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Drew Friel Talks Merseyside Music, Psychedelic Trips & what Lies Ahead

1. Can you share the inspiration behind your debut single, "Breakfast Bar," both lyrically and musically? What led to the unique combination of acoustic guitar, drum machine, and synths in the song?

At its core, Breakfast Bar is an acoustic Indie Folk song. The drum machine combined with the acoustic guitar was inspired by classics like Blur’s Coffee and TV and Grandaddy. The synths and glitchy production are a key part of the arrangement, reflecting the psychedelic themes of the song. The idea was that the production would have a subtle, dark undertone, that would then transform into the crescendo of synths in the Middle 8.

2. The lyrics of "Breakfast Bar" suggest a challenging experience, particularly during a psychedelic trip in Seattle. Could you delve deeper into the story behind the song and how it reflects your personal journey?


Me and my mate went to Seattle and it was a novelty that weed was legal over there. We each took an edible, but things quickly went west and the song comes from waking up in the morning and trying to figure out what the fuck just happened.


Whenever I’d talk to people about the song, they’d often share a similar experience that they’d had, usually in Amsterdam. For a lot of people, that puts them off trying anything on the psychedelic spectrum again. But I’ve always found those experiences make the experimentation more intriguing. I find it tends to bring up things that you need to address in your sober life.


3.The press release mentions influences from artists like Mitski, Metronomic, and others. How have these artists shaped your musical style, and what elements do you intentionally incorporate into your own work?


There’s a certain type of songwriter that I have a lot of admiration for; Mitski, Bill Callahan, Frankie Cosmos and Aldous Harding. I admire the craft of their writing. Mitski has a line on a recent album: “I always thought the choice was mine, and I was right, but I just chose wrong”. That song “Working for the Knife” is  using the songwriting form to reflect on songwriting and being a professional musician. I’ve always enjoyed the playfulness that comes with refencing songwriting., I’m obsessed with Bill Callahan’s Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest which touches on the same subject-matter. Thematically, I love how these artists manage to be self-reflexive without navel-gazing. And in terms of the craft of song-writing, the songs feel like they’ve been so carefully and lovingly constructed. I admire both of those aspects and try to do the same in my own writing.


4. Collaborating with Rob Whiteley on production must have been intriguing. How did this collaboration come about, and what did Whiteley bring to the project in terms of sound and production?


Me and Rob worked together in a band a good few years back. Rob takes a strong role in production and helps to really shape the song. He has this real talent for keeping a song engaging and interesting throughout, finding the right musical elements to keep you intrigued and wanting to hear more. Also, Whitewood studios has an incredible array of synths, guitars and amps, Rob once told me that someone had said it was “better equipped than Abbey Road” and I can believe that.


I like Rob’s work with BC Camplight in particular, and there’s something of the complementing surreal song writing with surreal production that Rob is very talented at.


5. With the upcoming "Toby Carver EP" set for release, what can listeners expect from the EP, and how does "Breakfast Bar" fit into the broader narrative of this upcoming release?


I’m proud of the EP because it does feel like a cohesive whole. There’s lyrical and instrumental themes that run throughout. At the core of the EP is a set of acoustic guitar songs, but with layered production beyond that, and a few appearances of a classic squeezebox.


Breakfast Bar is the opening track of the EP, and its unsettling feeling gives way to the paranoia of You Never Give Me ur Money. The title of the EP comes from the closing track Your Top Ten List, which wraps up some of themes of music’s role in stabilising identity. It’s coming out in Spring 2024 and I can’t wait to share it,


6.As someone active in the Merseyside music scene, how has the local scene influenced your music, songwriting, and overall approach as an artist?


It’s a great scene over here; small enough to be knowable, but big enough to be interesting. It feels like there’s something exciting happening here at the moment. Birkenhead is having a renaissance via venues like Future Yard and Bloom, and there’s a lot of great up and coming artists – Trout, Bill Nickson, All Madura, Astles, Louie Miles, and everyone at Klof – it’s an exciting place to be!


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