INTERVIEW: Friends Electric


sghw1(clockwise from bottom left) Dean Gorno, Ritchard Lavis-Williams, Dan Thomas and Matthew Fry

As you will no doubt be aware dear readers, Friends Electric are a Welsh electro-pop band who over the past few years have gone from apparent anonymity to playing alongside Blondie and headlining festival stages.

The currently unsigned band have played various festivals this summer alone, including Isle of Wight, V Festival and Radio 1’s Big Weekend, and their songs have been play-listed on Radio 1 and XFM. The band have also managed to co-write ‘Say It Loud’ – one of Girls Aloud member Nicola Roberts’ tracks on her new solo album.

Not content with quietly retiring for the winter, they have also released their latest single – Puzzle Pieces – on 24th October, and have almost completed their UK tour.
I caught up with them before their Glasgow gig at King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, where they had bled the fridge dry of Irn-Bru…

So lads, Manchester last night – how was that?
Dan: It was really good, yeah. We did a small acoustic session when we got there in a little flower shop. Then we went back and played the show – we like Manchester a lot.

What’s the best gig you’ve had so far?
Ritchard: That’s a tough question…
Matthew: After we did the gig with Blondie in Somerset House – which was unreal, it was the biggest crowd we’ve played so far – we didn’t think we could top it. It was a bit of a blur to be honest. Then we played KOKO in London a couple of months ago which was great. Although it was the only show we didn’t really get any footage from, it was the best show.

So how did the band start? Do you have musical backgrounds?
Ritchard: We’ve just all known each other for a long, long time. Dan and Dean grew up together, then we all met at school and it just kind of evolved into a band. It seemed like the right thing to do, we all enjoyed playing music.

What about music – do you have similar tastes or is it diverse?
Dan: We grew up listening to the same music, like everybody does I think. We all have our own thing, there’s nothing that one of us listens to and the rest think, “aw that’s just sh*t”. I listen to some ridiculous stuff – so does Richard – but we all like different genres, as well as the music we create.

Your new single Puzzle Pieces has a much more sophisticated feel – do you feel that your sound has changed since [debut single] Wall of Arms?
Dan: I think it just developed naturally. When we did Wall of Arms we really didn’t know what we were doing but I think since then we’ve just grown up. Having the studio has helped a lot it allows us to experiment with different things. We all have a mutual love for pop music as well so I think that helps. We aim to make dance music that will fit into three or four minutes.

You’ve previously described your sound as “electro music made by humans” – do you think this makes for a diverse fan base?
Dan: It’s a strange one cause it was only this summer we realised who would and wouldn’t listen to us. Like when we played KOKO people were just going crazy and then we played with Blondie and it was a completely different audience. I think everybody can relate to at least a couple of songs in the set, you know? I don’t really know who is listening. We got Radio 1 playing a lot of tracks, then Radio 2, XFM and BBC6. With a range of radio stations you get completely different people.

What about touring? Is it something you want to continue doing or is it a means to an end?
Ritchard: It’s what we’ve always wanted to do; it’s why we started making music in the first place.
Matthew: We got a taste for it this year and it’s just something we want to carry on doing. We’d like to play about 150 to 200 shows nextIMG 20111111 005391 year.
Dan: It’s just good to play live. Then when we return to the studio we’re fresh – it makes it a lot easier to write after being on the road. If you’re a musician you’ve just got to play shows it’s as simple as that.
Ritchard: Especially for us because we haven’t got an album yet, we’re still working on it. The first chance we’ve had to write new tracks has been in the last three or four weeks. That’s been since April – it’s been a long time with no writing.

With live performances are you ever surprised by the reaction to some of the songs?
Dan: I think we’re quite hard on ourselves really. We’re never really sure of tracks. Things play differently – when we’re in the studio listening to it we don’t make any judgement on the song until we play it live. There’s a couple of tracks in the set that we just thought weren’t that good – we’ve been surprised by the way some tracks have unfolded.
Ritchard: ‘Golden Blood’ is a good example.
Matthew: Yeah we didn’t really know what to make of it.
Ritchard: When we sent it to our management the day after they got back to us like, “Wow this is great.”
Dan: The song we released was actually the demo version – it was all demo vocals and background noise. It wasn’t by accident, but we didn’t think, “Right we want this kind of track.” It went a bit crazy with that one, we don’t know why!

This summer has been huge for you, Blondie, festivals, co-writing for Nicola Roberts – how does this all come about?
Dan: We set out to do one thing, then we ended up picking up things along the way, which can only be a good thing. We’ve really taken our time with stuff to turn into what we’re turning into – slowly. It’s quite easy to think you’re ready when you’re not.

What about influences? Listening to anything in particular at the moment?
Ritchard: We always struggle with this question.
Dean: We don’t listen to current music really…
Dan: I listen to pop music, I’ll admit that! We’ve got a studio where we all work every day when we’re home, and in there it’s different music all the time – at the moment it’s Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan. I had a bit of an obsession with Annie Lennox last week – ‘Broken Glass’ – couldn’t stop listening to it. Rihanna too. [To Matthew] You had a bit of a James Brown thing last week didn’t you?
Matthew: Yup.

Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with?
Ritchard: We’re up for doing anything – remixes, collaborations – but it’s not something that’s been offered to us yet.
Dean: We couldn’t collaborate with just anyone though, like a drum and bass act, that wouldn’t work.

So what are your plans for the rest of the year?

Ritchard: Well we have two more shows this year including Bristol tomorrow; we’re playing Nottingham in December too. But that’s it for the year now. Puzzle Pieces came out about two and a half weeks ago and that will be our last release of 2011. In 2012 I think we’ll be doing much of the same really. We’re hoping to cram in as many shows as we can. We’re also hoping to get an album out as early as we can in 2012 so fingers crossed for that.


The next day the band were off to Bristol, after an impressive show which clearly portrayed their experience with larger audiences – almost too big for the tiny stage King Tuts provides. My advice to labels for 2012?

Friends Electric – Puzzle Pieces by Friendselectric

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.