Nashville-based melodic, heavy duo Friendship Commanders — Buick Audra (vocals, guitar) and Jerry Roe (drums, bass) — have released two albums and an EP so far, 2016’s Dave, 2018’s Steve Albini-produced Bill and the Hold On To Yourself EP, which was released earlier this year.
Recorded with mix engineer Kurt Ballou, Hold On To Yourself EP finds the band crafting their heaviest batch of material to date while being a sonic and stylistic departure — with the EP’s material introducing a layered, studio polish instead of the raw, mostly lived-tracked approach of their previously released material. Thematically, the EP found the band examining the world around them, including their part in the world’s massive problems and potential solutions, and challenging the patriarchy while also delving deep and discussing being an adult, who has survived childhood trauma. Interestingly, enough the EP’s title essentially summarizes Audra’s message to other survivors — and has been a personal mantra for the Friendship Commanders’ frontperson; she has a habit of writing the phrase “hold on to yourself” every morning as a reminder. “This has been especially true during times of dealing with unsafe family members, abusers, or unwell people,” Audra says in press notes. “With a past of self-abandonment, holding on to myself has to be a focus in everything I do. It’s a good reminder and I always need it. It just seemed like the right set of words for this record.”
“Stonechild”/”Your Reign Is Over” is the first bit of new material since the release of Hod On To Yourself and continues their ongoing collaboration with the mixing and engineering team of Kurt Bailou and Brad Boatright. And although there is a sort of sonic through-line between HOTY and the new singles — with all of the material centered around sludgy power chords, thunderous drumming and rousingly anthemic, mosh pit friendly hooks. However, the new singles find the band moving into new emotional and thematic territory while tackling even tougher subjects. “Stonechild” manages to the outrage over injustice and the ache of unjust loss while “Your Reign Is Over” expresses frustration and a desire to get out there, snatch control from the old bastards fucking things up and making it a better world — right now.
“Stonechild” was written about the circumstances of Stonechild Cheifstick’s death last July 3rd. Chiefstci was a 39 year-old, Chippewa Cree man, who was part of the Suqamish Tribal community and father of five, who was killed by a white police officer. “Through a friend of mine who lives on the Port Madison Reservation, I connected to articles in local publications about his death, all of which I read with horror,” Audra says in press notes. “My brain kept going back to facts of the story: He was murdered by a white police officer . . . At the location where the community was gathered to enjoy the 3rd of July fireworks, at a waterfront park . . . Families with kids were everywhere and witnessed his death . . . And they still held the fireworks after he died. The song was written to acknowledge a life, question a death, and stand in solidarity with a community that has lost someone. We, alongside the people who knew him, demand justice for Stonechild. With this song, I am also asking questions to all of us about how we’re actually moving through this world, injustice all around us, systemic racism normalized and ignored. Are we helping, or are we hurting?”
“Stonechild” also features s spoken word section txʷəlšucid, co-written by Casey Fowler, who is a member of the Suquamish people; Zalmai Zahir ʔəswəli, who is part of the Puyallup; and Chris Duenas, who’s also part of the Puyallap people. Fowler recites the section in Lushootseed, and does on on behalf of Chiefstick’s family.
“Your Reign Is Over” encapsulates the general frustration and despair most of has have felt so deep this past year. We’ve had a pandemic that has rampaged communities, economies and entire industries with millions here in the States out of work and in danger of losing their homes. There’s the continued struggle for racial justice and gender equality, which have been on the forefront of the country’s consciousness during a summer of protest and unrest. There has been continued environmental calamities — and we’re in the middle of arguably the most consequential presidential election in the past 150 years. We’ve seen the destruction of people and the environment; the hatred and strife. If you’re like me — or like the band — you’re exhausted and fed up. And as a result the song calls out the greedy, the selfish, the destruction, demanding that they get out of the way for new voices, new ways of doing things, new thinking and new systems.
On June 19, 2020, the Tennessee legislate voted to pass the most restrictive abortion ban in the country. The vote took place in the middle of night — without the public knowing. As it turns out, Buick was in the state capitol building for the vote. “As an activist who advocates for bodily autonomy, the fact that our largely white and male Republican super-majority legislature took the extra steps to hinder the rights of so many – the middle of such a vulnerable time – really blew my last fuse,” Buick says. “There’s no way to dress that action up as anything but deliberately harmful. Such action is rooted in racism, classism, and sexism There’s some junk science in there, too. I haven’t written much this year, but I have written this work to say that this chapter is over. We can no longer allow any of the above to go on. This election needs to flip the state of Tennessee, and also the presidency.”