FRND CRCL Explore What It Means To Be Suburbanites On New LP 'Suburban Dictionary' [Q&A] | THE NOISE
Pop-punk trio FRND CRCL, comprised of brothers Zac Johnson (Guitar, Vocals), Nick Johnson (Bass Guitar), and Aaron Smith (Drums, Vocals), have released their third studio album, Suburban Dictionary. The record is influenced by the early aughts, their genre's golden days featuring angsty and defiant sonics punctuated by jagged guitar riffs and sparklingly-polished vocals.
Suburban Dictionary is a deep dive into the discontent of growing up through the lens of the suburban teenager, honing in on an emo-tinged view of entrapment and boredom. Starting with "7AM" and delving into social issues, love, and mental health, FRND CRCL's depiction of suburban life is a relatable take on the classic emo-esque storyline of fitting in, standing out, growing up, relationships, gossip, and much more throughout the 14 track narrative.
The juxtaposition between the instrumentals reminiscent of peak 2010s pop-punk and heavy lyrics brings a familiar, nostalgic feeling back to the surface with each profound pop-punk anthem. With fresh, catchy melodies, anthemic choruses, and guitar breakdowns, the progression of songs and the overall concept encapsulates the band's evolution, summarizing FRND CRCL while defining their signature urban punk and imaginative sound. With melodic, hypnotizing centerpiece "Don't Wait Up" paired with anthemic cuts like "No Bad Days," "ADHD," and "Orange Tang," FRND CRCL have taken an incredible leap in artistry on Suburban Dictionary.
"People ask us all the time what FRND CRCL means" shares the band. "You're the realest version of yourself when you're with your friends; this album is for those who relate to their friends more than the life around them… whether that be their home life, society, in their newsfeed or on tv."
The Noise got to chat with the trio about the multi-faceted album, what they hope their fans get out of it, and their best advice to their past selves.
First of all, congrats on the release! How are you feeling knowing people are listening to Suburban Dictionary? Which unreleased song were you most excited for people to hear?
ZJ: "WYNWM," (when you're not with me), because it's such a powerful song for me. I really like the way the overall structure came together. The vocal elements are sexy
NJ: Stoked! The album intro "No Bad Days" is a banger, for sure!
AS: "Orange Tang" was a song that I thought our audience would really enjoy. It has many different elements to it and it shows people what we are trying to create with our band.
I really loved your last record, Internet Noise, and just how raw it was. How do you feel the two records differ, or does this album feel more like a continuation of what y'all have been doing?
ZJ: In a way, it feels like a continuation because when I write an album, I'm always pouring over the tracklist and making sure it all fits together like a puzzle. Some are more complex than others. On the flip side of that, it feels like every project we do gets more streamlined. Our sound is more defined. For Suburban Dictionary, I wanted us to make a conscious effort to solidify a common theme. I love Internet Noise, but I think across the board as an album… these songs are tie together a lot better.
NJ: Internet Noise is sick; it has intense musical themes and heavy-hitting sections, and the singles are still some of my favorite tracks to play live. Suburban Dictionary hits a little different, the songwriting feels like it's more focused - Zac and Aaron took charge of this project and created FRND CRCL's finest work IMO
AS: I think Internet Noise was a record that I feel we experimented a lot with and ran through many filters to get what we were looking for. Suburban Dictionary at its core is what Zac and I do best, write catchy ass pop-punk tunes that are filled with energy where we can emulate that live.
What does the album's title mean to you, and how does that meaning carry over into the record? (unless you thought it sounded cool, which is also fine!)
The significance is that it was written as a window into what life is like for the average person; It's serious in that manner, but it's also a funny play on the website Urban Dictionary. Much like the average person, we tend to find humor in otherwise shit situations and make the best of it. I suppose that's kind of what this record is. It's an inside look at what it's like to be a commoner, a suburbanite, if you will.
What was the most challenging aspect of making the LP? Did you encounter any writer's block? Was there one song that was hard to nail down in production? How did you go about working through it?
ZJ: I think just getting through the lineup changes. It left a lot more responsibility on us as songwriters, and I'm grateful for the silver lining it's left behind. I feel like we're stronger songwriters and musicians than we ever were before, and it's really going to show on what's to come.
AS: I agree with what Zac is saying. We had just literally half the band and important members at that. Zac and I wanted to come out strong with this new music to show that FRND CRCL is still stronger than ever, and in itself was still nerve-wracking in a way!
What is your favorite music moment on this record? That can mean anything it means to you, like your favorite guitar part, breakdown, or your favorite lyric on the album.
ZJ: “Orange Tang”'s bridge vocals and guitar breakdowns are literally just SEXY if I do say so myself. I've never turned myself on so much before.
AS: I am proud of how the ending of "No Bad Days" came to be. It was a struggle to figure out what we wanted to do so that it gave the album the proper introduction it deserved.
The album dives into many heavy topics like social issues, love, and mental health. How do you stay grounded in those moments of creation so that the message comes across in the music without becoming melodramatic but also not being so restrained that it's apathetic?
Why the music of course! I love a fun-sounding song with heavy lyrics; It makes me smile when I play it. To me it portrays the message that "we all go through some shit" but we make it out alright on the other side. That's why we ended the album with "Alright."
What would be your favorite track on the record if you had to pick? My top two were probably "No Chill" and "Golden!"
ZJ: It's interesting you picked those two because they've gained so much MORE traction since the album dropped! My personal favorite would have to be “ADHD.”
NJ: “7AM”/ “No Bad Days” for the win.
AS: “Orange Tang” is my favorite off of this record. So many different elements going on in that song in which I love! “Golden” is also growing on me more and more over time!
As I said before, this record tackles many weighty topics. Of course, music is subjective, and everyone will get something different out of it, but what is one thing you hope people take away from it?
ZJ: That they're seen and heard. I've had people reach out or write reviews about how these songs applied to their lives in ways I wasn't even imagining while writing the record, and I absolutely love that.
Which song is your favorite to play live right now?
ZJ: Agh they're all so fun and packed with energy! I think Kids will pop tf off when we do play it, but for right now I'll say “Fuck California” because the whole room is chanting fuck california with us.
NJ: Ah yes, as the live bassist - we have some fun surprises in store for our fans with "No Chill" in the setlist. They're all so good and so much fun to play live, it's hard to pick one!
AS: Clinically Insane is surprisingly my favorite to play live right now! The chorus has that high energy that resonates well with the crowd!
What would you like to experiment more with in the future?
ZJ: Acoustic, Hip Hop, and rhythmic dynamics but with lightning speed ha (sorry Nick and Aaron)
NJ: Acoustic songs, incorporating more instruments.
AS: I agree with Nick that acoustic sounds are something we'd like to experiment more with.
If you could give a piece of advice to your past self from the beginning of your journey as an artist, what would you say?
ZJ: Keep writing!
NJ: You're doing great kid, don't quit now.
AS: Enjoy the ups and downs that come with the journey cause there will be both! Take time to realize the enjoyment you get of being on stage with your friends!
Do you have a message for the fans that might be reading this article?
ZJ: Thank you for listening and for tuning into The Noise! If you cared enough to read this, we'd love to have you come out to a show!
NJ: Thank You !!!!!!!!!!
AS: We always appreciate the support from everyone. Very grateful for the love we have received throughout our time as a band.