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Public Universal Friend is a real life musical force based in Indianapolis, IN. Their founding singer and songwriter Jody Friend had performed for twelve years under their given name, but as the conglomerate of musical comrades grew along with the writing and performance direction, such a name as Public Universal Friend was befitting.
Through their formative years of performance, Friend crafted an earthy brand of art rock, whose roots go back to post-punk and 90s alternative, echoing their native Appalachian folk and hymnary. With such poetic incantations at the heart of the work, the lyrical themes have historically gravitated toward speaking truth in power, embodied in a profoundly unique perspective of faith and gender expansive existence.
Sonic virility is herein answered with tenderness, whereas emotive rawness is paired with a tangible angst for justice and peace, all for the sake of authentic engagement played out in the overarching theme of finding out who we really are.
Since the beginning, the intent has been steadied on embracing the narrative of collective identity as one of diversity, through the language of chords, rhythm, and poetry. From the meditative to the ferocious, the Friend disarms audiences with a humanization unique to the nature of personal storytelling.
The solo work began in 2008 when Jody began writing, recording, producing, and releasing their first eight albums and EPs, captured with an 8-track recorder and a couple of microphones in a variety of unconventional locations and atmospheric spaces. These early recordings were accompanied by a revolving door of fellow musicians, only entering an established studio with their ninth release, Wilderness Hymnal, in 2016. With an uncompromisingly independent DIY production sensibility, the Friend communicates a sonic quality that is tangible, rooted, and as present as possible.
The live sound has ceaselessly grown and adapted with time, all while preserving the heart behind older material and fearlessly venturing into new sonic territory. All the while the enduring themes of hope and grace stand alongside, delivering explicit poetic excerpts in vulnerability and understated potency. The integrity of the Friend’s music is like a bouquet of lively liminal flavor, dictating the timelessness of their discography, whose flavors of natural earthliness and the occasionally extraterrestrial connect us back fearlessly to our human nature and its potential for beauty and vastness.
The 2017 release “Lower, Permission” encapsulates the narrative of first challenging the basis of dichotomized gendered culture, the importance of critical thinking, and the addressing of those constructs and their relationship to faith. Through such means we receive a raw vulnerbility, leading the wild dance into recognizing the gift of our collective uniqueness and dignity. Gender non-conformity has long been a subject in Jody’s life and the upcoming release “Perennials” gives voice to those intimate details expressing what it looks like to be decisively more public about elements of identity. You might think of it as a coming out record, the “now what?” answer to Lower, Permission.
With a vitality and youth in this new season of performance, we as listeners now experience the sounds and energies being exclaimed in a space full with the dignity and worth of each beautiful existence we bring to the table. With a voice so long in the making, the newest material is forever surprising, uplifting, and meeting us where we are, speaking truth in power over every space the music may occupy.
Interview: Girls at the Rock Shows – January 2021