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One word that comes to mind when talking about indie pop duo Bestfriend: serendipity. After all, what else could have brought members Stacy Kim and Kaelan Geoffrey together when, one day in 2018, despite only knowing each other peripherally through a mutual friend and living on opposite sides of the country, they decided to start a band?
How could they have possibly known that this chance collaboration would result in a smash debut EP that’d have 1.5 million streams within mere months of release, land them a signing with iconic Vancouver label Nettwerk, and a highly anticipated sister EP due out in early 2023? It must be attributed to that John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale kind of movie magic—and some undeniable talent, of course.
“I didn't really have a good outlet to put the things that I was writing in a place where it felt right,” Kim tells the Straight over Zoom. “To take these things that I'd written—honestly, probably even from Grade 10—it was really nice to be able to be like, ‘Hey, Grade 10 self, I finally found a place for us to put this.’ And that was kind of it for me. It just worked out and clicked into place at the exact same time.”
Here’s how it all happened. Kim—always a songwriter, but who had recently discovered her singing voice—posted a photo of a keyboard to Instagram. Geoffrey, who played in a handful of bands growing up and was finding his groove in production, saw the picture and sent Kim a DM. They started talking about music. Both had been thinking about taking their passions a step further. The timing was perfect.
While Kim is based in Vancouver and Geoffrey in Toronto, distance wasn’t an issue. There are plenty of bands, like the Foreign Exchange and Vallis Alps, that collaborate cross-continentally, let alone bi-coastally, and do it well. Kim and Geoffrey gradually built a friendship and collaborative process, gauging each other’s motivations as they exchanged demos, Tumblrs, songs, and music tastes. (They’re both big fans of indie rock stalwarts the National.)
The result culminated in 2021’s places i’ve lived. With hazy synths and dreamy melodies that shimmer around Kim’s dulcet vocal delivery—which feels intimate as she draws it into almost a whisper—songs like “Does it Matter?” and “Last Bus in the A.M.” explore heartbreak, longing, and friendship. Add a strong undercurrent of nostalgia and you’ve got a beautifully wistful reflection of the messiness of being in your late teens and early 20s that feels warm and familiar. The album is a letter to the past; an avenue for Kim and Geoffrey to tell stories they wanted to at the time but didn’t know how to.
“I was well-intentioned and full of love, but also full of sadness,” says Geoffrey, also speaking over Zoom, describing his younger self.
Kim continues: “My parents and I immigrated here [from South Korea] when I was three, and so they never quite got hold of the English language. They would try their best and I would try my best. But, you know, there's always, kind of, I don't 100 per cent understand you. And then you go into school where people may understand you, but also it feels like no one understands you.”
In keeping with the record’s concept, Bestfriend launched a letter-writing campaign that prompted fans to write notes to their past. It was an exercise in catharsis—and a huge success.
“I honestly did not expect for people to just bare their souls like they did,” Kim says with a smile. The letters are something they’ll do with the new record, places i’ve left, too.
The buzz around Bestfriend quickly accumulated as the band was included in Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist and received praise from outlets like Under the Radar Mag and Earmilk. Soon enough, even though Kim and Geoffrey hadn’t yet played a gig, they caught the attention of Nettwerk. They signed with the label last May. It’s been an incredible and surreal experience—and also a funny one, Geoffrey laughs, with the learning curve of going from being completely DIY to DIY with a team to help out with things.
So far, so very good. places i’ve left moves forward from the moment in time that places i’ve lived ruminated on as Kim and Geoffrey continue to navigate the world around them as two people in their 20s. Having the albums be intrinsically connected was always the vision, and a way to take stock of the past, present, and future.
“I feel like there's been a lot of forced growth and introspection over the past few years, for a whole list of reasons,” Geoffrey says. “And it's weird because I wouldn't know what growth is from sitting in my room for a year-and-a-half while a global pandemic happened, and what growth is from us navigating a record process. I'm not really sure. But I definitely feel like I have a more balanced perspective with my life and just the ways in which we work.”
“LEMON LIME,” the EP’s sparkling first single, grapples with still-raw feelings about the pandemic as the world continues to spin on. “Anxious People,” out January 27, is a song for the times with a soothing melody that contrasts cleverly with climbing guitar.
Kim describes the music as being “brighter and tighter” than ever, as the band has refined its collaborative process. places i’ve left also presents a real-time documentation of two artists, both struggling to express what’s inside, coming together to find their groove—and, inevitably, themselves.
“I think I've learned how to be more of a straightforward and honest writer,” Kim says. “I learned that I actually do know how to say the things that I want to say. I think that we're really lucky to have had the opportunity to look back in such a honed way—and in such a way where it was very intentional and not just, like, oh, yeah, that happened.”
Bestfriend’s new single, “LEMON LIME,” is out now.