Emerging Brooklyn band The Echo Friendly is a name you may start hearing more often. They’ve gotten recent recognition for having their song “Same Mistakes” in the closing credits of the fourth Girls episode, but they also have a band and life philosophy more withstanding than that. In a conversation with band members Jake Rabinbach and Shannon Esper, we talk about their mumblecore sensibilities, and how their real life relationship and what’s important to them has inspired their music.
Kelly Knapp: When did you guys start making music as The Echo Friendly?
Jake Rabinbach: Well, our first show in New York as The Echo Friendly was almost exactly a year ago. Shannon and I started the entertaining the idea of singing duets together in Fall 2010. That’s when we first started thinking about it and I started writing some songs for us.
KK: Is that how it all came about – you guys were already friends and decided to start a band?
JR: Shannon and I made a movie together in the summer of 2009 called Open Five, directed by my friend Kentucker Audley. Kentucker and I wrote it together, and I acted in it, and so did he, and then we cast Shannon. Shannon and I also went to the same elementary school and Jr. high school in Montclair, NJ.
KK: Oh, so you guys go way back.
Shannon Esper: We weren’t really friends, but we knew each other.
JR: Yeah, we were in jazz band together – Shannon played flute and I played guitar. So, she was recommended to me by somebody else we cast in the film. I was looking for a really strong female lead that I believed I would be attracted to in real life. So the other person in the film recommended her, and I knew her so I emailed her, and that’s how we met.
SE: That’s how we met, and then we were friends, and then we dated, and then we stopped dating, and then we started dating…
JR: And I basically was trying to…we were dating, but we’ve always have a sort of turbulent time. I was sort of looking for a way for us to communicate, really, and to get Shannon to come over to my house. I had this one song called “Boats,” that I was working on, and I had been on tour with this band called Francis and the Lights for a long time, and “ Boats” was the first song that I wrote when I came home from being on that tour, and I had done some recording with my old band, and I wanted to start new. I wrote the first half of “Boats” and I saw Shannon, and we went to a record fair, and I made a joke about her singing with me, and she was like, no wait, seriously? And then I said I had already written a song, which wasn’t true. I had already written half a song, and then I went home and I wrote a verse for her to sing, so she would come over. That was Sunday, so she would come over on Wednesday, and then I wrote another one in between so we’d have more time together. So, there was an urgency for me to try to get more songs together so Shannon would hang out.
KK: And is being in the film world with Open Five how you know Girls Lena Dunham?
JR: That is actually how I know Lena. I met Lena because Kentucker was in New York casting Open Five, and she was a fan of Team Picture, his first movie, and they did a short together called Family Tree, and Lena sent her first feature form Oberlin called Creative Nonfiction, and Kentucker and I loved it, so we wanted to see her and hang out with her in New York. This was in summer 2009, before Tiny Furniture came out. We hung out, and talked about making movies, so we knew each other from that.
SE: And she was a fan of Open Five.
JR: Yeah, she was really into Open Five, so I emailed her our music video for “Same Mistakes,” and just said hi, this is what I’m working on, haven’t seen you in awhile, looks like you’re doing great! And she loved the song and wanted to use it, which was an unbelievable blessing for us.
KK: It’s kind of perfect for the show (Girls).
JR: It’s amazing. I couldn’t think of a better placement, and I just feel really lucky.
SE: When we were in SXSW and saw their hastag, #mistakesgirlsmake we were like, yes!
KK: What was the inspiration behind the song “Same Mistakes”?
SE: Mainly, everything’s effed.
JR: Yeah, I was upset, I was beating myself up, and I was sitting in my bedroom, which was the backroom of my mom’s office, where I lived for a while, where I wrote most of our songs. I literally was so angry and upset, mainly about things with (Shannon), and I just said, I’m going to write the dumbest thing I could possibly write. I’m going to write something that no body will ever hear, that I thought was just stupid for me, in that moment. I wrote two verses – the first two - and I played it for Shannon a couple days later, and she was like, that’s the best one you ever wrote.
SE: We are definitely recording that, it is so good!
JR: And I really wouldn’t have known. I really would have just not even played it for anybody. It was for us to sing and I played it for her. Then I wrote the other verse about my friends being a drag and that was just stuff that we were talking about. Like, for a while your friends all want to hang out late and party, and have a good time, and then they all get into relationships. And when all your friends get into relationships – and for me especially; I was living on the upper west side, far from all my friends in Brooklyn, and I felt really isolated. I was just like, everybody is fucking in relationships, they all want to go to bed early, I stay up till 4 or 5 a.m. Shannon was the only other person who was up late and was also single, and going through hard times, and trying to be an artist. She was the only person I really could connect to at that time. I think that’s a lot of what the song is about too. As much as it’s about everything being effed, it’s about us finding each other, and we share that feeling.
KK: That’s really great, because it’s a simple concept but something that everyone feels at some point.
JR: Yeah, I think often, that’s the best thing. Those are my favorite songs. My favorite pop songs are super simple. It’s nice that everybody likes it so much.
SE: We knew they would, though.
JR: I guess so. For a long time I had lost hope, because we released it as a single last summer, but now people are writing on Twitter that they feel less alone, and they feel understood, and it’s making their day better and helping them sleep. I’m overcome, that’s amazing. If we can do that, we don’t have to do anything else. That’s what I’m trying to do, is just have that conversation with a lot of people.
KK: Do you have an album that the song is on, or just the single?
JR: Yep, we do. Nobody’s heard it yet. It’s not out. It’s an album about our relationship, and our ups and downs, and what we’ve been through together. It’s all really personal, factual, 100% - I don’t think I made up anything.
KK: Is your relationship your main inspiration?
JR: I mean, at a certain point, I felt like I didn’t know how to write songs. I was feeling sort of lost, and I was like, I think the only thing I can do here is just say what happened. And if I say what happened, then they’re not bad lyrics. I started doing that, and it became easier and easier. I write Shannon’s parts in the songs, but she writes - we would be up late on g-chat or hanging out or something, and I would really try to get her to…one time I asked her to write me an email, and just say something you’ve never said to me before.
SE: And the band almost broke up.
JR: It was devastating, horrible.
SE: But we wrote a really beautiful song.
JR: Yeah, so I really just started taking facts from our life. Sometimes that was hard, sometimes that was awesome.
KK: Did the things that you never said before end up in a song on the album?
SE: They did end up as a song but that song’s not on the album.
JR: It’ll come out someday.
KK: Is that something that you think differentiates you guys from most other bands?
SE: I think. I don’t know another band that does this.
JR: We’re really big over-sharers, which I think is more in common with mumblecore movies; the way I write lyrics. That’s like when I read a Tao Lin book, I feel like, whoa, that’s really saying exactly what happened in this really simple, beautiful way. I would definitely aspire to do that; that’s what I would like to do. It’s not literary, and I don’t even think of it as confessional, it’s a conversation. I don’t think there are really other bands that are doing that right now. I don’t know, I’ll probably start writing different kinds of lyrics soon. Even if you get toward the songs that were at the end of the record, I’m starting to branch out into larger concepts, but I really for a long time just felt like I don’t know what else to say. I have nothing else to say, except exactly what happened. I don’t know how to talk about this any other way, especially if she (Shannon) was going to be there and be a part of it. I can’t get away with making shit up and just having it be my perspective if she’s going to be singing it. I have somebody else that I have to account for, it’s not just my thoughts…which is challenging, and frustrating, and also the reason that I’ve been able to write as many songs as I have. It’s like a set of parameters.
SE: The craziest thing is just how well we know each other. He’ll send songs to me and I’m like, I don’t even remember saying that, but I know I said that, and now here it is in this song and I’m going to say it again, so many times. Fuck!
KK: So when is this album coming out?
JR: We don’t know yet. We’d like it to come out as soon as possible, but we want it to be right. We want as many people to hear it as possible.
KK: Are you planning more shows, some touring?
JR: Yeah, we want to do it all. The goal is to tour and have a relationship with our fans, and do something meaningful. We went from a week ago not really being sure who was going to listen. Now, there’s people who seem interested in hearing our music, and we want to tour and get this new album out.
KK: Who else are you listening to right now? Who would you want to tour with?
JR: I like so many bands right now, I don’t know. I’m really excited about the new Twin Shadow record coming out; I really loved his first record. I loved EMA’s record last summer. She’s unbelievable. The Youth Lagoon record is great, the Cloud Nothings record is great. I don’t think we sound anything like any of these bands, though. I’d go on tour with any band that I liked, even if we didn’t sound like them. I love the War on Drugs record, the Kurt Vile record, Smoke Ring for my Halo. I like that Daughn Gibson record that just came out. The White Denim people have a label, and they put it out. It’s all country music samples and it’s awesome.
KK: So what is coming up in the near future for you guys?
JR: That’s the big question. We don’t really know. This is the first show we’ve played that we’ve ever played that we sold a lot of advance tickets, and we know there’s definitely going to be a lot of people there.
KK: And it’s like your one-year anniversary.
JR: Yeah, it’s awesome. I think right now we’re just trying to enjoy this week and play this show, and tomorrow is Shannon’s birthday.
KK: Oh, happy birthday!
SE: Thank you very much!
JR: The thing I’m thinking about right now is that I don’t have to hide in the backroom and just hold my breath and hope that people come. That’s awesome. My mom’s coming, Shannon’s parents are coming, it’s going to be a nice little celebration.
We’ll probably release another single soon, and let it trickle out. I think that if people love the song, they’ll probably like the rest of the record – there’s a real sound on it.
KK: Do you already have a song in mind for the next single?
SE & JR: Yeah.
SE: And the video. We shot a video for it and it’s being edited.
JR: Yeah. I don’t want to say what it is.
KK: So it’s a surprise?
SE: Yeah, it’s a surprise.
JR: And I could change my mind. And also, if one video is ready before another – we’ve been working on a lot of video stuff.
KK: That’s cool that you guys are also involved in film, and can really collaborate on a couple art forms.
JR: Yeah, we’re really interested in the visual element of this band, and we know a lot of film people, and those are the people who have been super supportive and helpful.
SE: They’ve been really reassuring for a really long time.
JR: Yeah! A lot of the times when it was hard and we didn’t know what was going to happen next, our friends in the film world would be like, let’s do this. And that would be a project for us to work on that was creative, but also about building the business. That’s been really fun, so people will see more of that from us, for sure.
SE: We have really talented friends.JR: These people are world class, amazing. Also, it’s wonderful to share back with them. Our friend Paul directed the “Same Mistakes” video, and he’s so talented. I saw him in a bar last night and he was like, yeah your video has like 10,000 fucking views on Youtube. And I was like, yeah I know! That’s so great, and that I could give that to him, he can get more exposure too...it’s just family vibes. That’s part of why collaborating is so fun, is that you get to share it with people. And that’s what I feel about making music with Shannon. Regardless of where we’re at in our relationship, and friendships, we love each other. I don’t know what the point is if it’s not about doing stuff with people you like to be around, and you know and understand and feel close to. It’s not fun, otherwise. It’s like, do something else where you might make money.