Sammy Rae and the Friends are a collective out of Brooklyn headlining the Madrid in Kansas City on October 6th. The 8-piece band have the perfect combination of impressive technical skills and amazingly fun stage presence that make their live performances so enjoyable. The band always stays true to the mantra highlighted on their website: “Go put a smile on somebody’s face, go tell somebody they’ve got a place in this world, go tell somebody you wanna be friends with them.”
Our Communications Director, Abbey Todd, got to ask Sammy Rae about how the band has grown and their current CAMP tour.
You guys played Bonnaroo this summer and are now prepping to go on tour. Your show at the Madrid is even sold out! How have you seen the band grow over time and what are you most excited about for this specific tour?
“We’ve seen the band grow in countless ways. Namely, and most importantly, we’ve gotten so much better at living on the road. It’s a lifestyle, and it requires so much communication, priority given to health, resilience. I am immensely proud of everyone in this project, in the way that they have reason to the occasion of a life on the road. The rooms get bigger every single tour, and therefore the demands on the body and emotions gets bigger. We are roughly halfway through the first leg of this long tour, and I am already very impressed at the way that we are working together and taking care of ourselves. I’m excited to start introducing some new original music on this tour as well as some new covers.”
You are a big voice and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, which has fostered such a wonderful community within your fans (myself included), what advice do you have for other queer artists trying to make a name for themselves?
“I’ve never really been able to find the right words for this, but it’s the mentality of visibility by simply existing. Simply leading by example, with or without a giant pride flag. I think it’s powerful to see queer folk, especially queer femmes, and leadership positions in any industry. As someone who really values, individuality, and authenticity, you have to simply exist, and not conform, in order to make a real, lasting statement. The world needs more queer folk in front. The world needs more queer stories. The world needs more queer inclusion, and every queer person has the ability to be a part of that change, simply by being seen, and existing confidently in their line of work, and their day-to-day life.”
All of you work so well together as a band and have such a warm and fun presence on stage. What is the key to making that magical experience and having a good performance in your opinion?
“Communication. We knew from the very beginning that we wanted to do this for a long time, as long as we could, until we were old legends 😉 the only way to build some thing and sustainable is this is if we treat each other like family. And we do. We don’t just call ourselves Sammy Rae & The Friends. We are best friends in real life. We all live very near to each other, we rely on each other in times of hardship like family. Of course, it presents its challenges, as you all family dynamics. But we are all very efficient, communicators, and have worked on our communication skills with each other over the years. I’m very proud of all of us, and our commitment to not only this project, but to self betterment into each other. You just have to be good to your people. And that comes through very clearly on stage. We are truly having a wonderful time every single performance, because we know we are sharing this dream of a life with people we care about. And we want each other to win as much as we want to win ourselves.”
Who would you credit to being a big influence on you all as artists?
“We all come from different walks of life and different inspirations. Some of us are big on pop, music and classic Pop artists. Some of us come from classic rock and hard rock. All of us, in some capacity, come from jazz. Most of us come from Cedar in some capacity as well. A few of us come from world music in Latin music. A band I’ve always admired from my childhood was Bruce Springsteen and the E St. band. I really valued how large this project was, how good Bruce was at leading a big band, but sharing the spotlight. Every individual was as talented as the person next to them, and they respected one another’s strengths. A band we all valued from our early years together as Vulfpeck, who seemed to have always been at the forefront of pushing boundaries in music in media, while constantly evolving with each other.”
I had the absolute pleasure of photographing y’all at the show on Halloween last year in Lawrence! This tour’s theme is Camp (which is super fun), what are other theme ideas you guys floated around or want to do in the future?
“A bandleader never tells. Next fall, we will start to embark on our album tour. That album is still in production, so exhibit patience! But it has been a real joy living at Camp. It’s nice to not be in sequin land for a bit. It’s lower pressure and leaves more room for the music. This tour isn’t routed around any sort of release, so we really had an opportunity to build any world we wanted. And live in it as fully as we want it. It’s been so wonderful, seeing the audience rise to the occasion, with their costumes and their demeanors. The new Camp merchandise is really exciting for us and for the audience. It’s nice to live in a world that feels like fresh air, in more ways than one.”
What is one song that you think describes your band and one song that you think describes the tour and why?
“I think ‘Jackie Onassis’ it’s a good song to introduce somebody to this band. It’s got a little bit of everything that you would get in other friend songs, a double saxophone line, a hard hitting rhythm, section part, meaningful lyrics, driving guitar, and I sing my face off. It’s also got queer undertones but is inherently a female empowerment song.
This tour CAMP: The Tour Isabell salt expression, not taking yourself too seriously, exaggeration and caricatures. Unbridled joy. I think a song that sums those themes up well is ‘Whatever We Feel’
Another good one is ‘The Box’ which is a bit roots-y and folk-y, and features some wonderful new acoustic instruments. Very campfire moment!”
According to our wacky calendar, it’s national comic book day (also national lobster day, if you celebrate)! If you could have any superpower, what would it be? (Feel free to give one to everyone in the band too)
“I’d like to teleport. I’d really like that. No contest. So much of Touring is traveling, sometimes it can be hard to get enough rest on a moving vehicle, or between flights. If I could get off one stage, blink, and open my eyes in a hotel beside the next venue in the next city and go to sleep, literally every single stressor I have about tour would immediately be gone! On the lobster thought, hot buttered or nothing. I’m from CT and we do my favorite east-coast lobster roll. Hot lobster, hot butter, hot roll. I was in Portland, ME last week (maybe most renowned for lobster rolls) but they do COLD lobster on a COLD roll with HOT BUTTER. And it creates a bizarre sensory experience in the mouth. Pick one temperature. Anyway…not being shady, just an opinion! Happy lobster day!”