Friends Like These

Friends Like These

“You have an identity when you first start in music,” David Rhodes—aka RHODES—tells Apple Music. “There’s a thing, a thread that runs through all your work. And it’s integral to what you do. I think I’m somebody who suffers a lot with self-doubt and a lot of anxiety, and when I started out writing my own music, there was no real end for me. I ended up in a position where I was making an album, putting out music, working with major labels—lots of people and lots of teams. I got caught up in the whirlwind of all of that. Somehow, I lost who I was a little bit.” The RHODES revival arrived during the first lockdown in 2020, as the Hertfordshire-raised, London-based singer-songwriter and pianist (together with executive producer Rich Cooper) unplugged from the noise and “sizable pressures” attached to the tricky second album, Friends Like These. Eight years on from acclaimed debut Wishes, here RHODES presents a 10-track labor of love made possible through the patience and perseverance of his nearest and dearest. “They’re my core people who are always there throughout everything,” he says on the impact of friend and mentor Simone Felice, close friends James Kenosha, Jack Gourlay, and partner Natalia Salter. “It was inspiring for me to be with people who didn’t follow the standard routes. Not everyone is the same. I think there’s a lot of pressure on people to conform. But people can take different paths, and somehow, still manage to find what works for them.” Below, RHODES guides us through the details of his second album. “Friends Like These” “This song takes me back to 2018, when I first started thinking of how I wanted the album to sound. I was traveling a lot, writing songs with a lot of different people, and I got caught up in that world of songwriting in LA, New York, and London. I lost myself a little bit. One night, I lay in bed really worried about stuff, struggling to find a way back to myself. And my friend called me randomly, he was in London out and about, and a little intoxicated. He was just making me laugh, picking me up, and he made me feel good. This is a little ode to all my friends and family who are there for me. I hope they know I’m there for them, too, and I wanted to express it in this song. I love this song so much that I got it tattooed on my arm, which is now part of the album artwork.” “The Love I Give” “This is a simple song about trying to reassure someone that there is light through the darkness. I know that low feeling so well, and it’s really important for me as a friend to reassure them, ‘Give yourself a minute to process what you’re going through, but know that there’s light on the horizon, and I’m here.’” “No Words” “I had one of those dreams where you wake up in the morning and, in that hazy moment before you're fully awake, you believe it’s real. There’s an almost tangible feeling of loss. It just set my brain off, first thing in the morning. I rolled straight out of bed onto my chair next to my keyboard and made up the lyrics as I was going on, loosely describing the dream I’d had about this person and how, actually, they were never going to be there again.” ”Good to You” “I had a writing session with [producer and engineer] Steven Weston, [singer] Natalia Salter, and [singer-songwriter] Laura Welsh—we created this song, and we were thinking about a collab with an EDM artist. But when it came to making the record, I was like, ‘No, I want this on my album.’ It’s got such a fun vibe, but it still retains a kind of deepness in the lyrics. So we kind of dialed it in, used some organic instruments, went to a beautiful studio and recorded the organ parts, like, ‘How would Florence + the Machine do this song?’” “Even When It Hurts” “Two friends, James [Kenosha] and Jack [Gourlay], helped pulled me from the darkness. They packed me off into their studio in Leeds, and had me there for two weeks writing songs. That really saved me. We all go through moments in our relationships with people that we love, we may argue, or we fall out, and it can seem dramatic in the moment. But, when you think about it, it’s not so huge. Deep down, you want to fight for it, and even when it hurts, you want to be there for that person. This is a song about doing anything to make things work.” “Weightless” “I used to love writing sessions with Natalia at our flat in North London where we live. We have a very close friend, [multi-instrumentalist and songwriter] Max Wolfgang, who’s written with some massive names in pop. He also wrote another bunch of tracks on the album with me. For this song, he came to our flat, back in from the long trip—he’d been on some sort of Siberian railway experience, very Max Wolfgang. And there he was in our living room. He was tired, I made us an energy-boosting drink with my new juicer. And I was like, ‘Come on, let’s write something fun.’ A lot of these songs were written in that dream state of late-night thoughts. I think that’s why quite a few of the songs mention dreams and just being in that state between being awake and asleep.” “Suffering” “When I’m at my lowest, I don’t deal with things in a very good way at all. I tend to run from stuff, and I run from darkness. I run from feelings that I don’t want to face. I always have. I don’t want to say that’s who I am, because it’s not how I want to be. It’s a long learning process when you realize something is wrong and you know you need to fix it. I’ve been in positions before where I know that I’m affecting other people through my own issues, basically. This song is the first step in me going, ‘Oh no, I’m not dealing with this in the right way and it’s hurting people.’” “Blue as Forget Me Nots” “This is a song that I wrote with [producer and songwriter] Rich Cooper, who produced the whole record. When I’m writing music and I’m trying to express myself, that normally comes from a darkness. For some reason, whenever I feel low, it’s almost like I’m wandering around in this hazy blue light. There’s something beautiful about it which is difficult to articulate, because I don’t want to romanticize depression. I think that’s bad to do. But most of the time my music serves the purpose of bringing hope to bad situations. Forget-me-nots are these beautiful blue flowers that I was sitting there one day looking at, blowing in the wind, these little tiny, beautiful things. They’re so beautiful, and just so fragile and sad-looking. I thought it was a nice metaphor for that feeling.” “Satellite” “I was renting a spot at The Church [Studios] in Crouch End late one night. I was pretty wiped out after a few sessions that day, and I plugged in my guitar, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I used to just do this!’ I used to plug my guitar, turn the reverb up to four, put some echo on it, and lay on the floor…mainly because when I started, my [mattress] was actually on the floor. I was just trying to think about all those little things in life that lead you back to where you need to be. All those people, all those energies, memories, those things that always seem to reappear when you’re on your path home, basically, and how lonely it can feel sometimes when you physically feel alone. But there’s something, some other level of spiritual energy that just leads you to where you need to be.” “Drink to This” “I thought it would be cool to close with a bare-bones, live performance of a song that’s actually quite dark. It’s about substance abuse and growing up in a culture where drinking and drug taking is so normalized. It's just a part of daily life for a lot of people: especially in music and TV, it’s so normalized that you don’t realize how deep you might be getting. This song is about realizing your coping mechanisms that are unhealthy. Why drink to drown your sorrows? Instead, drink to celebrate all you have. It’s a healthier way of looking at it than trying to drown your sorrows.”


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