By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
The phrase "best friends forever" conjures images of glitter font, teenage girls, and sleepovers, sure, but in spite of the candy-coated name, Minneapolis's indie-rock Best Friends Forever bandmates Jessica Seamans and Briana Smith have earned the title. Just celebrating their 13th year of friendship, these energetic twentysomethings are standing up for something real: the power of highly danceable pop odes and good old-fashioned friendship.
"At the time that we started the band, we were seeing a lot of our friends from our hometown getting married, and our parents were always telling us, 'Oh, you won't be best friends forever, something is going to come between you,'" explains Smith, a willowy blonde who goes by "Bri," while heavy snow falls outside the tall glass windows that separate Common Roots Cafe from frigid Lyndale Avenue. "I think I've been rebelling against that."
Seamans and Smith started making music together in the small town of Crosby, Minnesota, in eighth grade. Guitars in hand, and influenced by their mutual love for catharsis-strewn, goth-rock superstars Smashing Pumpkins, they performed their own brand of lyric-free obscure music at dances and open-mic nights around town. Their early music "ended up sounding like really bad metal," Smith says with a laugh.
"I remember thinking, I wish I was a boy because then I could write good lyrics," Seamans says, rolling her eyes and shaking her head at her early convictions. "I didn't want to sing because I didn't want to have a high 'girl' voice that could be taken as sexual or feminine, so I was always hiding in the back, hunched in baggy clothes, not moving." Showing off the awkwardness of her junior-high stage presence, she sits straight up in her chair, rolls her narrow shoulders forward, and frowns, her dark curly hair poking out from a knit wool hat.
Today, Best Friends Forever are worlds away from their early self-conscious, vocal-free songs. Their 2007 release, Romance Conflict Adventure, is composed of catchy female vocal harmonies, a steady bass line, and pulsing beats by Joe Rand, the band's drummer—a wiry, wild-haired, lovingly proclaimed "third wheel."
Don't look for heartache, deep catharsis, or moody blues here. Romance Conflict Adventure is a catchy, rhythm-strewn album full of unabashedly cheerful music that pairs folk-inspired storytelling lyrics with pop hooks and rock riffs. The tune "Eisenhower Is the Father of the Interstate Highway System" details road trips, rest stops, and kissing.
"We get reviewers who use the word 'childlike,'" Seamans says with an air of disgust, "and I really, really, really feel...maybe our first album, maybe it's childlike, but if you see us perform, we're, like, hyper." Earlier recordings like "My Head in Front of Your Head," a song inspired by the life of Abraham Lincoln, and "How Bri Breaks It off with Movie Stars," a sarcastic ode to a mutual crush Seamans and Smith shared for Orlando Bloom, make "childlike" an understandable knock.
"Our overall thing is more about fun," Seamans says. "We don't have awesome amps, and sometimes we're not totally in tune, but our whole thing is more about performance."
"We're happy when we perform," Rand adds, taking a bite out of a bagel smeared with chipotle hummus. "I feel like that's unusual; a lot of musicians you see don't seem to be having a ton of fun. We definitely do."
On stage, Best Friends Forever is a high-octane act. Smith, who plays guitar and keyboards and sings, stomps her heels and shakes her shoulders, jumping between guitar and keyboard in a single song. Seamans slides the bass side to side, shakes her hips, sings, and playfully bobs her head to the beat. Unpolished? Yes. But their berserk intensity and of-the-moment improvised sets are somewhat the point.
"There's such a visual aspect to our band in a big way." Rand explains. "A lot of the challenge of our music is found live and not in a recording, like me playing drums and glockenspiel at the same time."
With a steady roster of shows in the works and devoted fans in the Twin Cities and beyond, so far, the only problem arising within Best Friends Forever is the problem of being in a band called Best Friends Forever.
"We've given our relationship a title and people come to watch us and it's really weird," Seamans says. Smith nods her head in agreement.
"What I'd like to portray," Seamans adds, "is that we have a really realistic relationship and ultimately we're cooperating and making art together." She pauses, thinks for a moment. "That we're working together to make something good."