An essential new addition to Chicago’s long lineage of forward-thinking indie rock, Friko transform every song into a moment of collective catharsis.
On their full-length debut and first release for ATO Records, vocalist/guitarist Niko Kapetan and drummer Bailey Minzenberger merge elements of post-punk and chamber-pop and experimental rock, magnifying their music’s exhilarating power with a steady barrage of spirited ensemble vocals. Poetic, explosive, and sublimely raw in feeling, Where we’ve been, Where we go from here brings an equally visceral intensity to brutally heavy anthems and heart-on-sleeve ballads alike, creating an immediate outlet for the most unwieldy emotions.
Produced by Scott Tallarida and Friko with additional production from Jack Henry, Where we’ve been, Where we go from here embodies a sonic complexity befitting of a band that names Romantic-era classical music and the more primal edges of art-rock among their inspirations. As Kapetan reveals, the frenzied and majestic opening track “Where We’ve Been” set the tone for the pure abandon embraced by Friko throughout the album’s creation (a process that also included former bassist and founding member Luke Stamos). “We’d tried recording a different version of that song and it didn’t feel right,” Kapetan recalls.
“ We went back in and reworked it and came up with something that was very much a group effort and doesn’t follow a pop structure at all, and it felt incredible—we were all sobbing afterward. It was something I’d never really felt before in music.”
Mastered by Heba Kadry (Björk, Big Thief) and engineered by Henry and Tallarida, Where we’ve been, Where we go from here sustains that combustible energy on “Crimson To Chrome”: a downhearted yet exultant track that landed on a Pitchfork “Selects” playlist and held the No. 1 spot on the SiriusXMU chart for three weeks. “I’d been working in the same warehouse for years and nothing was really happening with the band, and I started questioning the whole point,” Kapetan says of the song’s origins. “Even though there was so much purpose and love in it, I was also feeling a lot of angst.” On the wildly sprawling “Crashing Through,” Friko delve deeper into the album-wide theme that Kapetan encapsulates as “wanting better for yourself and the people around you, but wondering how can you possibly do that with the world we live in,” channeling both despair and glory in the song’s choir-like vocals. “It wasn’t intentional for us to have group vocals all over this record,” Kapetan points out, noting that Tallarida, Henry, and several close friends joined the band in singing backup. “It just happened naturally because we all kept singing along.”
Mainly recorded live at Tallarida’s studio Trigger Chicago, Where we’ve been, Where we go from here achieves a dreamlike grandeur on “For Ella,” a love song sketched by Kapetan after visiting a graveyard in Wisconsin. In bringing the piano-laced reverie to life, Friko worked with violinist Macie Stewart and cellist Alejandro Quiles, elevating the track into a quietly symphonic epic touched with a lovely melancholy (from the opening lines: “You were running through the backyard/Said the puddles were the ocean/Now the smell of rainy days always remind me of you”). Another song illuminating the immense depth of their musicality, “Get Numb To It!” emerges as a full-tilt, pogo-ready anthem etched with so many unexpected details.
“ When we recorded that song Niko and I were each on pianos on opposite sides of the room, just slamming on them for texture,” says Minzenberger. “There’s moments all over the record where we were both improvising at the same time, but they’re mostly used in a very subtle way, without making it the main focal point.”
At the heart of Where we’ve been, Where we go from here is the powerful emotional connection Friko’s members have cultivated since childhood. As kids growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Kapetan and Stamos became friends in kindergarten and eventually crossed paths with Minzenberger in high school. Raised in a musical family—their dad is a jazz/classical guitarist, their older sister is a singer—Minzenberger began playing drums at age 10 and later took up guitar, bass, and piano. “I remember going on a camping trip with my family in elementary school and listening to some song on the radio and having it hit me in a way where everything else faded out and all I could hear was the drums,” they say. “It was this moment of realizing, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’” Noting that “music was always going to be my only option,” Kapetan also got his start as a drummer and, like Minzenberger, played in bands all throughout high school. “My dad loved music and played guitar when he was younger but ended up getting into the restaurant business,” he says. “He owned a few homestyle diners and when I was growing up a lot of musicians would come in and I’d get to talk to them, which definitely had an effect on me.”
Formed in 2019, Friko soon began taking the stage at legendary Chicago venues like the Empty Bottle and Schubas Tavern, self-releasing their acclaimed debut EP Whenever Forever in 2022 and making their festival debut at Bonnaroo the following spring. Over the years, Kapetan and Minzenberger have found a formidable bond in their shared love for classical composers like Frédéric Chopin, an element that indelibly informs the expansive emotionality of Friko’s music. “Chopin is one of my favorite composers, and the feeling I get from listening to his nocturnes is the same sort of deep, loving sorrow that I get from playing music with Niko,” says Minzenberger.
“ I wish I could understand why listening to solo piano music and playing really heavy rock songs can create the same very palpable feeling—but at the same time, I don’t want to understand it.”
A DIY endeavor completed before their signing to ATO, the making of Where we’ve been, Where we go from here involved enlisting the talents of friends like Eli Schmitt (creator of the album artwork), video director Alice Avery, and tour manager Stas Slyvka. “So much of this record happened because of friends helping us out, like Scott letting us use his studio,” says Kapetan. “It’s also an event space, so there’d be times when Scott, Jack, and I would be working on mixing the record with a town-hall meeting going on in the next room.” In every step of the process, that self-reliance allowed for an unfettered freedom that often led to moments of transcendence. To that end, Minzenberger recounts experiencing a profound sense of elation in the performance of a gloriously breakneck track called “Chemical.” “It feels like I’m about to fall off my chair every time we play it, because it’s so fast and involved and the urgency of the guitar part fires me up in such a specific way,” they say.
“ It’s like being a kid and riding your bike really fast—this childlike adrenaline where you’re very much in your body.”
Known for their high-energy live show, Friko aim to deliver a live experience that’s fantastically disorienting in its emotional arc. “We’ll try and play one of the really loud songs and go to a slow song right after that, so that it’s super-emotional and dramatic but also just a loose, good time,” says Kapetan. “I’ve had people tell me they had so much fun and danced a lot at our shows but then also cried, which hopefully means we’re giving them the full spectrum,” Minzenberger adds. And with the release of Where we’ve been, Where we go from here, Friko hope that their music’s emotional potency might have a galvanizing impact on the audience. “One of the main things we want to do as a band is talk about what’s happening right now and everything we’re feeling, with an honesty and directness that gets through to people,” says Kapetan.
“ I hope that our music helps everyone feel more deeply, but in a way that goes beyond just reacting to the song. I want it to pick people up, so that they can actually go out and do something with whatever they’re feeling.”