Q&A: A First Glimpse of Your Friendly Neighborhood

Caleb Killian, otherwise known as Your Friendly Neighborhood, is an architecture grad student with a gift for creating melancholic music. After three years of production in various living rooms and garages, Killian’s debut album, Overflow is here—just in time for pensive winter drives. Complete with Bon Iver level folksy solitude and synthy production, Overflow is the breathtaking beginning of an undoubtedly long career for Your Friendly Neighborhood. 

Just as building a house requires clear direction in its construction, this album was created with thoughtful design. There are dark rooms meant for grieving, there are windows that allow in light and inspire hope and there is space left to be filled by those coming in and out. Overflow’s tasteful simplicity allows listeners to reflect on their own unique mistakes, triumphs and vulnerabilities.

Prepare to get all the way up in your feels.

Killian’s demeanor reflects his sound; humble with an openness that invites self reflection. To encounter someone with so much raw talent is rare, and to find a modest person behind all the magic is refreshing to say the least. Knowing that Killian is motivated solely by the need to substantiate the music in his head makes listening to Overflow that much sweeter.

Let’s talk about your album! Overflow is an interesting name, how did you come up with it?

It comes from the line in Psalm 23, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” It’s the most beautiful statement of gratitude in the midst of fear. So many of the Psalms are lamentations, but they’re also declarations of thankfulness. That paradox is really where a lot of things start for me; things don’t always have to agree to be true. We can experience two wholly opposite and conflicting truths simultaneously—it’s crazy and confusing and beautiful.

How long did it take you to make; were there any speed bumps?

It took nearly three years to make in the end. The bulk of the actual recording happened over the course of the last year of that time, but I ended up scrapping everything and starting over like 3 or 4 times before that. Most of the tunes were written while I was finishing up school in Montana 2-3 years ago; some of the tracks that are on the final record are actually from the original demos I recorded in Montana.

What was the recording process like? Did you do it alone?

It was sort of a guerrilla recording process. It was recorded in so many random rooms in whatever house I was in at the time with whatever instruments and gear I had laying around. But even though I spent most of my time recording alone, it was really only possible because I had a community of people in my corner rooting me on. Right when I graduated from school and was wanting to start recording, my dear friend Dave Wilton was building a new recording studio space—I helped him finish out the build and was able to sneak in before it was finished and use some of his gear to jump start the process. He also did a wonderful job mixing & mastering the record in the end.

My other good friend Caleb Friesen played all of the drums on the record; he’s an incredible player and legitimately had me in tears a few times while we were tracking. All of the horns were performed by Aaron Strumpel, and Sebastian Meyer tracked the warbly keys part on Fall in Line. Other than that, it was me making a lot of crazy noises in random spaces, most of which I ended up deleting.

How would you describe your sound to people who haven’t heard it yet?

Sad-ish music written by a happy-ish dude.

How do you intend the album to be listened to? Do you want your audience to listen to it all in order or is skipping around just as good?

As I wrote the songs, I started to put them in sequence…it was always about the album as a whole for me. I love records, I rarely listen to music a song at a time anymore. I love the craft and intentionality that goes into the composition of a record as a whole. That being said, I know I don’t have—or want—any control over how folks actually listen to it. It’ll happen how it’s supposed to happen, I’m just glad they’re listening at all!

This was clearly an emotional album to make, would you say you wrote the songs for yourself or for someone else?

I’m not sure that I could ever write for someone else. I don’t think that I could understand what someone else is thinking or feeling enough to explicitly incorporate their experience into music—that’s a lot of assumptions to make. I can only be honest with my own feelings, but I hope that that honesty might allow other folks to connect with it through their own stories.

“Hello Mire” features the lines, “Father if you hear me please. Take my breath and bind my knees. Cuz I’m staring at the tallest trees, darker than the night I fight.” These are humbling lyrics. Was there a specific event in your life that inspired you to write them?

I wrote “Hello Mire” a while before any of the other songs on the record…actually before I even knew that I wanted to make a record. I was intimidated by my own darkness, by my own apathy and failures. I was so tired and frustrated by myself being so tired and frustrated, so it was really a prayer of self-surrender. Sometimes it can feel like you’re your own worst enemy, and it was all I could hope for just to get out of my own way.

Do you have a track on the album that you listen to more than others?

Whenever I listen to the album again, all I hear is mistakes and things I want to change, so it’s really rolling the dice every time I go back…but I will say the horns and drum work at the end of “Swollen Tongue” create one my favorite moments on the record.

What got you started in music? Are you from a musical family?

My family isn’t especially musical, but my mom and grandmother were always playing the piano in the house when I was little. It’s hard to say. I think I just always loved it, so I wanted to make it.

What’s one thing your audience should know about you as a person?

I really like The Office.

How do you spend your time when you’re not making music?

I really like The Office. Also, I’m currently in grad school studying architecture which takes up most of my time and then some. I really enjoy carpentry and drawing and things that work well so that’s why I’m here. Also fly fishing.

Who are you listening to these days, is it similar to the music you make or different?

Oh man. I enjoy a lot of different stuff. I’ve been really into repetitive shoe-gazy drone music lately like William Basinski and Final. But I also love the neo-soul/R&B records that have been coming out like Douglas Dare and King Krule. Also, I recently discovered Sam Amidon, so all of his records have been on repeat…there’s a lot of incredible music out there that’s difficult and humbling and inspiring all at the same time. I could talk about it all day.

What’s next for you?

I’m trying to figure out how to balance music and school, and enjoying that I get to wrestle with that balance. The response to Overflow has been really humbling and encouraging, so any opportunity that I have to get out and play more is exciting. “There’s nothing on my horizon except everything, everything is on my horizon.” -Dwight K. Shrute