Numerous bands have joined the Vans Warped Tour over the years in the hopes of getting a career boost.
One of those up-and-coming bands that has benefited from the tour is Real Friends, out of Tinley Park, Ill. The group will again be a part of the Warped Tour when the final national tour kicks off at the Pomona Fairplex on Thursday, June 21.
Before signing with Fearless Records and putting out debut album Maybe This Is Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing in 2014, Real Friends had already built a fan base across the country. The band will be releasing its third album in the near future, and has already released a new single, “From the Outside.”
During a recent phone interview with bassist Kyle Fasel, he explained how Real Friends appealed to the masses before receiving label support.
“It was really all doing it independently,” Fasel said. “We didn’t have any record-label backing or anything, and we didn’t even really have any management during that time. It was just us as a band of five guys. We did our best to get the word out there. The best tool was the internet. I definitely look to the internet as the biggest tool of our success. We did some touring, and that does help, but in 2013 and even today, the internet, even among American bands—it’s such a prevalent tool.”
When labels began courting Real Friends, the band members weren’t sure what to do.
“We were definitely skeptical about signing to a label, because we were all able to quit our day jobs to do this band full-time without a label,” Fasel said. “We were looking at it as, ‘Why would we need one?’ We were definitely hesitant with Fearless and the other labels who had reached out. At the time, we were asking labels, ‘What can you do for us? We’re still growing.’
“There are questions in my head like, ‘What if we never signed? Would we still be where we are?’ I’ll probably never know the answer. But if we didn’t sign, I’d be sitting here, asking, ‘What if we did sign?’ I think that it definitely helped us, and we noticed after releasing our first album that it had reached so many people. I think retail was still sort of relevant back then. Best Buy isn’t going to even have CDs next year, but in 2014, it was still relevant, and it was crazy to see our CDs, not just in independent stores, but in places like Best Buy. It was readily available to a lot of people, and it helped us grow. We noticed a change after recording that album.”
In 2016, Real Friends released sophomore album The Home Inside My Head. It may not be the band’s best work, Fasel said.
“We wrote a lot of it while we were on tour. That was actually very stressful to write a record on the road. I feel like we were pressed for time, and I would never do that again,” Fasel said. “I don’t think any of us are really totally satisfied with the final product of that record. … We’ve been pretty open about The Home Inside My Head being a big lesson learned. It was actually the first record we did where we were properly produced as a band, because all of our EPs and full-lengths were just with an engineer. I think we leaned on that aspect too much. We thought we could go in with a producer and change them around … and it really wasn’t the case. That’s not to fault Steve Evetts, the producer, or discredit them, because they changed the songs around, but we just leaned on them too much. I don’t think it’s a bad record, but it’s not that memorable. I don’t think anyone said, ‘Wow, this is horrible,’ but I think they said, ‘I don’t want to keep listening to this over and over.’ That’s the reality of it to us.”
The new single, “From the Outside,” tackles one of the hazards of social media.
“I think it’s a topic everyone can relate to, especially in today’s age of social media,” Fasel said. “It really reflects a generation posting all these pictures where everything is fine, and life is perfect, but in reality, we all know everyone has their problems in life. At least to me, I connect the song to that. It is just a simple aspect of: ‘You think I’m OK, but I’m not.’”
Fasel said the end of the Warped Tour presents a sad reality.
“It’s the end of an era, which is really unfortunate. But I see it as everything has to change,” he said. “I think of it as the last tour of its kind, really—a traveling tour with that many dates and that many bands. It is sad, but it has to adapt to the times. They’re saying it’s the last full United States-based Warped Tour, so I’m assuming they’ll do something like a festival-based show like Riot Fest or Lollapalooza. It’s sad, but I’m excited to see where they go with it in the future.”
The Warped Tour has definitely helped out Real Friends.
“We released our first album while on the Warped Tour in 2014,” Fasel said. “I feel like our band took a couple of steps up as far as attendance draws at shows and merchandise sales, and I account a lot of that to the Warped Tour. It’s really the situation where all the kids have heard of these bands, but never listened to them, and this is going to be where they break the ice and listen to them for the first time. It’s the period at the end of the sentence for these kids in this music scene.”
Real Friends will perform as part of the Vans Warped Tour; doors open at 11 a.m., Thursday, June 21, at the Pomona Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., in Pomona. Tickets are $45 to $51. For more information, visit www.vanswarpedtour.com.