Friends: Brooklyn Dynamos Get Busy Shifting Pop Paradigms

Friends / Photo by Erez Avissar

WHO: Bushwick, Brooklyn five-piece led by New School dropout Samantha Urbani. Their slinky quasi-funk hit “I’m His Girl” features Urbani, 24, strutting like the baddest bitch in the borough, and earning them half a million YouTube views plus loads of label interest. Manifest!, their debut full-length, reveals the band’s ecumenical tastes with both low-key dance jams and shimmering psych-outs. Its first single, “Mind Control,” debuted as the “Hottest Record in the World” on BBC Radio One.

SOUNDS LIKE: A perfect summertime mixtape from a friend with a killer record collection. Though their early singles were lean and sultry and fondly recalled “Buffalo Stance,” the rest of Manifest! is all over the map — stoned guitar haze, clipped electro-beats, new-wave organs, and post-punk mashing and pip-pipping, all anchored by Urbani’s too-cool coo. “I didn’t want to make a record that all sounded alike,” she says. “It’s like when you make a mix for someone, and you put on a certain song because it explains something about you or gives them a message — I wanted to have a diverse message.”

SUBVERSIVE VERSIONS: While “I’m His Girl” scans like a typical ride-or-die pledge, Urbani says the song is quite the opposite. “The hook for the song came into my head, but I didn’t want to write the classic in-need-of-a-man song,” she explains. “So I thought about how I could flip it.” The result also figures into the songwriter’s motivations for starting a band. “I feel a lot of guilt about making self-indulgent art. I don’t wanna write trite love songs. [“I’m His Girl”] is a confident love song.”

DOUBLE NEGATIVES: While Urbani grew up a pop devotee, she abandoned the radio as a teenager, diving headlong into punk and noise. “After being into that stuff, making pop music felt rebellious,” Urbani says. “I started rebelling against rebelling.” She gave in to the idea of big hooks and instantly relatable lyrics, finding inspiration in women who rocked the mic before her. “SWV, TLC, Mary J., and Missy Elliott — they presented this idea that you could have strength and beauty at the same time,” she says. “That duality of being sexy and independent at the same time is where I got a sense of feminism.”


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