He passed away in his forties. Much too young.
‘Now the name has a different gravity to it. That guy’s jacket changed our lives a little. We’re grateful.‘
This origin story is oddly fitting to Friendship Commanders‘ whole tone with MASS. Although the band’s music has always had a deeply personal tenor to it, it’s turned up to 11 on this new LP. The ripple effect of a single event in our lives; the memories we make in real time and not even realize it, the ones we’re always able to recall with frightening regularity for decades to come because of the rapturous joy, pivotal importance, or biting trauma that it’s associated with. The ability to recognize when change needs to happen, and actuating it. Recognizing when you’re not ready to move on from something, but having the resolve to know you will eventually. This, and much more, is what MASS is about, and it’s much of why it hits so hard when you let it in.
Being their first full-length since 2018, it brings a lot of change – without getting into the obvious, a lot’s happened in the last five years, am I right? But MASS goes even further back than that to reflect on the types of nuances and moments like the ones above. More literally, the title is a bit of a double entendre, referring to the state of Massachusetts – a place of great, pivotal importance for Buick – and to the mass of one’s life, the mental or spiritual weight which we take on simply by existing and experiencing, the kind that makes the body gradually hunch forward as we fight to stand straight in resistance, undefeated.
It’s also the first LP that has Buick’s actual name on it. Prior to Friendship Commanders‘ HOLD ON TO YOURSELF EP, she had been credited as ‘B. Arson’. I noticed this and asked her about it because I knew there had to be a story behind it.
‘You’re the first person who’s ever asked me about that! B. Arson stood for Beauty Arson, both of which are words that my actual names have been mistaken for. When we started the band, I was walking away from my solo work which had become a minefield of painful experiences. There was some wanting to distance myself from that identity, from that whole thing—and since we thought FC was a side project back then, I just threw B. Arson on there. It stuck. And then, when we were getting ready to release HOLD ON TO YOURSELF, I felt like not putting my actual name on that work would be a disservice to myself. I wrote that EP about being an adult survivor of childhood abuse and had chosen to say as much in the press for the record. Going by a pseudonym suddenly felt wrong. So HOTY was the first FC release to say ‘Buick Audra.’ I’ve also since reconciled my relationship with my solo work, so there’s some peace where there once was not. Thanks for asking!‘
I was privileged enough to hear MASS ahead of time and in preparation for this feature. I love it for a lot of reasons, but perhaps most of all is how it basks in the grey areas of life. Emotions are treated as the complicated, multifaceted things they are. Things aren’t black and white, and it makes room for the inherent, expected, normal messiness of human existence and interaction. MASS isn’t a Hollywood movie – it’s not written and formulated to satisfy a mold or tell a clean story with a clean ending – in fact, the ending that MASS has (more on that later because it’s very different and worth talking about) is a bit of an anti-ending, a ‘to be continued’ that’s meant to be lived by Buick and Jerry and, hell, the rest of us.
One of the many things that struck me so hard with “BLUE” was the lyrics and how simply resonant they were. In the chorus, Buick belts out, ‘The sky was blue in Massachusetts/The sky was grey inside my head/And it told the truth‘, which expands on the song’s opening lines that talk about how it’s dangerous to believe life’s only measure of truth or success is what’s surrounding it, leaving out or discounting what’s inside. Whether referring to a relationship that looks loving and rock solid from the outside, or someone living a visually privileged and able life, you still don’t know what sort of turbulence and tribulation lies inside. “BLUE” is the kind of song you hear – like, really hear – and go ‘yes… THAT‘, knowingly nodding along to each bar.
Some of my favorites are in the second verse: ‘Something can seem good for you/Until it starts to hurt/You’re allowed to change your mind/If it doesn’t work‘. The act of changing one’s mind, either because you’ve learned something new or realized something doesn’t fit anymore, is something we don’t utilize enough. You don’t have to be stubborn – I mean, I am, but that’s besides the point, we should all know when to change course when it’s good and makes sense for us, and realize it may happen several times. Plus, it also reminds me of how Khadija Mbowe signs off their videos by saying ‘you can always change your mind, because you can‘.
Since we’re talking about places and origins so much, I wanted to talk about Nashville, where the duo are from – as a band anyway. It’s a very culturally rich region for music and not the first place I’d guess a heavy melodic rock band like Friendship Commanders being from. I asked how the city has influenced them at all and if it’s a good place for a band like them.
Jerry: ‘I definitely think the sort of songcraft and performance approach that the town is known for is present in our work, but I’m not sure how exactly that’s gotten into the band. Buick is not from here and she writes the songs by herself! I might suggest an arrangement idea here and there, but the songs just fall out of her fully formed. Not much, if anything, changes between the first time she plays a song for me and when we record it.
‘As for the scene in Nashville: The heavy scene has been strong before, and there are still some great bands around, but it’s smaller than it’s ever been. It’s not unique to us, but the speed at which we’ve been developing and letting any sort of affordable housing get bulldozed has definitely hurt our arts scene. We’ve lost a lot of our venues to either LiveNation, or condo developers.‘
Buick: ‘So, I’m from Miami, and I mean that in every conceivable way. I was drawn to Nashville years ago because of the songwriting legacies that have come out of here. I’m obsessed with songwriting, always have been. And I am a songwriter here, in my projects, and for other people. But the longer I’m here, the less connected I am to the music machinery of the town. I think FC happened because I do live here and had some things to say about gender dynamics (which are wild in this town) in the industry and beyond. I often say that Nashville has made me thrice the feminist I was when I arrived, out of pressure. We do have some heavy comrades in the town but not many. We’re grateful for the scenes that have embraced us here and in other cities.‘
Buick and Jerry were introduced to each other by one of Buick’s neighbors, at a local venue called The Basement. Although it was a few years from then when Friendship Commanders materialized, the two have deep roots in music before then, since birth technically. When asked if they were self-taught musicians, they both reflected:
Buick: ‘Yes and no! We’re both from highly musical families. All of our parents are musicians, as well as some grandparents, etc. I grew up playing in the school band (clarinet, of all choices) and then got into singing in choirs. I briefly studied voice for part of one school year. I’m a self-taught guitar player, and I didn’t start playing until I was twenty. I’ve never had a guitar lesson, and I went to art school instead of music school. Which I’m glad about because I think it expanded my ideas around narrative, and what a body of work is (throughline, concept, defense of statements, etc). But the rock music: yeah, self-taught.‘
Jerry: ‘I am! Everyone in my family played, so I was born playing basically. It’s the family business.‘
Although duos in rock-oriented music seem to be more commonplace nowadays, it’s still an interesting configuration to see. Quintets make sense if you got a rhythm and lead guitarist or a keyboardist or something, quartets are the classic rock band configuration, and power trios have been a thing since time immemorial (or at least since before I was born). Duos though, making all this racket? Rare. It wasn’t always like that with Friendship Commanders though. They did in fact start as an unofficial performing trio. Buick recalls:
‘We started there! When we started, we thought we’d be a trio. Even on the first demos, a friend of ours played bass. After that, we had a rotating cast of not-quite members, people who played shows with us. It was always just me and Jerry as the core members, and I was the writer, but people tracked with us and played bass live, etc. And then we had a show booked out of town that none of the bassists could play, and we decided to do it anyway. I played through two rigs, Jerry set up at the front of the stage next to me, and we threw down. And right away, we were like, this is it. Forget that other thing. This is it. It was instantly heavier and more intense. We liked that.‘
Another moment of pivotal importance and has sealed the deal on the band’s existence for the better part of the last decade. That’s the how, but why? What was the driving mentality behind bringing Friendship Commanders to life?
Buick: ‘Colossal disappointment in humankind is a factor. Lol. But for real, we weren’t always as heavy, musically or thematically, and then during the Trump administration and beyond, the music has grown to reflect how I feel in the world. On a technical level, the decisions around the gear we each play, the voicings I use on guitar, and the way we record are all centered around being brutally heavy while still delivering the songs. Our 2020 EP, HOLD ON TO YOURSELF, was the beginning of this chapter of what we do, musically and conceptually, and it was borne of honest personal expression and making the music reflect the sentiments. The heavier I feel, the heavier I write. And Jerry and I both love heavy music so we’ve just leaned way in. MASS is particularly heavy, and sounds even more so because we tracked it with [legendary producer] Kurt [Ballou]. He did a good job of capturing it.‘
Jerry: ‘I was born and raised in Nashville, so what we do definitely feels like my town to me. Country music is the industry of the town, but traditionally the local music never really reflected the industry side of things. It was like any other scene – weirdos, outsider art, loud and noisy rock, meta, and punk, and local songwriters. The country/americana thing didn’t become something that happened locally and organically until recently, and has mostly been pushed on us by folks moving there and foisting their idea of our town upon us! A musical gentrification, if you will. Until this happened, the local scene was usually happening in contrast to the industry stuff. That said; if you live in Nashville and can play, you interact with the industry professionally in some way, so the craft side of things has always been present in bands from our town. Songs are songier, shorter, more to the point, and people can really play. I like to think that’s true of FC as well. Being loud and heavy and noisy is paramount, but so is song craft and melody. That’s what moves us and we both really like it, and Buick is very very good at it. That’s my perspective, at least.‘
Maybe instinctively, there’s a draw I feel to Buick that goes a bit beyond the music or her voice, like a sort of kindred spirit. Our lives have been very different, but it’s an exercise of empathy to recognize the differences in each other, draw what similarities there may be, and still come out on the other side feeling for someone else. All too often I’ve seen my female and femme friends abused, hushed, told to be different, told they’re too loud, too weird, or too bitchy. That’s part of the reason why, even as much as I cuss, I almost never use any permutation of the word ‘bitch’ in my own words – it’s done too much damage to people I cherish and love.
Back in July, I saw a post that she made on her personal Instagram that not only showed the kind of person she was, and perhaps always has been, but also why I vibed with what she does. It’s a very personal story of defiance, instinct, and autonomy within the context of a Barbie-focused project she did for school, but the most important part of it (to me) is individuality. She called herself ‘Weird and Loud Barbie‘ – that was the lightbulb moment for me. I – again, maybe instinctively – tend to attract weird and loud people. They’re my people! I’m loud and weird too! Beyond even the strong feminist message which I obviously fuck with, I had to ask Buick about how this informs her music, besides the obvious of her playing in a heavy rock band:
‘I feel weird and loud because I have truly never fit anywhere, including my families of origin. And the reasons for that vary. I spoke up about abuse very young, I went to a different school almost every year of my life, I seem to see things in a way that not everyone does, I voice dissent and concern where it’s not always welcome, and I hate (HATE) bullies. And a lot of the world does not. Also, I’m a woman which comes with its own baggage, and stepping outside of what some people have expected of me has made me feel weird and loud. I’m proud of it now, though. The weird and loud ones are the ones who be on your side in this life, no joke. It’s the ones who want to fit in who will leave you hanging. I don’t fit in anyway, so I’m ready for the fight.‘
At the risk of sounding parasocial, damn, me and Buick could have been cool friends. I really love this answer because it’s true. People that want to fit in somewhere will do just about anything (or not do anything) to foster that image, even if it means letting down, or flat-out betraying, people you call your friends. But principled people who wield truth like a sword, leaving cuts in someone else’s fake wood veneer like an inconvenient Zorro, got your back. We see that now with ‘cancel culture’ (heavy quotes there because I really don’t like giving that term much legitimacy), where people who understand how abuse and violence works, who may have been loud about it at some point as well with nothing to gain and everything to lose, see their own story reflected in someone else coming forward and calling for someone to be held accountable, or warning others of the true nature of a person. Not everyone appreciates that and will decry or defame people coming forward for bothering to disrupt someone else’s life with their troubles, ones they’ll likely be blamed for.
This is a type of harsh energy you feel from MASS and other Friendship Commanders music. An indelible, impregnable truth and honesty. “HIGH SUN” off MASS is a great example of that – it recounts an uncomfortable point in Buick’s life where she was accosted by a man while others – ‘friends’ – looked on without saying or doing anything. She was made out to be the problem, the one who misunderstood what she had went through, made to question herself and what she literally went through. You know, gaslighting, though maybe that’s a bit reductive. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but Buick so succinctly puts it in her lyrics while playing awesomely fuzzy riffs that feel like they could be ’90s throwbacks with no dust or rust on them:
‘There’s no speaking up
When everybody wants the status to be quo
There’s no speaking up when there’s just one of you
Trust me, I know
Maybe the sun went high and they blamed me
It’s easier than changing
It’s easier than looking at themselves and learning‘
How did it feel for Buick to distill key moments like this into music? ‘It felt overwhelming, surprising, and also weirdly inevitable,‘ she states. ‘While I didn’t see the record coming, once I started writing the songs and figured out that it was about the Boston years, it made a lot of sense. And I almost couldn’t put it out. Right after we recorded it, I needed a break from it because it was so emotional for me. We waited a little bit to start releasing the songs.‘ Not many people, me especially, don’t know what it’s like to have to convert life like this into art, whether it’s music, visual media, or plain text (though Buick does that too – more on that later). Still, it’s a viable avenue for processing, venting, and even therapy for the moment. Buick continues: ‘I’m so proud of it now, though. It feels amazing to have people relate to the work, too. I couldn’t believe it when that started happening.‘
MASS will be the band’s third LP, usually where bands start to make stylistic shifts or other decisions that alter their trajectory and, therefore, their fanbase. I asked the pair why now was the right time for MASS:
Buick: ‘Well, if I’m honest, I never thought I would talk about any of this. My mind had shut a lot of this out. But then my friend Marc Orleans died by suicide in the summer of 2020, and I started to write this record about a year later. Marc was an old Boston friend, and his death made me look back in a way I had not been able to before. And when the songs started coming, it seemed like they belonged in the world. As vulnerable and personal as the project is, it’s also an album about friendship (what it is and what it is not), identity, trying to stay alive when life makes that feel daunting, and finding ways to be free. All of that goes beyond me, us, Marc, and the bullshit that went down in Boston. And strangely, for the first time in recent memory, we live in a world where one can say, ‘I was in an abusive relationship with someone who tried to control my every move and facet of my identity,’ and at least some of the population of the world will get it. If we had done this project even five years ago, I’m not sure that would have been the case. But Marc’s death was really the catalyst. And then it was about trusting our instincts to bring the work forth.‘
Jerry: ‘That’s hard for me to answer! Buick writes all the songs and these bodies of work seem to flow pretty freely from her and tend to guide us both more than anything. Our sound surely shifts with every release, and that too feels natural. I guess, we both just listen to and experience the world around us and what comes out reflects that, hopefully?‘
Another awesome song from MASS, “VAMPIRE”, has a neat groove to it – heavy as hell, really churns and folds in the melodies, and Buick’s lyrics liken narcissistic types with domineering personalities who can never take responsibility or blame to vampires; soul, energy, and joy suckers who rob people of their goodness and happiness. The repeated line of ‘all of the people I knew lived here‘ is particularly telling, finding kinship in others who have been in that situation before and those who inevitably will. Those people would do well to listen to “MOVE” for encouragement as it’s a song about leaving. So much of MASS feels like a comforting hug – even as it juggles tough topics, the purpose is for relation. Buick has astute knowledge and advice for anyone going through troubled times reflected in the band’s music:
‘Well, first, you’re never the only one experiencing something, no matter how crushingly lonely it may feel at the time. There are always others. Say it out loud, say it online, say that you’re underneath it. Literally, tell anyone. Stay alive if you can. Anyone who minimizes your experiences, past or present, is not the best person to go to—which was a hard lesson for me to learn, personally. But there are other people. The world is bigger than your family, your town, and your immediate community. We’re out here, and some of us know exactly what you’re talking about.
‘I’m on your side. If that helps, know that.‘
If it wasn’t clear enough already, I love MASS and think it’s a definite point of pride for Friendship Commanders. I didn’t want to just toil in the heavier aspects of their music so I asked them what they’re most proud of on the record:
Jerry: ‘If I was forced to pick one, I think the recording of “FAIL” really hits something that effects me deeply every time I listen to it. I’m immensely proud of the energy and performances on it, and I think it really does Buick’s words and intent justice. That’s gonna be one to beat. I’m freaked out by it, a bit.‘
Buick: ‘Oh god. “BLUE” as a song and a recording is one of my proudest musical moments of my life so far. “FAIL”, too, especially because it’s a ‘sad’ song about losing my friend Marc, and understanding why he died, but it rips. It isn’t maudlin or a piano ballad. It’s a weird angular rock song. Marc would have liked that, I think. I’m also particularly proud of the bridge to “VAMPIRE”, the end where I say, ‘All the odds aren’t the only crystal ball, are they?’ That lyric distilled this thing that I walk around with in this life, the profound surprise that I’m able to be okay these days, given my histories with abuse and dysfunction. And the world will try to say to survivors, ‘Oh people who have had this and that happen to them have shorter lifespans or can only repeat the cycles they’re from‘. And while I do struggle at times, I’m okay today, and we are not solely what has happened to us. We can shed light on it, make art about it, and live through it. It felt powerful to say that. Also, I’m proud have been brave enough to close the record with “DISSONANCE”.‘
“DISSONANCE” that Buick refers to is probably MASS‘ most poignant moment, and it’s not even a song. It ends the album with an almost five-minute spoken word poem adding more context and personality to some of the moments sung about on MASS, and filling in some gaps between those moments that give the listener a fuller picture of what and who Buick is – not just the trauma and the pain, but the joy and laughter of friendship and togetherness, of bonding and relating, of learning and being. It is immensely powerful, a listen that’s both prickly and satisfying, like the epilogue a story that shows you things are okay or will be okay.
‘I wanted to show you
Moving to a place where I had no anchors, allies, or shared language.
I wanted to show you
The leaves of late Fall in Arlington, where I would enter a small house and listen to other kids tell the truth. They taught me to do the same. New language.
I wanted to show you
Sleeping on Arthur’s living room floor, listening to Badmotorfinger on repeat, bus rides to Harvard Square. Trying not to take up space, but being glad there was space for me somewhere.
I wanted to show you
Singing “Polaroids” at 3 AM in JFK park with Ethel; our parents thought we were asleep in our beds. We had never been so awake, so alive.
I wanted to show you
Riding bikes from Belmont to Cambridge; we felt like we owned the world in the middle of the night. We did.
I wanted to show you
Me and Bo and Mel in the rehearsal space with no air circulating; so hot that the guitars and drum stool stuck to our bodies. We played anyway. We didn’t know to ask for a window.
I wanted to show you
Marc’s eyes as we laughed about the news, our co-workers, bands we knew. As we sat on a parking lot curb and ate avocados from their skins. No shade from the sun, no barriers between us.‘
The aesthetic of MASS is heavily informed by what it’s influenced by. Just as Buick listened to Badmotorfinger on repeat when she was young, MASS is practically tailor-made to be that album on repeat for fans to make similar memories to. Despite its relatively heavy themes, it’s an album that could soundtrack a long ride down the freeway (the recommended listening method per the band, loudly and singing ‘with your whole body‘), windows open and yet none of the music seems to vent out of the car and get lost in the ether thanks to its density and urgency. It could soundtrack a gentle meeting between friends sitting on the slope of a grassy hill, wind brushing fallen leaves past your skin and the sun pushing on your squinting eyes as you laugh about something that used to embarrass. Something as insular as a night in, laying in bed with nothing but headphones and your own thoughts can be enhanced. There’s a freedom in the sounds of MASS, of breaking away from the mundane, or reveling in it with the right company, as long as you’re feeling.
To wrap up my questions on MASS specifically, I asked Buick and Jerry what they hope people take from this new album, or just their music in general:
Jerry: ‘I hope folks are moved by the perspective and the story, and I hope the sound and music provides an outlet and invigorates people. I hope people feel like breaking things, constructively.‘
Buick: ‘Well, on a general level, I hope it moves people, even if it’s just about riffs and grooves. That’s okay. And I get that. Beyond that, I hope the people who need it feel brave. And I hope everyone else gets some kind of insight into dynamics that are actually not uncommon. I think we need more conversation about above/below dynamics in the world and how they contribute to mental health, societal patterns, and things we fold into everyday life as ‘normal’. But mostly, I just hope people think it rips. We think it does.‘
It most definitely rips. 🙂
Since I’m writing this, y’all already know what’s coming, and as a way to lighten the mood a bit, I had to ask Friendship Commanders about influences, both in music and in general. Soundgarden, am I right?
Jerry: ‘Soundgarden is huge for me, and very specifically Matt Cameron. If you forced me to pick my favorite and most influential drummer, it’d be him. His pocket, sounds, concept of time and everything are generally unmatched and relly artful. You can tell it’s him immediately. Past that – I’m a huge David Lynch & John Carpenter fan, and the moods and cinematic concept of their work influences my thinking in everything I do, not just our music videos.‘
Buick: ‘Oh hell yes, Badmotorfinger. That record, and the ‘am I wrong‘ vocal melody on “Would?” by Alice In Chains both changed my DNA. Formative. Also, Shellac. Steve’s guitar playing, the primal quality of those songs. I’m a huge R&B person, too. Missy, Mariah, Aaliyah, Jojo, Janet, the women of SWV and TLC. The founding women of punk – Poly, Ari and Viv, Siouxsie, Chrissie, Debbie. But Chris’s guitar parts on “Outshined” are in my bones. For life.‘
Since I’m a big Alice In Chains guy – why else would I write a gigantic feature on their whole discography? – I appreciate Buick’s love for the legendary Seattle group, and you can hear tinges of their brand of grunge in some of the guitar tones and melodies of their own music. I feel the same about the main riff of “Rain When I Die”. And what about dream collaborations? Everyone’s got them, so do Jerry and Buick, and they’re interesting as hell:
Jerry: ‘I would personally love to do something with a rap/hip-hop artist or group of some sort. Past Buick’s life and history with that music, I think the genres and our perspectives are sympatico, and it would hopefully allow for something fresh and different, rather than us collaborating with another band of the same genre. Would also love to contribute music to a film, as a major movie fan myself.‘
Buick: ‘In all seriousness: Missy Elliott. In any capacity. None cooler. When RUSH ended, we were like, maybe we’ll have Geddy play on something of ours! But I mean, you know. Reality. We love him, though. Engineer-wise, we already work with [Steve] Albini and Ballou, and we love them. We also talk about Terry Date here and there because we both love Soundgarden. But Albini and Ballou are hard to beat.‘
Shit, I’d collab with Missy and I don’t even make music.
Seeing as Friendship Commanders‘ music is very reflective and introspective, the origin of its themes sometimes going all the way back to childhood, I did my best therapist impersonation and asked both musicians how they feel their kid selves would react to being big-time rockers. Would they be happy with the trajectory they’ve had as adults? I asked this of course not yet knowing they both grew up in musical homes, but hey, I still loved their answers:
Buick: ‘Everything I do these days is a shout-out to my younger selves. And hell yes, they’d be happy. I never wanted a life other than this one, ever. And again, as a woman, it’s maybe not what was expected, and I’ve definitely had some friends fall away as they’ve chosen other life paths. We just don’t have much in common anymore. But I’m not living this life to have things in common; I’m living it to do what I came to do. And this is it.‘
Jerry: ‘Yes. 100% This is the band I’ve always wanted to be in. I maybe lost sight of that and tried to do different things in my late teens/early-twenties, but I’m happy to say that Buick showing up got me back on track musically.‘
Everything about this band feels warm to me, from the name to the music itself to the artists behind the work and the name. I try not to pick favorites, but this is probably my favorite WFA I’ve ever written during my tenure here at Everything Is Noise, and Friendship Commanders is the type of band we exist for. We love bands with a purpose, passion, and a message to reach out to others with and comfort just as they are hopefully comforted by sharing their message and vision with the world. That is an absurdly vulnerable place for anyone to be in, let alone a creative soul who’s been jabbed by the barbs of life often. I so admire Buick’s tenacity and abundant defiance of expectation hoisted on her by a society that still – in motherfucking 2023 – still wants women to sit down and shut up. I so appreciate Jerry for being a friend, ally, and co-conspirator for Buick to join with and produce some of the most affecting music I’ve heard in a long time. And, yes, they also rip together most importantly. As is tradition, let’s hear from the band one more time for some closing remarks and shoutouts:
Jerry: ‘I guess I wanna shout out anyone who’s making their own, genuine work in this weird and scary time of labor rights and tech overreach when it comes to the arts and distribution. The future seems really weird, and it’s harder than ever to keep your eye on the ball when it comes to staying true with your motivations and what truly drives you to make work. It’s important that you keep going, and we wanna do it with you.‘
Buick: ‘Just thanks to anyone who listens to us, who gets it. The shout-outs are always to the natural-born weirdos. We hope you make art. The world needs it.
‘And thank you, David. We so appreciate your time and attention.‘
The pleasure was most certainly mine, y’all 🙂
Friendship Commanders are…
Buick Audra – vocals, guitar
Jerry Roe – drums, bass, synths
If you’re looking for a friend, you can follow Friendship Commanders everywhere that still matters on this hell internet: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (I’m not calling it X, eat shit, Elon). Please do yourself a favor and preorder MASS on Bandcamp. It comes out on September 29 and will be a must listen for heavy, sludgy rock fans that adore melody and clean vocals like I do.
Band photo by Anna Haas