Friend, For Today: What's In A Mission Statement
By Gote McDonald
My favorite new music collectives this year are being glued together by their photographers. Earlier this year I wrote about the hip-hop collective Callous Wrld, brought to Instagram’s attention mainly by Kohl Caplan, photographer and event coordinator who doesn’t make music. Recently, another effort has caught my eyes and ears with a similar catch but a completely different sound: Friend, For Today.
Spearheaded by Albuquerque photographer Samuel David Katzz, Friend, For Today, or FFT, put out two singles in June and three in July. The set of five singles consists of three different artists all tied to FFT, a "Media Production Studio For Artists." The studio is adamant about elevating their identity to more than just music.
I would be rolling my eyes at their "more than just music" assertion if the visual delivery of this effort wasn't so interesting and artistic (not to mention mysterious) in its own right. I've been a fan of Katzz's work for a couple of years now after seeing his pop-up at Duel Brewing in 2018 or 2019. Since then, he's been extremely active photographing musicians, models, skaters, and friends.
When Katzz started posting teasers and visuals for FFT, I was intrigued, gave it a follow, and waited patiently. While they admittedly have had trouble defining themselves to the public how they want, it has easily been my most worthwhile follow this year.
The singles, now compiled on Spotify in a convenient playlist by Mr. Katzz, all feature highly robotic production with a mix of vocal styles. Some sung and some rapped, all of it subject to the distorted chops, screws, and filters customary in EDM and techno. The result is a cohesive yet varied landscape of upbeat experimental pop tracks with a lot of influences that help FFT fit anybody's taste.
These are technically singles, but they’re packaged so neatly and flow so well I can’t help but listen to it as a whole and review it as such. Just keep in mind it’s technically a playlist, not an EP.
"Calcium" leaves us chilling out to a lounge-y, somewhat psychedelic beat underneath the autotuned crooning of Holden Priine. There are some vocal samples in between verses lamenting the passage of time.
"HDMI" takes an entirely new vocal direction. Spacewalk Jones hits the ground running on this after a short, spacey intro. The techno treatment over his angsty shouting makes it pretty hard to discern what he's saying, but you'll hear enough to catch the speedy dramatic vibe they're going for. Hip-hop-influenced lyrics with rock delivery has historically been extremely hit or miss, but I’d classify this track as ‘hit.' The bridge was a little erratic for me, but this track has won me over.
"Type 2" starts off with some very ambient strings and hi-hat sounds, before the appropriately somber singing of (I’m assuming) Holden Priine floats into the track. It’s a slow burn for sure; the four-and-a-half minute runtime ensures Holden Priine has enough space to do what they need to do.
The second track from Spacewalk Jones, "Every Mantra," begins with a subdued yet fast-paced beat that got my heart racing. The vocals commence quietly, and abruptly transition into and out of Jones’s shouting style from "HDMI." “I fell in love with something that will kill me if I see it,” he cries. This song had me in my feels, I’m not gonna lie.
"Strangers" features an extremely fun melody with contrastingly dramatic lyrics—the Nicholas Brothers here really take me back to 2008 electronic scene. It’s a full-sized track at 3:42 but it feels like it’s over in a flash (which is cool while writing this because I’m having no trouble playing it on repeat).
It would appear that Friend, For Today wants to give their graphic designers and photographer(s) a bigger share of the spotlight than is typical in the music industry. If you scroll to the bottom of their Instagram, you'll see they did start with visuals—but doesn't every serious musical effort start off that way? With a strong visual concept? The way FFT strains to remind everybody how their efforts are broader than music just goes to show how good music is at claiming the spotlight, even when it's assisted by top-notch graphics.
And I do mean top-notch. Months before their first singles dropped they were quietly teasing creativity with cryptic visuals, and sometimes equally head-scratching captions. Their first post is just captioned "Limbo," but it appears to be a prototype of the "HDMI" single cover.
A decent amount of FFT's posts are updated versions of earlier posts, but this doesn't feel stale. It feels like a motif, contributing to the group's lore without having to say a word. Typically, the images play with a distorted tech aesthetic. Almost every single face is completely obscured, parallel to the vocals on their singles.
The imagery overall does a great job of mirroring their sound, but one image sticks out: an uncharacteristically crisp photo of a young girl with braided hair, gold hoop earrings, and tattoos. The picture centers on one tattoo across her neck that reads "Zenith," and the caption says "new equipment coming in may." In retrospect, they might have literally been talking about recording equipment, but that didn't occur to me at the time because transparency was so completely out of character for FFT. That is, until early June when they decided to shed some light on who they are and why they're on this planet.
Posted one day after their first two singles dropped, here's a passage from a six-paragraph mission statement:
'Friend, For Today' is a diverse collective of individuals and groups, but above all it is a band of friends with the shared interest of creating multimedia content we are all passionate about and are proud to share with you. It consists of people operating on the same frequency who have set out to stoke the flames of each others' creativity, to harness their individual motivations and make something greater than themselves...
While Music is a big part of what we do, it isn't necessarily central to our process and doesn't define who we are as we evolve. Our collaborators range from graphic artists to musicians, event producers, photographers, writers, architects, producers, engineers, and clothing designers, to name a few. Music is simply one result of our infinite aspirations to create without expectation.
Modern musical efforts typically go nowhere without effective visual design leading the way—that is, unless you can meme your way to the top a la Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" or Doja Cat's "MOOO!" (these artists also employ extremely captivating and controversial visuals as well). Despite this, designers that work in music are lucky to get a fraction of the glory that musicians get. This could be only natural. People have a more conscious taste for music than they do visual art, but nobody can deny the power visual art has when it comes to popularizing musicians, singles, albums, concerts, or music videos. This makes Friend, For Today's purported mission to be more than just music admirable, exciting even.
However, I've struggled to find exactly who designs the visuals posted to the account. Most of the posts are tied to 'musician/band' accounts and upcoming tracks. Maybe they design their own graphics, as is customary with a lot of upstart musicians that don’t have the money or clout to hire or collaborate with other artists, but neither the music nor the visuals are exactly amateur work (it's really, really good). Maybe it's Katzz's work and he's doing his best to keep the FFT spotlight on the rest of the collective.
I may not know the exact credits of the work posted to their page, but one thing I do know is that this project is worth following. Their sound is fresh, interesting, and replays well, but even if you don't like their music output, the visual design is a treat for your Instagram timeline. It's these multiple angles of appeal and their ability to execute each one of them that gives me faith in their multi-pronged approach. Whatever ‘Friend, For Today’ is, it’s going places.
Check out Friend, For Today on Instagram: @friendfortoday. Find their website here.