Ross From Friends Surfs Nineties Vibes in Both Name and Sound on 'Family Portrait'
Published Jul 31, 2018Appearing on his new album, across the world on his upcoming tour, and at the bottom of countless rankings of Friends characters, Ross From Friends is having a good year. Indeed, if you've been hate-reading about Ross Geller lately and found yourself learning about strange new skills you never knew he had — like mixing, producing and releasing great debut albums on Brainfeeder, say — chances are you've stumbled upon press for Family Portrait, Felix Clary Weatherall's new album.
Like its title suggests, the album is a gorgeous, but often sad trip into a nostalgic past, full of the feeling of the '80s and '90s without putting too much of an obvious point on it — except, of course. when collaborator John Dunk's saxophone comes wailing into the mix, and things suddenly sound like the theme song to a gritty crime drama put through the funk-house wringer. "It's inescapable," Weatherall tells Exclaim!, of those roots.
"It influences me so much, and I know John loves it as well — like, I don't think he got into saxophone just because of that, but whenever we play together, it's like, really massive chorus on the sax, huge wailing lines, so yeah he loves that kind of thing and so do I."
The '90s were obviously a big part of Weatherall's formative years — and in a household with a pronounced love of dance music, no less. Something of a troubadour of early dance music, Weatherall's dad travelled Europe spinning records at raves and squat parties throughout his early life, likely building a huge collection by the time Felix came along. Kids usually grow up hating their parents' musical taste — and well, some things never change.
"There are definitely records [of his] I hate," laughs Weatherall. "I thought maybe it would be an acquired taste but sometimes he'd just wanna find something that would be so freaky, and so niche, that nobody else likes it other than him and the person that made it, probably."
When pressed for examples, "Time Operator" by forgotten German synth-pop band OFF is mentioned, and if you want to divert yourself for an amusing four minutes, there's a live performance of the track on YouTube. Afterwards though, cleanse your palette with the video for "Pale Blue Dot," the latest Ross From Friends single. Featuring vintage footage of Weatherall's dad from the early '90s (with his mom behind the camera), it encapsulates the grainy, nostalgic vibes of Family Portrait perfectly.
The home-footage approach of the video will likely bolster Weatherall's status as a lo-fi hero as well, a style that's almost always mentioned when describing his music. "I used to go for it on purpose," he explains. "Now I feel like I wanna develop my sound a little bit more — keep on experimenting and try new things, in terms of my allegiance to the lo-fi scene. I think there's still creativity within it, but a lot of the time it's just an overused sound in a way — unless it's done really creatively, which I can also appreciate."
If Weatherall is leading the lo-fi game at the moment, he seems to be on the cutting edge of irreverent '90s sitcom-inspired monikers as well. I point out that DJ Seinfeld appears on his Facebook page under the "similar artists" tab for reasons likely extra-musical, and he informs me that there's a Sabrina the Teenage DJ working in London these days as well.
When asked specifically about the Ross From Friends moniker, Weatherall gives the believably boring truth, but it's one that underlines his naturalistic commitment to the era. "It's literally a name that got picked out of a hat," he says. "Well, not literally, [but] there was no ceremony to it. I had a long list, some were funny, some were cool, some were borderline offensive. And I wasn't even making '90s-inspired music when I first chose that name. I've just got such a deep love of that era that it must have come out in both."
Weatherall's unique style definitely seems to flow from the same source — fond memories of an era perhaps not lacking in sorrow, but no less interesting or powerful for that. A time that can still reach out and grab you. Family Portrait will do that.
Family Portrait is out now on Brainfeeder.
Check out the video for "Pale Blue Dot" below.