Q&A: Ships, Ping Pong, & The Making of A Viral Hit With FRENSHIP


Running across Golden Gate Park as fast as I possibly could, I swiveled in between and around people to try and reach the undulating mass ahead. From afar, it looked like a single entity, surging back and forth with an unmatched intensity. After finally reaching the edge of the seemingly singular mass, it became all the more spellbinding when, upon closer inspection, the mass was actually made up of thousands of festival-goers who were jumping and dancing around without a care in the world. 

The crowd was drawn in by FRENSHIP, an indie pop duo based in Los Angeles consisting of James Sunderland and Brett Hite. The two found major success after their single "Capsize," cowritten with Emily Warren, became a viral hit, launching the two into the musical spotlight and festival circuit. I spoke to them ahead of their electrifying performance at this year's Outside Lands to talk music, tackle the really hard-hitting questions, and witness an unexpected Mondo Cozmo drop-in.


OTW: Let's start with the question we're all dying to know. What is the best kind of ship?

James: A structurally sound forty-foot Schooner.

Brett: It's important to know that there are big ships and that there are little ships, but the best ship is-

James: A structurally sound forty-foot Schooner.

James & Brett: Sorry, sorry. The best ship is FRENSHIP.

OTW: In a time of vowel dropping as the cool band naming convention, you guys took it a step further.

J: At the time, it was kind of what everyone was doing, and we didn't feel like trendsetters so we followed. I'm just kidding.

B: Well, no, we felt like trendsetters so we dropped a consonant.

J. Right, we shook the mold up and further dropped letters.

Brett: Yeah, further letter dropping, but we allowed some letters to stay.

OTW: So let's continue with the really hard-hitting questions, are you two really friends?

J: Yeah, of course.

B: No.

J: Not anymore.

B: After five years, he still thinks that we're friends.

J: Yeah, we definitely are.

B: Brothers is a closer word.

J: Brothers is a good way to put it. I think friends are sometimes afraid to get into it.

B: Everything we do bothers the other person, but we also love them for it.

OTW: How did you two come to start making music together?

B: We were working our high-paying corporate jobs, working retail for LuluLemon. (laughter) Not high-paying, not corporate. We were kind of just hanging out every weekend, and the idea always loomed to make music together. We weren't feeling moves to work with each other for quite awhile, and then we finally did, and it seemed like we got something kind of cool. Yeah, then you just keep telling yourself you're doing good, and you find yourself five years later in this big hole that is actually kind of nice to be in.    

OTW: Both of you were separately making music before you came together as FRENSHIP. Was it in the same style that FRENSHIP currently produces?

J: I think inevitably it pulls from those a bit. At the start of it, it started originally a little close to where we came from. Brett was a singer-songwriter, and I was coming from the production/electronic side. So, naturally we just tried to ram those two together, and the result was dance/singer-songwriter stuff in a way. I think we've hopefully evolved, and graduated into better song-writing. I think inevitably it will always pull from that past–it's so hard to wipe your hands clean of all your influences from your prior projects, life.

B: Our former sins (laughter). We bring them into this.

OTW: Any major musical influences or inspirations?

J: It's hard to pinpoint it. First thing I ever got was a Sublime album in fourth grade, and I know Brett was doing a lot of hip-hop in those days. Disturbed too back in the day.

B: Tracy Chapman was big in my upbringing. We both grew up in the periphery of the music world. We loved music, but weren't doing it much.

J: I was doing it. I was a choir boy, a musical boy.

B: I'll speak for myself, but we did it here and there, but sports were the focus for both of us growing up. So, when I first started writing songs and delving into it, Ellie Goulding was just kind of coming out, and it blew my mind–just what I considered very intellectual pop. She worked with Starsmith, and I dove into that world, and that was a huge influence and entrance for me into that world of pop.

OTW: So what sports were you two playing?

B: Ping pong. I'm going to give you a serious answer one of these times, but not this time.

J: Soccer was our baby.

B: Also, it should go down in this interview that there's huge band beef between us and this guy - Mondo Cozmo.

Mondo Cozmo walks by. 

J & B: Come say hi Mr. Cozmo!

Mondo Cozmo: Really going to come heckle the shit out of you guys.

J & B: (laughter)

OTW: Loved your set earlier with all the inflatable balloons.

Mondo: Yeah, we had balloons today! We spared no expense (laughter). What time are you guys playing tomorrow?

J: 2:45 tomorrow. Are you headed out of here tonight?

Mondo: Yeah, we got to head back tomorrow morning.

B: Let the beef live on. This guy never comes to our shows.

Mondo: Look how white their shows are! Can you write about that in the article?

J: This is the last day they'll be like this, we promise.

Mondo: (laughter). Alright, see ya guys later.

OTW: So how has Outside Lands been so far? Catch anything good?

J: Yeah. I've only seen like two songs, cause it's a lot of your family and friends that come to this, so it's a lot of saying hi and catching up, but Brett saw some music.

B: I came yesterday under the radar, didn't tell anyone I was here. Little Dragon was probably my favorite thing. I'm such a fan of theirs. I saw SOHN, and he sounded great. Gorillaz were cool. We're still new to this, because this is our first festival season, so we're just loving it and soaking it all in.

OTW: "Capsize" is on its way to reach 400 million plays. Did suddenly having a viral hit change your world overnight?

J & B: Yeah, absolutely.

J: We were towards the end of money, and kind of like, "what the hell do we do next?" We had this body of work, so we thought let's just toss it out and see what happens, and honestly it was pretty organically that "Capsize" kind of just went. We owe Spotify a lot for jumpstarting it all.

OTW: So, you worked alongside Emily Warren on "Capsize." What was it like working with her?

B: Awful (laughter). Sorry, sorry! I can't even do one serious one.

J: No, she's the best. She's super talented, and we became friends very early on. She's definitely one of those unique people who can pull the most authentic, honest story out of you, and I think hopefully at the time we did that for her too. "Capsize" is the result.

OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?

B: I love LÉON. Our buddy Steven Colyer who works with our guitarist! You gotta watch out for him. Look out, that man's a freak, he's coming. We'll give our boy Mondo Cozmo a shout. I like City of the Sun. They don't sing - two guitarists and a dude plays drums. I think they're so great, and I hope we sing one of their songs one day.

J: I really like Electric Guest, they're here. SIGRID certainly. This little-known guy Sting (laughter). I really like Yoke Lore too.

OTW: Anything else you want to share with us before leaving?

J: We're going on our first co-headline tour with Bastille on the East Coast in September, and then heading back to the West Coast in October to make a run up to the coast.

B: Yeah, and we're working on a debut album that will come out sometime.

J: Sometime in a period of time that you will be there for, hopefully.