Their 2018 ‘Seatbelts For Aeroplanes’ set them on the map for success, since then they’ve been pouncing on festival line ups, taking down headline tour after headline tour and raising the bar for what can be achieved for young people in music. But there’s more than meets the eye with Brand New Friend
The Castlerock five-piece come from humble beginnings of family ties and university graduation, basically as eager and fresh-faced as they come. But I wouldn’t let their youth undermine their talents, the moment they hit the stage it’s an out of body experience watching them turn from charismatic cherubs into professional music moguls.
Today we sit with them at 2000 Trees to talk family life, breaking into the industry and touring whilst managing their education:
You guys are storming your way to the top as a smaller band, that must be insane. How does it feel? Exhausting, Exciting, both?
Lauren Johnson: ‘Well we are a bit exhausted, we had to get the ferry over from Dublin at two in the morning, got here at around six so we’re all a bit sleep deprived.’
Taylor Johnson: ‘Actually I just wrecked our van, I pulled the door off the side of our van so we don’t know how we’re gonna get home’
Lauren: ‘Potentially we might be camping, didn’t plan on it. But Taylor just ripped the door off the van so…’
Since you guys are fairly new to the scene I thought I’d hit off with a generic one, what sets you apart from the rest of the scene and why should people come out to see you?
Logan Johnson: ‘Phew, that was a good question… I don’t know!’
Lauren: ‘Thanks Logan haha, that was really helpful. Well no- I think what sets us apart from everyone else is just our positivity, we always go into everything with a positive outlook and try to make people happy with our music.’
Taylor: ‘Our tunes! our tunes are better than everyone else’s!’
Speaking of your tunes I really love that you guys have such an upbeat, positive sound that digests well. It’s music you could listen to on the drive to the beach or on a hot summers day. But there is a deeper emotional side to the lyrics, what is the song writing process for you guys?
Taylor: ‘I’m very lucky that the guys trust me to write the songs, that’s what I’ve been doing since the band started. When I bring it to everyone they’ll write their parts and that’s how a Brand New Friend's song is made. But um it’s usually just me going through some mini crisis.’
“I think we just kind of understand each other because we’ve grown up together. Some things just don’t always need to be said because we’re all on the same page.”
While I was doing a deep dive research on you guys I found out that most of the band is related, is there any kind of sibling rivalry there. Or what’s the dynamic amongst the family like “Oh hey mom, gonna be late for tea just playing a festival spot.”?
Lauren: ‘Well I think there’s no Gallagher brother situation happening just yet, we get on pretty well. When Taylor does things like accidentally pulling the door off a van sometimes it can be like “TAYLOR!” but everyone makes mistakes.’
Taylor: ‘I don’t think I could do it without these guys, it would be really awful if anyone left the band- like it would just over. ‘
Lauren: ‘I think we just kind of understand each other because we’ve grown up together and some things just don’t always need to be said because we’re all on the same page.’
Taylor: ‘I think its lovely to share an experience like that with your brother and sister, because when we walked out there I didn’t expected anyone to be at our tent. It was rammed! To be able to see that and turn around and see your siblings with you is a lovely experience, something I’ll have forever.’
What do your parents think?
Lauren: ‘They’re pretty chill. Our dad’s great, he puts in a lot of effort, he drove us here and he drags us up and down the UK when we have to do these shows. So, we might get on his nerves but he’s the best.’
I’m not sure if this is on purpose but whilst I was stalking you guys I noticed, every picture you have everyone is very serious like “oh yes we are in a band, very cool, very edge” and then Lauren is smack bang in the middle with the biggest grin. Is this on purpose, explain?
Lauren: ‘Oh my god! It’s genuinely just because I’m really bad at doing a straight face and like whenever I try and do the moody Rockstar thing I end up looking ridiculous.’
I’m seeing a lot more opportunities for girls in music. People are generally lovely and understanding towards me as a woman, as they should be.
Speaking of you Lauren, a question I’ve been asking a lot of female musicians today is about the revolution of females in band. In the past 5-10 years, myself and you have been able to get jobs in this industry we couldn’t have at one point. Do you see much change as a female in this band?
Lauren: ‘I’ve been really lucky, I think part of it is the music scene in our home of Northern Ireland where it’s a lot smaller with a real community vibe. There’s been a lot of projects to help women get into music, there’s like a hub of music in Belfast called the ‘Oh Yeah’ music center and it was opened by Gary from Snow Patrol, they do lots of projects. I was involved in one when I was 17 where I organized my own gig. It showed me “oh I can do this” and helped me get into the industry, whereas before it seemed like this mystery.
Especially where we’re from I’m seeing a lot more opportunities for girls in music, I’ve been really fortunate where I’ve never felt like it’s held me back and are people are generally lovely and understanding towards me as a woman, as they should be.
(At this point Taylor takes off his shoes)
Taylor: sorry- I just like to feel the grass between my feet.
Speaking of the Northern Ireland scene, the political climate of Northern Ireland has become very rocky with abortion and same sex laws being debated. The music scene has definitely taken influence from this, do you think it’s important for bands in that climate to be political and talk about that kind of stuff?
Taylor: ‘It’s a tough one to answer I think it depends on the individual, I mean we write songs about love and dying, you know worries that are personal to us. So, we’re not a political band but our good friends at The Wood Burning Savages who opened this festival are very political and their music is incredible. They think and say something that needs to be said, so to me it’s completely down to the band and the induvial in the band.’
Off-topic here but I saw you posted on your Facebook about graduating University, who graduated and what was that like?
Lauren: ‘Yes, that was me! I graduated in English. It was pretty intense, the past semester we were on tour for a month in February and I was doing coursework in the back of the van and reading all my texts in a rush to get everything finished.’
“I’m only 16 so I’ve been thrown into the deep end. I’m really excited.”
It’s interesting that you’re coming straight from university, you guys are very young and essentially the future of music. So, what do you think the next stages of this scene will be like?
Lauren: ‘The youngster should answer this one!’
Logan: ‘Well yeah, it’s weird cause I’m only 16 so I’ve been thrown into the deep end. I’m really excited, I think music is moving in the right direction.’
Taylor: ‘Well you’re really into Hip Hop and stuff so to see Stormzy headline Glastonbury is insane.’
Logan: ‘Yeah exactly, it’s insane to see stuff like that. I think it’s going in the right direction.’
You guys released 'Seatbelts For Aeroplanes' back in 2018. Today on your Instagram you said that this would be the last gig of that era, what’s next?
Taylor: ‘Yeah this is our very final gig of that era, we have a new EP ready to go. Should we say how many tracks it is? We haven’t been saying.’
Lauren: ‘This might be exclusive I don’t know.’
Logan: ‘How many is there, like seven tracks?’
Taylor: ‘Yeah so, we were asked to do just like a three-four track EP and we had so many songs ready for our second album which we’re holding back on. We thought you know what? let’s just record them. So, it’s going to be a seven track EP, whether that’s a mini album or an EP is up for you to decide.
Brand New Friend are set to release an EP this September, their current release 'Seatbelts For Aeroplanes' is available for streaming.
Interview - Yasmin Summan
Live Photos - Sam Robinson Photography