Last week, Chicago duo Friko – comprised of vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Niko Kapetan and drummer Bailey Minzenberger – announced the release of their debut LP, Where we’ve been, Where we go from here, which is set to hit shelves February 16th. The announcement came alongside their drop of lead single, “Crashing Through.” The album will come courtesy of ATO Records, home to PHILTHY phriends such as Deer Tick, Honey Harper, JOSEPH, Margaret Glaspy, Neal Francis, and Pink Mountaintops. “They were really enthusiastic about the record. And they’re just friendly, and they’ve been great to work with, letting us do the things that we wanted to do with this album,” Niko tells me of the label, during a recent Zoom chat. “It’s been really good genuinely feeling like you’re part of a team. We have that in our smaller-scheme Friko family, but with ATO now, it feels like everyone’s really working together,” Bailey adds.
Although Friko’s exact brand of indie rock can be hard to pin down, Consequence has hailed them as, “carrying on the great Chicago musical tradition of unpretentious fun,” while Paste proclaimed, “Friko are animated, direct and vividly in-sync. And the world has never needed that kind of joyous, purposeful brilliance more than it does right now.” When I ask Kapetan and Minzenberger about their own personal favorite debut LPs (whether they consider them to be direct influences or not), they mention Elliott Smith’s Roman Candle, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever to Tell, The Sundays’ Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, and Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left as albums that have definitely left a big impression on them.
Friko have previously released a handful of singles and EPs (including an Audiotree session that dropped last year), in addition to 2019’s Burnout Beautiful, a collection of demos. However, they tell me that the full-length represents an evolution of sorts for them. “With an album, it actually is cohesive in a way, whereas I feel like everything before that was just like a bunch of songs put together. This one is like a project,” says Niko, before going on to say that the process of making it was really meaningful, as well: “Just recording this record, everything came together, and at the last moment — whether it’s the songs, performances, our relations with each other — it came together right when it needed to, and it was really beautiful.”
Despite a relative lack of touring (They did play Warehouse on Watts last year.), Friko have played a handful of major festivals (SXSW, Treefort, Mission Creek Festival, Bonnaroo, Summerfest…), in addition to some of Chicago’s most noteworthy rooms, like Schubas Tavern and The Metro. However, when I ask them about some of their best shows, Niko lets me know that all different types of shows have proven to be special in some way: “Bonnaroo weekend was incredible! That was really fun. And we recently played a DIY show in Chicago, and that was really incredible.”
However, Bailey and Niko tell me that the real highlight of Friko has just been getting this chance to play together. “From the beginning of playing together, I’ve just experienced such a feeling of freedom and excitement because there’s just so much energy in the way that [Niko] writes, and such beauty, and that comes across so palpably,” says Bailey, before going on to say, “As a whole, that’s just very exciting to me. It feels like we’re all kind of one.” Niko confirms this sentiment: “It is completely mutual, because Bailey is the same way, just feeling deeply, and I think we just connect, especially when we recorded the record with our old bassist, Luke. That was probably the top overall moment for me, just as a whole.”
Niko and Bailey do have a handful of upcoming live dates, which kick off next Monday, November 27th, at our very own Kung Fu Necktie. When I ask what can be expected of the live show, which has earned the band an impressive reputation in recent years, Niko offers, “We always go all out, and then we’ve also got the really quiet ballads. We try to have it be very dynamic, whether it be from hushed ballads or the really loud, thrashy stuff.” And he tells me that 2024 will likely see Friko spending more time on the road (“We’re just gonna be playing a lot of shows. We like playing, and we wanna take friends along…”), but also admits that there’s definitely already new music coming in the near future: “We’ll be writing the next record… We want to get that going, because we’ve been playing these songs on the record live for a while now [laughs]. But, I mean, we still love ‘em!”
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