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After losing its lead singer, Real Friends is back to prove a point

Since 2010, Chicago-based Real Friends has been pop punk royalty, and for a decade, Tumblr-era heartthrob and singer Dan Lambton was king. The group pumped out album after album about hating hometowns and letting go of ex-girlfriends, lamenting youth and embodying nostalgia. Audiences roared as the band took the stage at concerts such as the Warped Tour, setting fans who wore ablaze T-shirts with Lambton’s photo (some read “Pop-punk Sucks”). So it went for ten years, the lead singer the face of all things Real Friends.

Then, in early 2020, Lambton left the band.

In a statement, the band noted, “This isn’t the end of Real Friends. We’ve just turned the page to the next chapter.” But fans still wondered: why did Lambton leave, could he be replaced, and why didn’t they just break up the band?

Enter Canadian pop punk Cody Muraro. By the time the remaining Real Friends members (Kyle Fasel, Dave Knox, Eric Haines, and Brian Blake) asked him to audition to be their new frontman, he was involved in seven other similar projects. He wasn’t exactly a fan or Real Friends — he remembers seeing the group perform in 2015 and only knowing a handful of songs. The largest room he had played at the time had a capacity of 500 – Real Friends could sell a venue for 2,000. But Muraro says joining the band exceeded expectations.

“It was fun because I didn’t really know how that was going to go when I joined the band,” says Muraro. “And it’s important to me to also tell my story nicely and contribute to the art and also perform it.”

The two EPs and several singles released since Muraro joined have been decidedly collaborative projects, he says, unlike some of the group’s older albums. The resulting sound is what Muraro describes as “aggressive, emotional, anthemic pop punk music.” It’s what the band has always done best – and fans can relate to it are pre-pandemic works.

“We know that if we jumped out of the gate sounding like [pop band] the 1975 for the first new record with me, that won’t work because then we wouldn’t be True Friends anymore,” says Muraro. The group’s driving question became, “How can we progress as a band, but remain true friends?”

Released last month, “There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late” features seven tracks plus two acoustic versions of previously released singles proving the band’s continued commitment to the pop punk sound they made their name on; the drums are still crashing, the guitar is still blaring, the vocals are still growling. The lyrics, full of sentimentality and self-doubt, have a hopefulness beneath the cynicism.

Still, Muraro says the intent of the new release is “not to win over people,” but to make a point.

“We were really determined to prove that a band isn’t just one person, even if that one person is the singer,” says Muraro. “A band can go on and stay true to what it was when it started.”

March 11 at 6:30 pm (doors open) at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. blackcatdc.com. Out of stock.

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