Real Friends vs. Knuckle Puck

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Real Friends vs. Knuckle Puck

by Jess Swarner


Within the genre of pop punk, it is really easy for bands to start sounding the same. Jokes are constantly made within the scene about the repeated use of certain drum patterns and guitar riffs as well as common lyrical themes of leaving hometowns and mourning exes. Two bands that especially exhibit close similarities are Real Friends, founded in 2010, and Knuckle Puck, founded in 2011. I became familiar with Real Friends last semester when I saw them open for the Wonder Years at the Nile, and I saw them again (and met them!!) at this summer’s Warped Tour. Even though I am an avid listener of their music, when I first heard Knuckle Puck, I honestly thought Real Friends released something new without me knowing.

The parallels between these bands are pretty significant—both bands originate from Chicago and have five members. Both vocalists do not play instruments during live shows, and they sound very much alike with their raspy tone and almost-screaming delivery. Their songs feature similar arrangements that make use of upbeat punk rock tempos which transition into slower choruses with memorable hooks. Both bands excel in performing acoustic versions of their songs—for goodness sake, Knuckle Puck even has an acoustic version of “Woodwork” that features Dan Lambton, the singer of Real Friends.

BUT: the good news is, upon further inspection, both bands have equally wonderful original elements that warrant a listen. Here are three reasons why you should still give them a chance.

First of all, Knuckle Puck is a younger band. Their newest EP, While I Stay Secluded, which was released 10/28, is their first official collection of more than four songs. Real Friends, on the other hand, has already released a full-length studio album, Maybe This Place is the Same and We’re Just Changing (July 2014,) in addition to their two main (and lengthy) EPs, Everyone That Dragged You Here (2012) and Put Yourself Back Together (2013.) Real Friends also appeared on the 2013 and 2014 Warped Tours, a tour of a magnitude that Knuckle Puck has not yet experienced. Even though the difference in progress made between bands isn’t too incredibly pronounced, this could mean that Knuckle Puck is launching itself based on the success of bands like Real Friends and they plan on experimenting and growing further. They still have yet to release a full-length album which could surprise everybody.

Second, even with all of those similarities, Real Friends has a few quirks that set them apart. One very unique thing about the band is that their bassist, Kyle Fasel, writes all of the lyrics (Knuckle Puck’s lyricist is not made clear on its homepages.) Fasel is notorious for the repetition of the phrases “sleepy eyes” and “bony knees” in songs, to the point where some of the band’s merch is designed around them. He is also known for consistently writing about the same themes of depression and a certain ex-girlfriend, even though this is less obvious on the studio album to the relief of many fans. Knuckle Puck’s lyrics are a little more diverse right off the bat—for example, the new song “Transparency” chastises the Millennial generation.

Lastly, another important distinguisher is Real Friend’s “I’ve Given Up on You” off of Put Yourself Back Together. Listed on Spotify as their most popular song, this intense power ballad (relative to the genre) is the song that convinced many people to take Real Friends seriously. It is the song that people seem to get most excited about at live shows—people by the droves pull out phones to record it and sing along at full volume. Knuckle Puck has released a slow song, “Home Alone,” but it was included on the “Oak Street” single and not on any collections. This song is acoustic, though, so it doesn’t feel as unique or passionate as the fuller-sounding “I’ve Given Up on You.”

Both Real Friends and Knuckle Puck have their strengths and weaknesses as emerging pop punk bands, but they are getting substantial press coverage from the famed music magazine Alt Press. As they continue to grow in popularity and mature, it’s likely they’ll be able to establish stronger identities. Real Friends will be visiting the Nile on 11/10 with Neck Deep, Cruel Hand, and Have Mercy. Knuckle Puck will stop at Club Red in Mesa on 11/26 along with Modern Baseball, Crying, and Somos.