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Albums Of The Week: Friko | Where We’ve Been, Where We Go From Here

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “An essential new addition to Chicago’s long lineage of forward-thinking indie rock, Friko — singer-guitarist Niko Kapetan and drummer Bailey Minzenberger — transform every song into a moment of collective catharsis on their debut album Where We’ve Been, Where We Go From Here.

On the wildly sprawling Crashing Through, Friko delve deeper into the album-wide theme that Kapetan encapsulates as “wanting better for yourself and the people around you, but wondering how you can possibly do that with the world we live in,” channeling both despair and glory in the song’s choir-like vocals. “It wasn’t intentional for us to have group vocals all over this record,” Kapetan points out, noting that co-producers Scott Tallarida and Jack Henry, along with several close friends, joined the band in singing backup. “It just happened naturally because we all kept singing along.”

Recorded on a shoestring budget paid out of the band’s own pocket, Where We’ve Been, Where We Go From Here is a testament to Chicago’s storied DIY ethos — and the powerful emotional connection Friko’s members have cultivated since childhood. As kids growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Kapetan and former bassist Luke Stamos became friends in kindergarten, and eventually crossed paths with Minzenberger in high school. Raised in a musical family — their dad is a jazz/classical guitarist, their older sister is a singer — Minzenberger began playing drums at age 10 and later took up guitar, bass, and piano. Noting that “music was always going to be my only option,” Kapetan also got his start as a drummer and, like Minzenberger, played in bands all throughout high school. “My dad loved music and played guitar when he was younger but ended up getting into the restaurant business,” he says. “He owned a few homestyle diners and when I was growing up a lot of musicians would come in and I’d get to talk to them, which definitely had an effect on me.”

Formed in 2019, Friko soon began taking the stage at legendary Chicago venues like The Metro, Empty Bottle and Schubas Tavern, self-releasing their acclaimed debut EP Whenever Forever in 2022 and making their festival debut at Bonnaroo the following spring. Mainly recorded live at Tallarida’s studio Trigger Chicago, Where We’ve Been, Where We Go From Here was a DIY endeavor. “So much of this record happened because of friends helping us out, like Scott letting us use his studio,” says Kapetan. “It’s also an event space, so there’d be times when Scott, Jack, and I would be working on mixing the record with a town-hall meeting going on in the next room.” In every step of the process, that self-reliance allowed for an unfettered freedom that often led to moments of transcendence.

Where We’ve Been, Where We Go From Here merges elements of post-punk and chamber-pop and experimental rock, magnifying Friko’s exhilarating power with a steady barrage of spirited gang vocals. Poetic, explosive, and sublimely raw in feeling, the album brings an equally visceral intensity to brutally heavy anthems and heart-on-sleeve ballads alike, creating an immediate outlet for the most unwieldy emotions. Where We’ve Been, Where We Go From Here embodies a sonic complexity befitting of a band that names Romantic-era classical music and the more primal edges of art-rock among their inspirations. “Chopin is one of my favorite composers, and the feeling I get from listening to his nocturnes is the same sort of deep, loving sorrow that I get from playing music with Niko,” says Minzenberger. “I wish I could understand why listening to solo piano music and playing really heavy rock songs can create the same very palpable feeling — but at the same time, I don’t want to understand it.”

With the release of Where We’ve Been, Where We Go From Here, Friko hope that their music’s emotional potency might have a galvanizing impact on the audience. “One of the main things we want to do as a band is talk about what’s happening right now and everything we’re feeling, with an honesty and directness that gets through to people,” says Kapetan. “I hope that our music helps everyone feel more deeply, but in a way that goes beyond just reacting to the songs. I want it to pick people up, so that they can actually go out and do something with whatever they’re feeling.”