“PERENNIALS is the debut album from the Indianapolis rock band Public Universal Friend. The record served as a coming out for the group’s vocalist and songwriter Jody Friend, who used the project’s release to publicly acknowledge her identity as a trans woman.”
Public Universal Friend’s latest record Perennials signifies the progression of an earthy brand of art rock, whose sonic roots go back to post-punk and 90s alternative, with echoes of their native Appalachian folk and hymnary. Lyrical themes have historically gravitated toward the value of emotive honesty and speaking truth in power, embodied through a profoundly unique perspective of identity, faith, and gender expansive existence. These poetic incantations foster an inclusive live environment of authentic engagement, all for the sake of exploring 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 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.