A series of surprise listening parties in their home city of Chicago, IL announced the imminent release of Composure (iTunes, Spotify), the third studio album from Real Friends. Featuring 10 tracks of unforgettable pop-rock hooks, this really does feel like the group’s best effort to date. We caught up with bassist, songwriter and all round nice guy Kyle Fasel as they perform on this year’s final Warped Tour across the US to discuss the new album, lyric writing, coping with mental health issues within the band.

You’re currently on Warped Tour across the States. Where are you right now and how is everything?
Kyle Fasel: We are on our way to Nashville on an off day today, doing some press stuff with the Humane Society who help dogs and animals, which will be fun. The tour is going great, hot, sweaty, gross and great all at the same time! We’ve played Warped many times now, probably too many times, but we’re getting through it!

After the initial and well-deserved success of your first album, Maybe This Place Is Just The Same And We’re Just Changing, would it be fair to say the 2017 follow-up Home Inside My Head wasn’t quite that springboard you had hoped for?
Fasel: Yeah definitely, and we’ve been really open about that. It’s not even like its a bad album, (however) to me I hear that album and think “yeah it sounds alright, it sounds nice, but do you want to listen to it over and over? No, Not really.” And that really opened our eyes a lot to wanting to create something as memorable as possible.

Watch the official music video for “From The Outside” taken from the third studio album Composure.

Which obviously led onto the writing and recording of Composure. Tell me about when you started work on that and how the album developed.
Fasel: We started writing at the end of 2016 just throwing around some ideas. It’s a very slow process at first, but we actually wrote all the vocal melodies at the studio, so those were the last thing. There was this urgency behind it which made them turn out better, we didn’t over think them, we were just like “alright that sounds good” that’s it, and not lingering on it for too long. But the music was definitely written a while before the vocals. We started recording most of it in January 2018, but we did also go in and record for 2 weeks in September 2017 just to get a head start & work out a couple of ideas.

The earlier recording session you refer to, was that when you went into the studio with Andrew Wade (A Day To Remember, Neck Deep, Wage War) and A Day To Remember vocalist Jeremy McKinnon?
Fasel: No, that was different, that was done in October 2017 and that was really just a writing session with them, which was inspired by an idea Dave (Knox) our guitar player had, and we reached out to Jeremy (McKinnon) and he was totally down to do it and it was really cool. It’s great hearing a different perspective on things. I feel like we’ll definitely do some more stuff in the future, it really does open your eyes to different ideas and things you wouldn’t think of.

Who helped you with production in the actual recording sessions of Composure?
Fasel: We recorded with Mike Green (The Aces, All Time Low, Paramore), who’s just the best. We have nothing but great things to say about him, he’s great at what he does, he has a great ear for melody and overall song structure, and he’s just a phenomenal musician. He knows music theory and just everything. He’s one of those people when he starts playing the guitar, your just like “I suck, I’m terrible!” But I think that Mike is able to bring something out of us that only he could. It’s in there, it’s ours, but he is able to dig down deep and get more memorable songs out of us.

Composure was released on July 13th via Fearless Records, a division of Concord Music Group, Inc.

Traditionally you have written the majority of lyrics across the first few albums. This time around it feels like Dan had much more of an input. Would that be fair to say?
Fasel: Dan and I wrote probably about half and half lyrically. Dan’s lyrics touch upon the things he’s been going through over the years with his mental health and his diagnosis of Bipolar, and there’s a lot of emotions that go into that. As far as my lyrics go, they are just about close relationships, family and self-reflection, which applies to all the other albums too. It’s just a reoccurring theme about change as you get older, self-reflection and not picturing yourself to be here. I never thought I’d be here at almost 30 years old!!

I think a big theme on this album for both my lyrics and Dan’s is kinda like uncertainty, not really knowing where to be. Am I supposed to be here? Am I supposed to be doing this with these people? There’s definitely a lot of uncertainty.

Back in March 2018, you took the difficult decision to cancel all the international touring you had booked in order for Dan to get treatment for his mental health. I’m curious to know how the rest of you as a band coped with that difficult period.
Fasel: We were very sympathetic to it, but at the same time, we weren’t just sitting there saying were all 100% ready to go, like Dan’s the only issue here. We were all feeling things, we were all spent and a lot of it did have to do with Dan’s behaviour and around that it did take a toll on everyone. Seeing someone that’s close to you, the singer of your band, kinda being in a bad spot is emotionally tolling and I think we were all ready (his issues aside), we all needed a break.

I literally went almost 2 months without thinking about the band at all, we didn’t update our social media, I didn’t answer any emails, we literally told everyone including management we need time to ourselves. Dan needs his time and we need our time to focus on our personal lives. I think a lot of people don’t know that, but it was a collective thing. It wasn’t just Dan’s issues. We’ve been doing this the whole time for 5 years now so it was a much-needed break. Everyone got some headspace and I think now, reflecting on that time, we are stronger than ever now because we are truly recharged as a band, ready to go for this new album.

I bet the band was “Smiling on the Surface” when they released this lyric video.

That freshness really does come across when you listen to the album. Do you have a favourite song from the record?
Fasel: I’d say “From The Outside” is my favourite if I had to pick one, because I really like that it’s very different for us. The chorus and melody is so different, but it works. Then there’s another song on the album called “Hear What You Want”. I really like that one, its got a really upbeat energy and reminds me of what I listened to 10 years ago with its more pop-rock feel, so I’m really into that one as well.

You held 3 surprise listening parties for your fans in and around Chicago a few weeks back. It seems you’re highly respected in and around your home city. Is that sense of home and belonging important to you as a band?
Fasel: Yeah, we wanted to make more of an effort with giving these fans that were there at the beginning of our popularity and making them feel a little more part of the band. So, that was the thing with the listening parties. We wanted everyone to hear the album first from our area and know about them first.

What are your plans post-Warped Tour? Are we going to see a return to Europe anytime soon?
Fasel: We are not doing any overseas touring until next year. With everything going on, we wanted to have space in between the tours just to have a buffer. So, we’re doing Warped then having a break and doing a US tour in the fall and then hopefully heading to the UK early next year.