Chasing the Dreaming California: An Interview With Friday Nights

The Ken Andrews and Matt Mahaffey (Self) influences are obvious on the debut record from Los Angeles-based Friday Nights. With sonic guitar work and infectious pop hooks, Friday Nights put their own spin on the alt/pop formula perfected by their contemporaries. The result is a collaboration between two veteran musicians, Mike Castillo and Shon Kornfeld, about to burst onto the scene with their latest musical incarnation. Fishpork got a chance to talk to Mike about the band’s musical tastes, having Ken Andrews mix their record, and what else can be expected this year.

castilloFishpork: How did you guys meet up and form Friday Nights?

Mike Castillo: Shon and I met ten years ago at a little hole in the wall called Cafe Tara. I was 17 and played bass in a band called “Burning Owen”. Shon played guitar in an awesome melodic hardcore band called “Helen 55”. I fell in love with his band…I even roadied for ’em for a while. We kept in touch over the years. We both were doing solo stuff and in ’05 Shon offered to record my “best song” for free at his home studio, Moai Sounds, which he had just put together. We recorded¬† demos for the four songs that I had written. Shon also had a bunch of cool songs that he was working on. We both really dug each other’s material so we decided to combine it and form “Friday Nights”.

FP: What was the song writing process like on the album?

MC: The main bulk of the material had already been written before Shon and I started working together. For the most part, Shon’s stuff had didn’t have lyrics or melodies written yet and my stuff needed to be “produced” and arranged. For my songs, I’d basically show Shon how to play the basic song on acoustic and then let him run with it…a few days later he’d send me something back with full guitars, harmonies, bass and a basic drum machine track and I’d be like, “Fuck Yes!”. For Shon’s songs, he’d give me the demos to write lyrics and melodies to. Most of the time they had no vox but if he had an idea where he wanted to go with something, he’d lay down a scat track or a keyboard playing the melody.

FP: What bands did you guys grow up on? Who served as inspiration for Friday Nights?

MC: Everything from pop to obscure indie rock. Hum, Failure, Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine, Autolux, Self, Fountains of Wayne, The Police. We like the spacey rock a lot but we’re also suckers for a good pop hook. We’re huge fans of Steely Dan. They served as a big influence for how we do business as a band. 2 guys writing everything…any other musicians are hired or invited as needed. Fewer egos to deal with and it’s nice to have options. Sometimes one drummer sounds better on one track and another sounds better on a different track, ya know? My favorite band as a kid was Soundgarden and I’m pretty sure Shon’s was Jane’s Addiction.

FP: In an age when digital distribution is king and CD packaging is usually minimalistic, your new album’s packaging looks great. What made you guys go with that presentation?

MC: We’re still stuck in the 90s, I guess….hahahaha! We found a picture that a guy named John Watson took of the 91 freeway and we really liked it. Shon met a guy named Brad Chancellor who does killer design stuff and it just kinda came together. It was originally going to be a simpler thee panel layout but we couldn’t fit all of the lyrics and credits. The weird thing is we’ve sold about five times as many CDs as we have of the digital version. It’s had us kinda scratching our heads. We released the digital copy first and we kept getting responses from people saying “Cool! I’m waitin’ for the CD, though!”

kornfeldFP: Getting recognition for a new band can also be a struggle in a saturated market. What are you guys doing to promote yourselves?

MC: Since we’re really just two guys and we have to pay other musicians to play live, we’ve had to go about things a little bit differently. We’re just now about to start to play shows. Originally the band was going to be more of a recording project than anything. We mainly use sites like MySpace, Last.FM and to find our audience. We look for people who we think might be feeling the material and just send them a message asking them to take a listen

FP: How do you think MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools play a role in promotion these days?

MC: Well for one, free music hosting! When MySpace first came out, I remember being STOKED that you could put your music up for free! They also help you find your audience, which is important.

FP: One of our all-time favorite artists, Ken Andrews, mixed your debut record. How did you guys meet up with Ken and what was that process like?

MC: We just kind of sent his management the songs and asked if he’d be into it and crossed our fingers. We were pretty thrilled when he said yes. We never actually met up with Ken in person, even though he lives really close. He’s a really busy guy, so we’d just send the songs over with kind of an idea of what we wanted and he nailed it for the most part. Anything that he didn’t nail he’d revise for us.

FP: Were you guys fans of Ken’s former bands (Failure, On, Year of the Rabbit)?

MC: Oh yea, definitely. We’re bigger Failure fans, though.

FP: What can we expect to see in the live incarnation of these songs? When do you guys plan to tour?

MC: We’re playing our first 2 shows in June. We’ve got a great lineup of musicians, right now. We don’t have any solid plans to tour, yet. If there’s enough of a demand, we will. Otherwise, we’re just havin’ fun.

FP: What bands are you guys currently listening to? Favorite album of 2009 so far?

MC: We’re listening to a lot of And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Their newest album Century of Self is disgustingly good. We’re also in love with the new The Life and Time record Tragic Boogie.

FP: What can we expect from Friday Nights for the rest of 2009?

MC: MORE MUSIC! We’re already starting the demo process for our next EP Saturday Mournings. All of the material’s done. We’re really stoked on that. After that, we’ll probably go right into the next LP.

Mark Written by:

Avid concert goer and film buff obsessed with indie and electronic music.

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