The mixtape masters behind Friendzone get by with a little help from their...you know
If you live in the Bay (or own a computer), you’ve probably heard of Oakland “cloud rap” duo Main Attrakionz via its breakthrough summer mixtape 808’s & Dark Grapes II. You may, however, be less familiar with the visionary producers behind two of the mixtape’s most spaced-out, hypnotically chill tracks, “Perfect Skies” and “Chuch.” Allow me to introduce you to the East Bay’s James Laurence and Dylan Reznick, a.k.a. Friendzone.
Laurence and Reznick began making music together in Destroy Tokyo, an early incarnation of experimental synth-poppers Religious Girls. After parting ways with the band, the pair started collaborating on electronic endeavors. “The first songs we wrote together were really emotional, uptempo electronic pop songs,” says Reznick. “Our sound never stays the same for very long.”
“We’re influenced by all types of music; early ‘90s rave, hip-hop, foreign pop music, shoegaze,” says Laurence. “Our sound is a mash-up of everything we listen to.” Indeed, listening to Friendzone is like popping a handful of codeine, sinking into a beanbag chair, and setting a satellite radio to worldwide scan. The pair lists footwork music masterminds DJ Nate and DJ Elmoe, Japanese producer Uyama Hiroto, and Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart as a few of its influences.
Friendzone has released a host of mixtapes on its Tumblr, all of which meander on a thugged-out, ambient journey through the cosmos and back in about half an hour. “Our earliest mixtapes were just collections of songs we liked, but chopped [and] washed out,” says Laurence. “Kuchibiru Network was the first mixtape filled with tracks by our friends and collaborators along with genres we enjoy like J-pop, footwork, and ambient music.” Kuchibiru Network 2, a mix exclusively featuring artists connected with the band, drops this week.
Though Friendzone’s mixtapes, instrumentals, and remixes stand on their own, the band’s collaborations with rappers from Oakland to Japan have further piqued the curiosity of hip-hop heads. “We were just really inspired by a lot of the new music coming out of the rap scene, and sort of naturally started making 70 bpm compositions and working with rappers,” says Reznick.
Laurence was a fan of Main Attrakionz so he reached out to Sqaudda B (one half of the duo) on Twitter. “Once he found out we were local, he was more than happy to come over and work on some tracks with us,” says Laurence. “Whenever we have a session with them it’s sort of magical,” says Reznick. “They just show up, roll some blunts, quietly listen to whatever beats we have ready, [and] have a full song written within 15 to 20 minutes. [They] record all of their verses in one take, every time. It’s awe-inspiring.”
Friendzone is currently releasing a new song every week on Tumblr, and will put out an LP of collaborations with Main Attrakionz and Shady Blaze in early 2012. “[Working with rappers is] just what we’re into right now,” says Reznick. “We'll continue to release non-collaborative music, as well as collaborations with artists from any style that inspire us.”
"Perfect Skies," indeed: