Initiated by the mind behind Sol-Sol, Mathew Kieser, and compatriot Skullboy (Louis de Villiers), FRIENDS was announced with the launch of a crowdfunder for FRIENDS ‘Issue 01’. Described as a free, 44-page, printed publication to be stocked at selected men’s lifestyle stores throughout South Africa, Asia and America, the first edition aims to launch in early 2015 with a series of social events planned for each major South African city as well as Seoul and Hong Kong. The rewards include Sol-Sol Sounds apparel, work by Skullboy and a copy of the magazine. Sounds great, right? We had a few words with Matthew and Louis to get a taste of the vision behind the project:
What is FRIENDS?
FRIENDS is a printed, free men’s lifestyle publication with less ads to make space for more substance. We wanted to create a re-readable publication that documented the awesome shit our friends and friends-of-friends were doing so that our other friends could read it and get stoked.
Who’s behind it?
Mat and I [Louis] have been friends for a long time and are co-editors, with Mat also handling distribution and myself; art direction. The contributors are all people we know and whose work we love. We were probably really just looking for an excuse to work on something cool together, ha. Personally, I’ve had some limited experience with print but never publishing. We’re making up the rules as we go along.
How did the idea get started?
We were flipping through a brand-zine at a market and talking about how rad it was that most of our homies were so active and creating such cool work. Mat was interested in Sol-Sol aligning itself to something like this and I’m always on the hunt for fun projects so that’s how it went.
FRIENDS came about as we looked around and got stoked on how incredible and active our little network was. When we were talking about starting the publication, we decided that all the contributors and interviews should be people we know, have worked with, or have been recommended. We wanted quality so we chose to people we know and can vouch for, you know. And it’s fun working on cool shit with your homies! It also cuts out this bullshit of trawling the ‘net to find content to fill pages.
Which publications influenced you?
I haven’t really seen anything quite like this before so I guess maybe a Frankenstein of many influences, if you must.
How would you characterise the design approach?
Personally, I hate when publications try get too ‘out the box’ and the final product ends up being hard work to read – but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to be surprised by an interesting layout. So far, it looks like ‘Rock & Roll’ by Lou Reed (Velvet Underground).
What makes FRIENDS good?
I think the whole approach of FRIENDS has been completely unique – the idea that readers can order limited edition merchandise and artwork to fund a quality, international, FREE publication without any ads in it. Also, we’ve got some interesting print ideas in place. If it works, I think we’ve got some very exciting issues ahead of us. The only problem is that without advertising, there isn’t a single fucking way to make any money off this thing, haha.
How have you gone about curating content for the first issue?
We’ve basically split up content over the various cities – Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Hong Kong, Seoul and New York. We cover it all, son – skating, business, coffee culture, art, design, photography, fashion, restaurant reviews… We made it for our friends but mu’fuckers with beards and take-away espressos will love it.
What’s the main challenge to starting this up?
Jesus, the whole fucking thing has been a mission, ha! Deciding on content, approaching contributors and interviewees, facilitating all of these people, directing photographs/illustrations/interviews, writing interviews, chasing content, print quotes, working to budget, constant emails, strategizing a crowdfunder, producing product for said crowfunder, fitting content into a limited page count, missed deadlines all while working our normal 8-5s… it’s been bloody brilliant.
Why did you choose to go the crowdfunding route?
Print really is not cheap. And without quartering and selling the publication off one piece at a time to every dude with 1000 bucks for an ad, this really was our only alternative. It’s not that we’re against advertising, we just believe that there is a way to do it well. Tastefully and in a collaborative context. Until we find that partnership, we’ll be trying things this way.
Why print versus digital?
Digital, you click ‘like’ and keep scrolling down – print, you’ll flip through it a thousand times and you’ll remember when and where you got it and why you loved it in the first place.
How is SOL-SOL incorporated?
Sol-Sol handles distribution and producing the limited edition product that helps get the project into print through the crowdfunder. Mat’s also the co-editor.
Where do you see FRIENDS in five years?
Hopefully getting a few more issue out, some new concepts, continue to collaborate with top-class professionals and hopefully work with some cool company’s to initiate bigger and better projects.
FRIENDS in five words:
Christ, it’s about fucking time.
What are you still doing here? Give these gentlemen your hard-earned money. The rewards are dope AND you’ll be able to tell yourself you helped get one of SA’s most exciting new independent projects off the ground.