“My favorite thing about us is that it’s hard to figure out who we sound like.”
So reveals Matthew Meade, guitarist/co-vocalist for Brooklyn’s wonderfully enigmatic Friend Roulette. Rounded out by Julia Tepper, John Stanesco, Tlacael Esparza, Kyle Olson, Brighid Greene and Nate Allen, the group — a violin/bass clarinet/EWI/two-drummer cacophony of sound that effortlessly veers from chamber pop to noisy orchestral experiments — has earned comparisons to everyone from Van Dyke Parks to Scott Walker to Aaliyah.
Born out of an earlier musical project, Matthew and Julia initially conceived of Friend Roulette as something “just for fun” while the guitarist was recovering from a car accident. But the band soon took a life of its own: Stereogum said the band was “bursting with imagination.” USA Today noted their “glistening orchestral sounds you don’t often hear in indie rock.”
On the band’s new album I See You. Your Eyes Are Red, off-kilter ideas abound. “Dutch Master” is theatrical: “Gardens Tiding” is almost jazz. Harmonies between Tepper and Meade abound, often at odds with the dissonance behind them and the rather dark lyrical content.
You can hear the band growing musically here. Credit, in part, goes to the EWI (eee-wee, or “Electric Wind Instrument”), the province of band member John “Hot Juan” Stanesco. “It’s become quite the attraction,” admits Tepper. “It changed the dynamic of our sound. ”
To truly experience the unpredictable wonderment of Friend Roulette, seem them live. Sometimes, it’s just Julia and Matt; others, it’s a full group experience with a rotating line-up, dancers, projectors and whole new arrangements.
“It’s fun to enjoy music when it makes you feel a lot of different ways,” says Tepper. “With us, there are so many different things going on. You’re not sure what to look out for, but you find yourself engrossed.”