Friendship Commanders explore themes of social injustice with BILL

“I do think taking an honest look at our output and asking if it marginalizes or demeans another person or group of people is healthy and responsible. Are you helping or hurting?”

Nashville based rock duo Friendship Commanders are using their craft to bring social awareness to the public. The named feminist band has donated proceeds of their album sales to various non-profits as well as creating lyrical content that examines and highlights injustice.

Buick Audra and Jerry Roe have been collaborating for five years, in which they’ve released one full length album, DAVE, and three EPs prior to the release of BILL.

The band released their second album BILL late 2018, produced by the legendary Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, The Breeders). The album explores various themes of abuse survival, addiction, feminism, unity, human rights activism, equality, and friendship.

“Women to the Front” is an example of Friendship Commander’s ability to draw on social issues.  It calls on the empowerment of women, and showcases mistreatment and misogyny that women face in society. The music video produces an emotion invoking visual.

Editor in Chief Kailey Howell spoke with Audra about the release of BILL and the empowerment of women in the music industry.

Kailey Howell: Congrats on the release of BILL! Since the release of the album, are things progressing as you imagined?

Buick Audra: Hey, thanks! We’re so glad to have the album out! Things are progressing slowly and steadily, which is fine. We’ve had a little time off for the holidays and will be touring again from February on. We like being on the road, especially with this new body of work to play live!

KH: You take on many social and political issues on the album. One of my favorite tracks personally is “Your Fear is Showing.” Could you tell me a little more about the meaning behind it?

BA: Thank you! It’s one of my favorites, as well. It’s also one of the more personal songs on the record. I wrote it in a season of wrestling with my own self-doubts and fears. I live with some hard-wired fears about not being enough, and they don’t always allow me to be the person I’d like to be. So, I wrote a song about talking to my own fear, while giving it the face of some of my favorite “monsters’ in the horror canon. I was raised by a horror buff, so these characters are very familiar to me. It was both cathartic and fun to write. In the video for this song, I’m haunting myself. Which is pretty much exactly what it feels like.

KH: One of the issues Friendship Commanders touches on is feminism and the treatment of women. Paramore retired the live performance of “Misery Business” due to the use of the word whore, other bands have also looked into changing the degrading language in their work as well. Do you have an opinion on this? Is it something more musicians should look into?

BA: I heard that Paramore had done that! In the case of that song, I agree with retiring it. Not necessarily because of the use of that particular word, but because the context was pretty demeaning. I’m not a huge fan of songs that chastise or shame women. It’s hard enough out here. Women don’t need to be writing misogynist work about other women—especially women who are already marginalized in some way. These days, I’m all about trying to get women to support other women, which isn’t always the easiest sell. Patriarchal ideas run deep in our societal beliefs/behaviors, even among people who believe themselves to be feminist. I’ve had to check myself. I see a lot of what I call “conditional feminism,” which is this notion that only some women are worth supporting, as long as they check off the boxes that make us comfortable. I think we need to get past that and challenge ourselves to stand next to other women, even the ones who are on a different track than we are. I feel so strongly about this, that I wrote “WOMEN TO THE FRONT” for the BILL album. And I play it to all-male audiences more often than I’d like to admit, because we’re still not there with women supporting women. But I have hope!

I think we artists and musicians should all be examining our own work and what motivates it, yes. There’s a lot of work that doesn’t hold up today that I think bands would do well to pull from their live catalogs. We’re going to make imperfect work; we’re human beings; art should be art. But, I do think taking an honest look at our output and asking if it marginalizes or demeans another person or group of people is healthy and responsible. Are you helping or hurting?

KH: How was your fall tour? Can we expect another tour in the near future?

BA: The Fall tour was a lot of fun, thanks! We played some cities we’d not played prior, and we’re always glad to have that opportunity. We have tour dates in February and March! Dates should be announced any day now. We’ll be touring quite a bit this year. Please follow us on Bandsintown for dates!

KH: Are there any nonprofits that you want to work with in the future?

BA: SO MANY. We’re big fans of the Keith Haring Foundation, Nashville CARES, Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Best Buddies, and the MusiCares. We’ve already donated to all of those groups (some through record sales, some through live benefits), but are always looking for opportunities to serve.

I’d like to do something with/for Black Lives Matter this year, and also TIRCC (Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition), Equal Justice Initiative, Jail Guitar Doors, and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. And I’m an activist/lobbyist with Tennessee Equality Project; I’d do anything for them. I’m sure I’ll think of more in ten minutes, but those are the groups that spring to mind. We should always be working toward equality, and if FC can do that with music, we will.

 

*Photo courtesy of Gregg Roth

Kailey Howell