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Just Friends Score Rebound

In Music
HANGING ON: After being blocked by COVID, funky indie rockers Just Friends scored a perfect rebound. (photo credit: Cody Furin)

HANGING ON: After being blocked by COVID, funky indie rockers Just Friends scored a perfect rebound. (photo credit: Cody Furin)

Bay Area party rockers Just Friends were on the second day of their ten-week 2020 tour when COVID-19 hit.

“We were in D.C.,” recalls singer Brianda Goyos Leon. “Before the show half of the tour got canceled, and then after it was completely canceled. We didn’t have any money. We drove overnight the whole way home. It was crazy.”

At the time, it felt like a defeat, and the band returned home with their tails between their legs. But soon they realized that the tour cancellation put them in touch with something almost like destiny.

A few weeks after returning home, on a date when he should have still been on the road, Sam Kless, the band’s frontman, was at a protest in Oakland when he recognized one of his favorite musicians take the mic.

Lil B. The Based God.

“I’ve been a diehard Lil B fan since I was super young,” Kless says over email. “When I was in middle school, my mom bought me a Bay Area magazine with The Pack [Lil B’s rap crew] on the cover and said, ‘I think you’d like these guys.’ I’ve followed him my whole life after that.”

As Lil B spoke about love and positivity at the protest, Kless realized that his chance lay before him. When the rapper stopped speaking, Kless approached and introduced himself. Before long, he was telling B—avant garde MC, cloud rap icon and creator of the term ‘based’—about his mom and the magazine she had bought him in middle school.

“His response was: ‘If you ever need a verse or anything, here is my phone number.’”

Ecstatic, Kless began combing through Just Friends tracks. Since 2018, the band had been recording material for their third full length at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland. They had a loose single, a Bay hype-up anthem called “Stupid.” After some nervous moments, Kless mustered up the courage and asked the Based God if he’d rap on the track.

“He said yes!” Goyos Leon says. “Sam sent me a screenshot of him being like, ‘I’ll give you a Bay discount, because we’re family.’ It was really cute.”

Not only did he give Just Friends his ‘Bay discount,’ B delivered with some truly based punctuality.

“I sent him the instrumental and he had it done the next morning at 8:30,” Kless recalls.

Earlier this year, Just Friends released “Stupid ft. Lil B,” their first track to feature the Based God. Opening with the hyphy birdcall “Whistle stop, wooo,” “Stupid” is now an even more unabashed love letter to the Bay than it was before, with B shouting out every municipality from Santa Cruz to Daly City to Lafayette, even sending one out “to all the Filipinos.”

“I remember thinking, what kind of verse is he going to do? Because he’s known for doing some really weird avant garde shit,” Goyos Leon says, “but the thing he sent back was incredible. He’s a great rapper. He’s just doing his damn thing. It sounded great. It’s still really funny, and really, really cool.”

“Stupid” arrived as part of “JF CREW Vol II,” the second in a series of EPs from the band ahead of their third full length. The EP also includes the fiery, slightly more traditional single “Sizzle” and a Bay-drenched cover of No Doubt’s “Hella Good.” This September’s “JF Crew Vol III,” featured another single, “Sunflower,” whose bright and bare emotions strike a markedly different tone than the songs on “Vol II.”

“The ‘Volumes’ are helping us express our different tastes in music, and the different things we can do, even if they wouldn’t necessarily be the right call for a full LP,” Goyos Leon says. “We’re hoping to give a little more insight into who we are and what we like.”

South Bay music fans may also recognize Goyos Leon for her sugary vocals with Asian Man Records indie pop group Kitty Kat Fan Club, as well as her solo material as Big Bad Brond. In Just Friends, however, the former Ohlone College student rocks a spitfire style that plays well trading lines either with Kless or with the Based God. A regular member of the band since 2019’s Nothing But Love, the last few years, Goyos Leon has been bringing a welcome new energy to the group.

“Every band needs a feminine touch, you know what I’m saying?” she says. “I’m representing all the ladies here.”

JF CREW Vol II
Out Now
Free

 

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