A Saturday Evening With The Fridays

Story by Jarrod Sio Jyh Lih

Shot by Rizki Maulana

An outsider, ipso facto, cannot become part of the coalition. Nothing rings truer than the ‘outsider’ status Ampang’s indie pop band The Fridays so self-consciously don. Acap F’s geeky obsession for gymnastics does nothing to chip away this viewpoint. “Farah Ann, Abdul Hadi, Eli Ellina Azmi, and Tan Ing Yueh,” he enthused. “Those three, they're our very own Aliya Mustafina, Tatiana Nabieva, and Ksenia Afanasyeva,” the frontman continued.

T he Fridays are ever the mainstream demurrers, personifying this left-of-field worldview with riotous abandon and allowing this to filter through Acap’s unbridled androgyny onstage. “It's better to come off as slackers than to come off as big rock stars. It takes so much pressure off your shoulders. If you don't have any expectations, you're never bummed, and even the smallest things already count as victories.” Much like New York’s Les Savy Fav, the backing men of The Fridays are content to grant carte blanche to their flamboyant frontman. “Now I know how it feels to chaperone a teenage girl to a show,” The Fridays’ drummer Afniaz ‘Kakak’ Afiq disclosed in response to frontman Acap F’s penchant for flouncing on stage with ribbons and hairbands.

Any attempt to consolidate the wry crooning lyricisms and winking guitar jangliness to The Fridays’ de rigueur uniform of checked shirts and unkempt hair is a futile exercise by any stretch of the imagination. This is especially so when the mind conjures cardigan-wearing, ‘80s-informed Smiths heads – a band The Fridays namecheck often. That being said, “We’re huge fans of HAIM,” Acap F tittered giddily. “My favourite sister is Este. That bass face is to die for.” Muhammad Said, ever the synth man, piped up: “The track ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ is new wave in the flesh.” The interplay between feminist themes and their adoration for artsy Jewesses are solidified in Verklempt (Yiddish for ‘choked with emotion’), a debut album 10 years in the making. It’s slated to be released this 31 May. Themes like abandonment, eating disorders/bad body image, technology vs. intimacy, general herding mentality, and first kisses are all filtered, intriguingly enough, ”through the eyes of a suburban teen queen.”

[The Fridays]
started because
nothing happens
in the Ampang

W ith Wan Bellon (guitars), Yazid Beruang (Bass), and Pak Iran Squire (guitars/FX/ambience), The Fridays are the princes amongst Ampunks whose suburbia worldview has amalgamated into equal parts wariness, leeriness, and worldwearines towards immediate mainstream precepts of independent music. “This whole thing started because nothing happens in the Ampang suburbs,” explained Acap. “There’s only so much cable TV and video games you can take in.” This mise-en-scène is further solidified by a school principal’s endorsement for the scene. Sajoli Masdor, an “uncharacteristically cool” principal of SMK Bukit Indah was a fixed-gear bike riding Volkswagen Kombi enthusiast whose advocacy for band performances at school events drove the development of acts like The Fays. Amidst other luminaries like Roots Above Trees, School of Prison, Kaptain, and The Needles, it was the late Atiff Aiman of Swampy Zombie Fever whom The Fridays regard as “a real Bukit Indah legend through and through.” How apt, then, for a band whose songs almost always feature a self-possessed anti-hero orbiting around the perimeter of social acceptance and alienation – cognitively engaged in the tug and pull of terse intensity and goofiness that makes lazy categorisation a difficult affair. Know that intelligent kid whose snarkiness and quick wit are carefully hidden behind a surreptitious moue? That’s The Fridays.

We believe that pop music deserves a better fate that is not pedestrian vapid throwaway music like most people believe.

T he preponderance of seemingly puerile references (exemplified by titles like ‘There’s No Clean Underwear’ and ‘Pavilion is For Losers’) festooning the band’s lyrical output is misleading. Therein is an air of vulnerability and melancholy that begs a closer listen. As indie poppiness go, they eschew the tortured insularity of the jangle and opt out of the downstroked, mechanical contrivance of admittedly lesser acts. However, they do not shy away from the label, revelling instead in the aesthetics of pop and its associated paradoxes. “We are pop,” Acap asserted. “We have always eschewed the whole ‘pop is a dirty word’ attitude and embraced catchiness as a badge of honour,” he intimated. “We believe that pop music deserves a better fate that is not pedestrian vapid throwaway music like most people believe.” Thus spake the manifesto that would set The Fridays down the bramble-choked path of indie pop.

With the encomium heaped upon them by the likes of The Wknd and the scene’s tout le monde, how does it feel to be a critical favourite – ever the bridesmaid, never the bride? “I don't mind being called underrated. Everybody loves an underdog,” intoned Acap broodingly, before offering this rejoinder: “Just ask Pastel Lite.”

Verklempt is slated to be released on Sunday 31 May ’15.