Fresh Stream, Interview

There’s no quitting for Weakened Friends

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Photo by Adam Parshall

On the cover of Weakened Friends’ 2021 album, Quitter, a mascot mopes off a field, utterly defeated. But the Portland, Maine-based band wasn’t mourning a devastating loss to a rival team; instead, they grappled with the burnout they experienced at the time of writing the record.

“The mascot is supposed to get everyone pumped up and be the cheerful character, but no one ever thinks about the person inside,” said Sonia Sturino, the band’s vocalist, guitarist, and chief songwriter. “Sometimes it feels like you have to constantly put that ‘best face forward’ just to make other people happy, when in reality that’s not how you feel at all.”

Stripping the “everything is fine” veneer, Weakened Friends bared it all—from the emotional toll of being a working musician to grappling with self-worth—for one of the most powerful rock albums of the year, released on Don Giovanni Records this past November. Thirty-two minutes of blunt-force honesty, Quitter left no feeling un-confronted. The album’s 2019 single “What You Like” acts as a confessional (“I wish I was what you like” Sturino concedes over distorted guitar), while “25th” provides a cathartic release for the band to sing about losing a close friend. In “Planes”, Sturino’s characteristic vocals, which almost seem to bend and break with intensity and emotion, frame the lyrics “I’m alright, I’m alright, I’m alright, I’m okay”, as if they’re reassuring her more than anyone else. Together, the album’s 11 tracks seamlessly flow together to paint a picture of frustration, defeat, and unrestrained candor about it all, wrapped in huge guitar sounds and even bigger hooks.

But the songs’ content only scratched the surface of the burnout the band was to experience during the making of Quitter. Like so many other artists, Weakened Friends had to table touring for the foreseeable future following the pandemic-induced tour cancellations in March 2020.

“It SUCKED not to tour or play live,” admitted Sturino. “At least for me, playing the songs live is where they come to life, so it was hard making a record not really being sure when the next time we could play would be.”

In lieu of their high-energy shows during lockdown, the band dedicated themselves to recording a follow up to their 2018 release, Common Blah. They split their time between Zippah Recording in Brighton, MA, where Annie Hoffman (bassist/backup vocalist) worked as an audio engineer for the past 10 years, and Sturino and Hoffman’s new home studio.

Sturino said being able to work out of the studio in their Portland apartment spurred exploration of different sounds to find the ones just right for the album, which were further refined by Hoffman, who also produced and engineered Quitter.

“Annie really flourished on this record,” lauded Sturino. “She’s so focused and drives us to be our best in the studio, and to be honest, if it wasn’t for her dedication or hard work, Quitter would probably suck!”

Engineering duties also fell on Adam Hand, the band’s drummer as of 2019, who Sturino also credits with bringing fresh insight into Weakened Friends’ sound.

Another new perspective of Sturino’s came through a new pastime picked up at the beginning of the recording process: running. It not only served as an outlet for mental wellness and to stave off the aforementioned burnout, but also as a practical tool in the artistic process.

“I would listen to the rough mixes constantly while running to think of ideas for the songs,” said Sturino. “It was a way to work {the record} out for myself.”

Months and months worth of that reflection and relentless efforts by the band’s 3 members finally gave way to the completion of Quitter.

Since the album’s release, the band has celebrated the highs—including sold-out record release shows and a spring tour with We Were Promised Jetpacks, followed by an upcoming string of dates in the UK and Europe—and grieved some of the lows, most notably the loss of Zippah Recordings to a tragic fire in December. But as Weakened Friends exhibited with Quitter, sometimes there’s no better way to face those highs and lows than head on.

“I think if anyone is feeling burnt out or like they’re hiding behind a facade of happiness, it’s time to take off the suit and just kinda be and feel what you feel,” says Sturino. “Quit being a ‘mascot’ for people and just be honest to yourself.”

Weakened Friends play the Sinclair on Tuesday, April 12 with We Were Promised Jetpacks. Tickets are available for purchase here.

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