Oh boo-hoo...the kid works at his family business. That must be rough! And this band is FROM Hollywood. Come on, Heller. Get your head out of your bung.
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
By Jena Ardell
By Mary Willson
By Bree Davies
By Tom Murphy
By Tom Murphy
By A.H. Goldstein
The racket is nauseating. Vibrations slither up your tailbone and into your skeleton, rattling ribs and clacking skull against jaw. The heat bakes your stomach into a queasy bile casserole. To top it all off, your ass is about to become unhinged from bucking violently against a bare metal floor upholstered with a threadbare blanket.
You're in the back of Friends Forever's battered, rock-scarred van. When Adolf Hitler first envisioned his People's Car in 1932, he surely had no idea that a Volkswagen would ever be conscripted into such inglorious service.
"The couple of times I ever asked people for contacts for booking shows, they would never give them to us, 'cause we sucked," says Josh Taylor, bassist for the Denver noise-rock trio. "We were just really shy and didn't know anybody. So we were like, fuck it -- we'll just get a generator and play wherever we want."
Taylor, drummer Nate Hayden and keyboardist Jason Isaacs don't really perform in regular rock venues. Instead, Friends Forever plays in its van. With the side door ajar and the generator humming like a chain saw in a horror flick, the three members of the band clobber the air around them with a hailstorm of electronic rhythm, unfiltered noise, firecrackers, smoke and screams. The van seethes and spasms as if trying to withstand re-entry into earth's atmosphere.
This afternoon, though, the vehicle is taking a scenic spin around west Denver. Taylor, Hayden and Issacs, in various states of unshavenness, display a preference for dirty sneakers, brown Dickies and Broncos T-shirts. They're not big interview people; they answer questions haltingly, a bit warily, often asking each other to back them up or take over. And as it spits and rumbles along Federal Boulevard, the blue VW seems to be responding with indecipherable answers of its own.
"What were we trying to accomplish? Just making tons of chaos," says Hayden when asked about the Secret Girls, the predecessor to Friends Forever that he and Taylor formed in high school in Littleton in the early '90s. Named after a song on Sonic Youth's Evol, the group -- then much more clean-shaven, even cute -- carved a joyous cacophony out of drums, guitars, smoke bombs, horns and hormones.
"It probably had a lot of sexual overtones," says Taylor. "At that point, it was way easier for me to tap into some weird, subconscious level of myself while I was playing noise. Just pure freedom, pure enjoyment."
"Josh and I got to be friends because we both really liked Sonic Youth," Hayden explains. "I personally liked the noisy parts of their songs. We thought, we should make a band that's just all the noisy parts. We knew that we couldn't play our instruments; we didn't have the discipline to want to try. So we just made noise. We loved noise."
Although short-lived and generally ignored, the Secret Girls were befriended by two rising Denver indie-rock bands of the time: the Apples (not yet surnamed "in Stereo") and the lamentably late Felt Pilotes. "I think John P [Porcellino, leader of the Felt Pilotes] helped inspire us to keep going when he put out that Profiles in Courage thing," says Hayden. (Profiles in Courageis a sloppy yet heartwarming compilation of high-school punk bands that Porcellino and his friends recorded on a boombox in the Chicago suburbs during the mid-'80s.) "We thought, man, they were doing it in high school, so we should do it, too. They chose punk; we'll choose noise."
"I saw the Secret Girls at this place called Locals Only a long time ago," recalls Isaacs. "I think me and my friend were the only ones in the audience. They were screaming or something and playing this horrible sax. I think they were playing toy instruments."
Taylor laughs. "We thought we were on to something new."
The Secret Girls formed a record label called N.G.W.T.T. ("Nothing Gets Worse Than This") and started releasing the band's music as well as related projects. "We'd put out solo albums with runs of like five or six copies," says Taylor. Even when the members left to attend college out of state in 1994, they continued to keep in touch and release material -- usually on cassette -- on N.G.W.T.T. In 1996, Taylor had dropped out of school and was visiting Hayden in Los Angeles, where the latter was unsuccessfully trying to find work as a special-effects technician. It was there that the initial two-man lineup of Friends Forever was conceived.
"We were so sick of L.A. and Hollywood," says Taylor. "We decided to give up living in an apartment and just hit the road. I'd say we formed Friends Forever the day we left."
When asked to pinpoint the exact genesis of the whole playing-in-the-van idea, Taylor and Hayden are a bit vague. "I think it was all because of the shyness, really," says Hayden.
"Yeah. We thought we sucked so bad."
The group's modus operandi was -- and still is -- to pull up unannounced outside a club where a show was happening and wait until one of the bands stopped. Then the band would slide open the van door, fire up the generator, put on masks and rock the sidewalk until bewildered show-goers would trickle outside to see what all the commotion was. "We played so many shows where we didn't even tell people that we were outside," says Taylor. "We'd just kind of quietly jam out in the parking lot."