The young, upcoming Northern Irish band Brand New Friend is capturing the attention of many influential music industry movers and shakers with their bright-eyed, enthusiastic musical fare. On April 27th they will release their debut an album loaded with vigorous abandon and heartfelt earnestness. The release displays a band beginning to climb the rungs on the ladder to a successful musical career. An opportunity the band never expected to happen. In a music business environment that is seemingly adverse to developing young bands, Brand New Friend looks to buck the trend building significant anticipation in the music industry for their debut.
Brand New Friend has traveled an unlikely path to their current status. Northern Ireland, specifically Castlerock on the northern coast is not exactly a musical hotbed for young talent, never the less founding brother and sister Taylor and Lauren Johnson might just have found a route to pop success. Brand New Friend’s founding started with Taylor being given his first guitar as a reward for some worthy GCSE grades. Soon after that event Taylor and his sister, a classically trained vocalist and pianist, started the band. The two put out Brand New Friend’s first EP in 2016 as a duo. Bassist Aaron Milligan and drummer Luke Homs approached the duo about joining the band. As new band members Milligan and Homs would in turn provide the additional punch and energy the band soon adopted as a trademark. Brand New Friend started by playing at local cafes and musical venues and has ended up signed with a record label and on the cusp of a debut album and tour. The foursome completed their first Irish tour in 2017 selling out shows in Belfast and playing a number of festivals. BBC Radio Ulster has shown consistent love giving the band solid support and Phil Taggert of Radio One is a major booster of the band on his Across the Line program. After the band signing to Xtra Mile Records they entered the recording studio with producer Rocky O’ Reilly and settled down to record. Seatbelts for Airplanes chronicles the rollercoaster ride all the members have encountered as they experience their first taste of adulthood and first proper grown up relationships. Captured on the release are the growing pains that accompany adulthood matched with a musically audacious exuberance that is utterly contagious.
Seatbelts for Airplanes kicks off with Mediocre At Best which gives every indication of the band’s intent. It is catchy as hell and loaded with almost uncontained energy, vibrancy and explosive uplift. The song is an inspired amalgam of groups like Drowners and Everclear. The song’s theme is about wanting the best for someone you love and not being sure you are it. Moving along the title track Seatbelts for Airplanes is amphetamines for your ears. This glorious pounding rocker is loaded with hooky guitars as it gives an honest exposition on the push me/pulls me of relationships. It evinces the understanding that our ultimate romantic dream is not realistic, “I know I was never your everything, but I hoped I was something.” The track, I was an Astronaut really emphasizes the band’s skill at producing brief tracks loaded with impact akin to a punk ethos. Their songs on the surface can seem merely stylistic but then the substance of deeper examinations of relationships and their lasting impressions engages. “I was an Astronaut” is the personification of their skill to achieve commonality with lyrics like, “You’re just like me hanging on.”
Numerous tracks on the album are uncomplicated, invigorating rockers that examine the age-old questions of what is love. Often the lyrics ponder if it is better to hold out for the dream of a perfect soulmate or to be realistic and make the best of what life and love hands you. This all transpires over razor-sharp guitar riffs, inspired vocals and thumping rhythms. The stand out tracks are Milk Chews and Sleep On My Floor. “Milk Chews” changes things up from the band’s initial signature structure with a song that is more percussive and has an early The Police modified reggae vibe. “Sleep on My Floor” is loaded with aggressive guitars and will make for a great live track with the catchy sing-along chorus. This midtempo track points out how part of growing up is the growing out of our unrealistic idealism, “we all sold out; got a job …we all played the game." These facts would at first make life seem pointless, however, the point is made that life is worthwhile because of those people who inhabit our lives. The fresh approach the band takes with this subject matter breathes new life into a relatively stale sentiment.
The final two tracks on the album show tremendous promise and possibly a glimpse into the future direction of the band. The Blame takes the usual breakup song and turns it in on itself. Where usually this type of song places the blame for a failed relationship on the other person, here the narrator puts the fault on himself. He also examines how futile assigning blame is for anyone involved in a breakup. The accompaniment features a nice build as the slow-paced intro cranks into a satisfying anthematic climax showing the band understands a building song cycle. This skill will serve them well as they develop as songwriters. The final track The Cold sets the band up again for the future. It is engaging to pick out the various musical influences throughout.” The Cold” contains an off-kilter alternative structure that makes it singularly engaging displaying a possible pathway for future releases.
What Brand New Friend accomplishes on Seatbelts for Airplanes is establishing a beachhead from which to continue their attack on musical success. The release is a slammer that leaves the listener breathless in the wake of their musical onslaught of supernova pop fare. If I have one minor criticism it is that less would have been a bit more. Each song is excellent but a song or two could have been dropped to deliver even more impact, but that is just a minor quibble. Brand New Friend had immense potential and all the tools are there for a promising musical career. Their ability to initially grab the listener with their explosive uplift and then engage them with their earnest insight is priceless. Seatbelts for Airplanes is an invigorating debut, make sure to avail yourself.