Some bands just can’t agree on the merits of Primus. Some bands just aren’t meant to spend a month at a remote cabin in Georgia in an attempt to finish their long-in-the-works debut album. Thankfully, Friday Pilots Club is both of those bands.
Formed in 2017 as a duo of vocalist Caleb Hiltunen and bassist Drew Polivick, the Chicago-based combo has grown in recent years to include guitarists Sean Burke and James Kourafas and drummer Eric Doar, whose contributions are readily apparent on Friday Pilots Club’s electrifying first full-length, Nowhere. On an album positively crammed with irresistible grooves, big riffs and even bigger choruses, its most distinctive quality might just be the varied tastes and talents of its members, demonstrating once and for all how consensus is overrated but compromise is often key.
“For me, that’s what I’m most proud of,” says Polivick, who met his bandmates while they all pursued music or music-adjacent majors at Columbia College. “We used to be a two-piece, and then we were a two-piece with these three guys. They started writing with us and playing on the songs, but it still didn’t quite feel like a band. We finally feel like this album is an amalgamation of what all of us like and what all of us believe in.”
Alluding to a previous dark period when Friday Pilots Club felt creatively stifled while signed to a restrictive major-label deal, he continues, “It has been a tough road with a lot of sacrifice, but I think we did a damned good job navigating it.”
Indeed, Nowhere boasts a wealth of sonic riches, from the delicious guitar line and earworm chorus of “Nothing or Forever,” the dance floor-ready first single “Vampire Disco” and the sleek soul ballad “Coffin,” which manages to weave in references both to prosecco and Egyptian queen Nefertiti. Songs often boil over into incendiary alt-rock workouts before evaporating back down to their elemental foundations as acoustic guitar and hushed vocals, with subtle production accents (Ween-esque pitch-shifted singing, nighttime cricket sounds) adding to the widescreen listening experience.
“I’ve been obsessed with sexy-sounding music for a long time,” admits Hiltunen, pointing to vintage favorites such as Humbug by Arctic Monkeys and Rubber Factory by the Black Keys. “But I’ve also been chasing a sound that’s a little bit more intimate. There’s a darkness to it that is not sad. It’s more moody. I don’t think we could have done that as well three years ago. There’s an undertone of it on the album which makes me really, really, really excited.”
Hiltunen credits his bandmates for not only providing constructive feedback on his own lyrics but helping write their own. “Many, many times, somebody would come to me and bei like, hey bud, not everybody wants to read Shakespeare every single time they pull up the lyrics of a verse,” he says. “Sometimes I don’t know what I’m saying, so I just throw in big words. Thankfully, everybody here is actually a really, really good lyric writer, so we could bounce things off of each other and figure out, OK, what’s the Friday Pilots Club thing to say?”
Band members point to “Vampire Disco” as the perfect synthesis of Friday Pilots Club’s sound as the calendar flips over to 2024. “It’s got Caleb’s crazy poetic, Shakespeare-ass lyrics, Sean’s crazy guitar shit, goofy synths, Eric ripping the drums and James wrote the fucking most incredible top line of all time,” Polivick enthuses. Adds Hiltunen, “it’s just fun.”
While the wait for Nowhere was at times maddening, it afforded Friday Pilots Club the opportunity to “put the song first rather than the production,” according to Polivick. “For a very long time as a band, we were focused on making crazy sounds. We couldn’t even play songs live that we were making because they were so fucking insane.” Adds Burke, “we all have a willingness to change, evolve and allow ourselves to write through trial and error. We can just … let it be, you know?”
Songs such as “We Don’t Wanna Talk About It,” the rifftastic “Nosedive” and the measured, powerful closer “Favorite Part” will soon find their places in Friday Pilots Club’s acclaimed live shows, which will this year visit some of the largest venues the band has ever played. “The guys have taught me patience because I’m a highly, highly impulsive person,” Hiltunen says. “If it was me pulling all the strings, we would have made an album five years ago and it would have been probably pretty bad. We’ve now arrived at a point where we recognized, this is what Friday Pilots Club sounds like.”
And while his bandmates haven’t been able to change Hiltunen’s mind about Primus (he says he’s heard them one too many times at the drugstore at this point), they did convince him to come with them to the aforementioned rural cabin where, promptly, all of them but Burke came down with COVID.
“Even though we were isolated together, there was an inner isolation going on,” Hiltunen recalls. “All of us were having to come in at different parts and pull weight. It wasn’t just Drew behind the computer. It was really interesting what we walked out of there with. The experience had a really big effect on this record.”
“We’d kind of been working with the title of Nowhere for the record and I’ve been trying to figure out why it felt right to me,” says Polivick. “Sometimes you end up at this place that’s not exactly what you thought it was gonna be. We all had this idea of what Friday Pilots Club was, is and will be, and it’s not that. We all thought going to Georgia was gonna go a certain way, and it didn’t, which makes you feel like you’ve ended up nowhere. But we realized ‘nowhere’ is actually a place you can live in, in that it’s maybe not the destination you wanted, but it’s the destination you’re at. There’s beauty in that somewhere.”
Publicity Contact: Lisa Gottheil