All My Friends Hate Me is as playfully brash as their name suggests.
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Formed in early 2018, the punkish garage-rock band navigate emotional waters and stylistic waves on their debut album, Metal Butterflies, produced with Justin Kay. Across a meager nine songs, lead singer Bobby Banister gnashes his teeth on the sociopolitical hellscape (“You could walk into a Walmart / Buy a gun and shoot us all up / And we’re all just gonna die,” he shrugs on “Not in This Economy”), being roofied at a Silver Lake bar (“Stay Up”), and the shallowness of Los Angeles (“LA Changed Me”).
Banister’s roots are firmly planted in the classical and opera worlds. His mother, a world-renowned performer, first taught him the aria called “Una Voce Poco Fa” (from the Rossini opera, “The Barber of Seville”). “I really hated the music my mom wanted to do all the time,” Banister told American Songwriter over a recent phone call. “I was really opinionated.”
He first took piano lessons and later guitar – even though his dream was to be a drummer, his parents had other ideas. When he was 14, Banister started actively writing music and formed a band in the style of Kings of Leon’s first album [2003’s ‘Youth & Young Manhood’], a sort of southern-blues punk outfit. His high school days brought a fascination with Nirvana; Banister’s only two band tattoos are tributes to the iconic grunge band.
“The first music I remember discovering myself and wanting to buy was Blink-182 and their ‘Enema of the State.’ But my mom wouldn’t let me. The blue glove is the reason,” he laughed. “I ended up with Backstreets Boys and the ‘Millennium’ album. I just wanted to buy some music.”
Banister’s ambitions eventually took him to Belmont University in Nashville. With his new pop-punk band, he toured around the country for five years and gained invaluable experience playing in front of crowds. When that endeavor collapsed – several band members getting married or seeking outside creative opportunities – he took to being nocturnal and “studying songwriting more intensely,” he said.
He would later move to sunny LA, and that’s when everything changed.
American Songwriter spoke with Banister, as well as British bandmate/songwriter Beau McCarthy, whose love of Bowie, Queen, and FIDLAR injects right at the core, on how they first met, feeling jaded, and crafting essential album cuts. All My Friends Hate Me also features bass player Xander Burmer and drummer Garrit Tillman.
Story goes, you two first met randomly at an industry party.
McCarthy: I was testing the waters in LA to move here. I ended up at a hotel and andomly got talking to this 18-year-old Texan photographer kid, who was super chill. We were at some rapper’s release party named Amine. Bobby was there, so I got drunk and was chatting with Bobby. I think I stole a bunch of cigarettes off him. I told him I was thinking of moving to LA. Six months later, I actually did it and hit him up. He was working on a solo project, and I put down some guitar for it. That led to writing session two or three days later.
Our first writing session didn’t go so well. It was all over the place, and we couldn’t really figure out which genre we were trying to write in.
Banister: …we were trying to write for someone else at the time.
McCarthy: So, Bobby said, “What do you want to write?” I sent him a bunch of demos and bands it was influenced by like FIDLAR, old Blink 1-82, Green Day, Waves, all this west coast punk. Bobby hit me back at like 3am saying “I love it!” Originally, I was looking for a singer, and Bobby said he knew some people. We wrote three or four more times after that. Then, Bobby said he used to sing. We had a lot of PBRs that night.
Banister: I was jaded by it all. I would love to do this for the rest of my life. I had never had what one would call a “real job” after college. I was touring around and playing in bands and waiting tables some of the time.
I got an opportunity to work on the other side of music, and I took it. I remember the night before my first day, I had this dream that I was an elephant in Thailand. [laughs] I was on a really long chained leash, and I was tied to a pole in the middle of a circular fence. Kids would pay a dollar and ride me around in circles. It was corporate job with a marketing firm. I really dove in and did stuff I didn’t know I enjoyed. The old band never felt 100 percent me, and it always felt out of character a little bit. I never wanted to write and release music under my name or my band that wasn’t just totally honest.
Bobby, with focus track “Stay Up,” you chronicle the night you were roofied at an LA bar. What led you to want to write a story about that experience?
Banister: It’s 100 percent a true story. I was dating a girl named Sydney – and I’m still dating her. She’s amazing. We had been together something like six months. She had a party she needed to go to downtown. I was living at a spot downtown. I’m a night person. I don’t go to sleep ever. I was having this rare, weird night when I wanted to stay in and sleep. I’m definitely an introvert that talks a lot. [laughs] She hit me up, and this party was walking distance. I walked over to the Ace Hotel. It was a very bougie spot. I didn’t feel like drinking that night, so I had one drink and nursed a whiskey on the rocks for an hour and a half. I can usually drink a whole lot without displaying a lot of effects. That’s important to the story.
Everybody else in the party goes into the bathroom to do coke. I’m not judging people, but I’ve never done that. It’s not really my thing. I was the only one just chilling. They all came back as gerbils. I realized these older, creepy dudes hanging on the side. I usually get a feeling about people. So, with these dudes, I got a weird vibe. It’s me and a couple of girls, young and pretty, out doing coke, and my girlfriend was one of them. She doesn’t anymore. I didn’t know.
She was a little wired, and they were like, “Oh my gosh, we have to bar hop! Let’s go somewhere else!” They wanted to go to Tenants of the Tree, a bar in Silver Lake. I didn’t love it. When they first opened, it was a chill spot, but it got popular and overrun. It has a creepy reputation.
We go there, and the party continues. Again, I get one drink and nurse it. It had been another hour. I put my drink down in between Sid’s drink and Caroline’s, another person there. I went to the bathroom – and I have never done that since – and I came back and shot the rest of it. Within minutes, I felt really nauseous and had to go sit down. I went out to the lofted patio and sat on a bench. I sat for like 30 seconds and had to stand back up. I thought, “What is wrong with me?” The whole place started spinning in an oval shape.
This dude who had been there throughout the night came up to me and said, “Hey, buddy! Did you have a little too much to drink? Are you drunk?” I hate being called buddy more than anything in the world. It is the most condescending thing. Somehow, I had the wherewithal to get an Uber on my phone. Then, he said, “Why don’t we get you a car and get you out of here?” Thankfully, Sidney came down just after that and said, “Whoa, are you OK? What happened?” I said, “I don’t know.” This was the one night I didn’t want to go out. Now, whatever has happened to me, is the worst. I said, “I’m going to go home. I got this Uber. You can come with me or you can stay. I don’t care.”
I really wanted her to come with me. I really care about her. I wanted to give her the choice to keep kicking it or go home. I’m not the kind of guy who likes to ask. But she came with me. Thank god. I don’t know how I got home. I remember getting into the Uber and then blacking out. I remember going forward and still feeling like I was spinning in an oval. I don’t know how I got into my bed, but I know I was there when I came to again. Sidney said, “What do you need?” And I said, “I need two things: a glass of water and I want you to put on Harry Potter.”
I was scared to go to sleep. I told her I needed her to stay up with me. She said sure, and I blacked out again. I woke up 12 hours later with the worst migraine of all time. It lasted for 48 hours after that.
I wrote this about a year ago. It was several songs into writing together. I had to write this song. Beau came over, and as soon as he played the chords, the light turned on. We wrote the song out right then and there. We actually write pretty quickly, in general. It’s the honesty that makes it go really fast.
McCarthy: When we’re not forcing it, it’s pretty easy. There are some songs we’ll probably never use. Those were the ones that took up like four hours to write. They were just a slog to get finished. We have them if we ever want them.
“Not in This Economy” is the most impressive of the bunch, lyrically and musically. You reference guns and college debt. What was the driving force behind writing this song?
Banister: I think we actually wrote this the night we wrote “Stay Up.”
McCarthy: Yeah, we wrote two songs in one night…
Banister: Good night.
McCarthy: We were really drunk and watching a few people on certain substances downtown fighting each other. We were watching from this balcony.
Banister: For whatever reason, I started singing these lyrics that don’t really fit on purpose.
McCarthy: We were also have a discussion. I read the news a lot, and I get very paranoid about it. I was telling Bobby how the American and Russian relationships were getting pretty scary at that point. There could genuinely be nuclear war at any moment. I’m also super paranoid about everything, so Bobby’s take was just like “let’s drink more!”
I guess that’s the message of the song – at some point, yeah, it’s good to stay informed about certain things and be wary of things like climate change and gun reform. At the same time, when it’s affecting how you think, you just need to get away from it for a second. It’s two and a half minutes of “have some fun!” That’s healthy. You can be a concerned, informed person, but it’s good to take time for yourself.
Banister: Along those lines, I try to effect change with the people in my life. If somebody enters my life from across the world, let’s be in their lives, as well. I’m not saying to not try or not to care, and there’s a lot of importance to be placed on caring for people who are marginalized or fighting for a cause.
“I Need a Life” was a hangover write for you, Beau. What were you working through on this song?
McCarthy: I was sitting in my room, and it had been raining for a month or something. I didn’t really leave where I was staying during the day. I would stay inside all day and then go and try to meet people at night. It was like this song was taking a piss out of that lifestyle a little bit – just being like I need a life and this is a shallow existence. At that point, I was living a stereotypical LA lifestyle, but I was trying to build a life around me. The lyrics are really about how you’d end up if you carried on that lifestyle for the whole of your life. You’d be permanently bouncing off the walls.
I tried to make the slow down at the end like an Irish drinking song. In my head, I could see myself in some kind of German drinking hall swinging a beer from side-to-side and singing it really drunk. I was listening to a bunch of pop, and it often has a bunch of freaky chords in there. I went through a phase of really loving escalating chord runs, and that’s how that pre-chorus is. There’s something weirdly satisfying about watching your fingers as you play it.
The band moniker comes from a lyric in the song “LA Changed Me.” What was the decision to name the band All My Friends Hate Me?
Banister: Well, there’s a story. I had been in a band, and it broke up. I felt like I’d worked had and cared hard. I still talk to some people who supported the old band. I moved to LA, and I had a girlfriend. We had been together for five years. My best friend at the time was living in LA, and he was a music producer. She was an artist, too, and we’d write together. It was a cool relationship at the time, and I’d helped her strategize where her music would best received. We really found her audience online. I would actually play guitar for her in shows a lot of the time.
My house tends to be the place where people just sort of show up and chill. It’s an open door policy for people who I cared about. If I like a person, I really, really, really like them. I had this group of friends. A bass player from my old band had a producer, who I introduced her to, became her guitarist and would go on tour. He jumped in on all the writing, too. He and his wife went out to LA, too. I was loading up a U-Haul ready to get out of there when I crunched my elbow [on the concrete]. A team of elbow surgeons said it was the rarest break they’d seen in seven years.
Life had started to go to shit. That was the kick-off for things that’d be hard for about four or five years. I had to wrap up my elbow. They couldn’t book me for surgery for awhile. I finished loading the U-Haul with one arm in a brace and then drove to Arkansas. I actually had surgery in Little Rock because I didn’t have a house anymore in Nashville.
So, this girl really wanted to make music. Her producer and his wife went on a backpacking trip to Europe for two months, so they could save money. I had this opportunity to write for some label artists. I had to finish a lot of songs in 30 days. I was pretty busy with that, and she felt I wasn’t around most of the time. So, I hooked her up with my best friend to produce. She starts coming home later and later. I never thought anything of it. One day, on her birthday, I got dumped out of nowhere.
I was really confused. My best friend disappeared for a couple of weeks, inexplicably. I started saying, “I bet she was cheating on me with him.” My friends were like, “No, they’re such good people. There’s no way!” I don’t think they meant to, but I was made to feel like I was crazy for having this suspicion. It got really weird. For my own mental health, I needed to be alone for awhile. I was friendless for a minute – working jobs and had only casual, bar friends, really. We didn’t talk for three years, me and those people. We actually reconnected this year, quite recently. They came to one of our shows.
You bookend the song with a spoken word section. It reads: “Welcome to the Hollywood Tour Bus! My name’s Chad, and I’ll be your tour guide this afternoon. As we move down Hollywood Blvd, and you look to your right, you’ll see Tom Cruise taking a shit. On your left is a rapper with a children’s Spider-Man costume, handing out his mixtape and grabbing the asses of unsuspecting tourists. Fuck, I’m drunk!” Who is Chad?
Banister: So, I would walk to work and hang around the area. All of the tour bus drivers, as it turns out, are drunk drivers. A lot of these guys are really high and do a lot of shady business. You have the guy that’s slinging mixtapes by the Chinese theatre, and if you take the mixtape, that’s 10 bucks. But you didn’t want the mixtape. Everybody seems to have a scam.
At one point, a tour bus driver faked running over me to impress his crowd when I was walking down the sidewalk. I threw a water bottle at him. Another time, I saw a guy try to punch a girl in the face because she didn’t want to take his flyer. He had his arm extended. I was on my lunch break and grabbed him. “Who do you think you are?!?” That’s Chad.
McCarthy: It’s also a stereotypical LA story. Either the people you come here with or the people that you leave behind, they seem to have a different opinion of you. Everything in LA is different. One of my friends was like “Have you become a vegan yet?” I’m like, “No… LA has not changed me.” The chorus is a little bit of… Bobby doesn’t necessarily change, but it’s complete sarcasm. It’s funny how things are sometimes in this city. It’s a very shallow place.
Next year, you make your SXSW debut with an official showcase performance. Are you preparing for the show any differently than your normal concerts?
BM: We spent a long time on these songs and making sure they came out well. We did it on what everyone knows is a punk band budget – which is nonexistent. It took awhile to get them finished. We had two lineup changes, in the most positive way, and now, we’re hammering out practices and shows. We’re aiming to do a little tour over by SXSW, as well. That’ll be super fun. We’re making sure that anybody that comes to see us will remember it. It’s going to be wild. It’ll be a lot of me on the floor running around.
Bobby: We want to throw our own little party there, too, called the All My Friends Hate Me Party for anybody who’s also an introvert and wants to have fun. [laughs]