Podcaster Missy Modell from “That One Song” sat down with James and Brett of FRENSHIP to chat about the one song that made them want to become musicians and inspired their sound.
L.A. duo FRENSHIP’s “Capsize” has become one of the most viral hits of Summer 2016. Highlighted by James Sunderland and Brett Hite’s warm tones and blissed-out beats, the song is the most refreshing pop gem of this year. “People do tend to describe it as a tropical sound, but the truth is Brett was always trying to force a marimba into one of our songs and he finally got the opportunity,” deadpans James. Quickly surpassing 20 million streams in just a month after independently releasing the track, Spotify recently included “Capsize” on their list of contenders for this year’s Song Of The Summer; the infectious track is listed alongside hits from established superstars Drake, Justin Timberlake, and Calvin Harris, among others. To date, FRENSHIP’s “Capsize” has been streamed more than 55 million times on Spotify.
FRENSHIP has recently signed a deal with Columbia Records, with a debut EP on the horizon.
The duo describes their hypnotic production as a combination of the twosome’s affection for 80s-styled pop. FRENSHIP’s natural progression in creating “Capsize” along with previously released songs, “Nowhere” and “Carpet” captures the band’s signature sound. “We do have different styles when we work,” says Brett.
There’s a strong contrarian streak in FRENSHIP, and their oft-told story of how they met while working in retail in Los Angeles. “I came from a family of opera singers,” begins James. “My grandmother and my mom sang opera. Uh, I don’t.” James grew up in Colorado, sang in choirs – played the drums – and moved to L.A. after 4 years of college in Pennsylvania studying a crash-course in production. “I eventually was part of a DJ duo team,” James says, but found it “soul sucking.” He describes a fateful DJ ship cruise as the final turning point for him. “So I got lost for a couple years, knowing I still wanted to do music, but with some emotion to it – some soul.”
Brett grew up in Spokane, Washington with a talent for soccer and as a hobby played the drums and guitar. A music career was the furthest thing from his mind. It would eventually take an injury for Brett to discover his burgeoning interest in music and the gnawing realization that he was beginning to burn out on the sport.
“The first time I was ever away from the game longer than a month I fell in love with the whole process of music.” Brett began to play coffee shops and small venues after college as a singer/songwriter. He moved to L.A. to pursue his own musical course, working in retail while he continued to hone his writing skills. When asked how he and James managed to cross paths in starting FRENSHIP, Brett simply explains, “Really, we were just tired of drinking.” James acknowledges the creative process began slowly. “We both liked 80s stuff a lot, but it took a while to find other common ground. I would give him something I did and we would listen, he would give me something he did. We were coming from two different sounds, but began to realize we both brought something that the other could appreciate.”
“It was always more productive for us to start separately, “says Brett. “I spent some time in the session world a little bit before I met James. I wrote with a lot of people. It can be very unproductive when you’re trying to write a new song every hour with someone you just met. James was willing to sit with an idea for a long time and nurture it along. I liked that. I realized in the long run it could be a more efficient process when it comes to producing quality songs.”
James points to the duo hitting it off with songwriter Emily Warren in New York City as a testament to trusting the vibe more than what’s instantly laid down on paper. “I think the first time we tried to work was on “Carpet” and it didn’t work out,” he says. “But there was something we liked about her. She was never precious about anything. She was good at adapting to whatever was going on.”
And they became fluent at adapting to her crazy schedule. “Capsize” was actually recorded the day she graduated from NYU. “We went out with her the night before until 4:00 AM to celebrate,” says James. “The next day, after the ceremony, she came to the studio still in her cap and gown.” Brett picks up the story from there. “We just knew we had something. The chemistry was something we couldn’t put our finger on, but each of us felt good about the song in a different way. Her Grandmother called her at the studio to congratulate her on her diploma and left a sweet voicemail. It set the mood for the song. The voicemail is still in the song at the end, it was just the most heartfelt thing. We couldn’t even nail why it was significant, but there was an emotion that we knew we wanted to capture.”
James echoes the sentiment, noting that the most unusual combinations when it comes to FRENSHIP always seem to work out the best. “Our music in general is really a hybrid of the organic with the electronic,” he says. “Over time, we’ve come to trust our mutual instincts more and more.”