Ask a random person in New Jersey what they know about Cumberland County and one of two things might come up: 1) The pride of Millville and current Los Angeles Angel Mike Trout; or, 2) the Delsea Drive-In Movie Theater located in Vineland.
Ask the question 10 years ago and you might get a different answer: Music.
Vineland was home to Hangar 84, a former concert venue that hosted local and national pop-punk, screamo and rock acts. Bands like Chiodos, Senses Fail, and the Ataris all made the drive down Route 55 and played shows there. Even though Hangar 84 closed in 2012, the legacy of the former venue lives on in Vineland-based pop-punk band FRND CRCL.
“The music scene when I was in high school was booming,” says Adam Skirvin, bassist for FRND CRCL. “And when I graduated high school, the music scene in Vineland went from 100 to 0 just with Hangar closing.”
FRND CRCL—Zac Johnson (vocals and guitar), Aaron Smith (vocals and drums), Skirvin (bass), and Dom Giacalone (guitar)—met in school; Johnson, Skirvin, and Giacalone at Cumberland Regional High School in Bridgeton, and then Smith at Rowan.
“Me and my friends would always be in a circle in the hallway and people would call us friend circle,” Johnson says. “And I was thinking of a bunch of names and that one kind of made sense. We removed the vowels and the name stuck.”
FRND CRCL has come a long way since the days of chilling in the hallway at Cumberland Regional. They’re releasing a new song (and music video), “Quitters,” on Oct. 22—”a short, fun song,” Johnson says, that’s “upbeat and the chorus is boppin’.”
It comes on the heels of the band’s recently completed mini tour with fellow Delaware Valley-based band Goalkeeper,
“I think the thing that was interesting about going on tour was having a full week of your time being all about the band,” says Giacalone. “Instead of running errands or doing shit around the house, the whole week was about doing whatever the band needed to do.”
“That was our first time hitting the road,” adds Smith. “There’s nothing that can stop us from taking on more shows now that we got that experience.”
As is often the case on tour, the band picked up an idiosyncratic new tradition… might even call it a “bad habit.”
“When we got the van, it had an Ed Sheeran CD stuck in it, and now it’s tradition for us to listen to that album before we play a show,” Johnson says.
Over the years, FRND CIRCL had to deal with challenges recording music as well as the challenge of being a band based in an area of New Jersey without a vibrant music scene.
“We face challenges being from this small area,” Smith says. “There’s not many venues and we don’t have many options like bands in Asbury Park or New Brunswick have. It’s been a little bit of an uphill battle, but I’m proud to be from Cumberland County.”
In May of 2020, the band released their second album Internet Noise. “There was no set schedule,” says Giacalone on the recording process. “Like one week we’ll go to the studio, and the next week we won’t.”
“Being an independent band at the time and recording our first album as a four-piece band, we were growing and experimenting,” says Johnson about the recording process. “We were building chemistry with each other for sure. Looking back now, it seems like one of the most important things we have done. Everything after that seemed to go smoothly. It felt like it was all necessary.”
One listen to Internet Noise and you can hear the influence of bands like Blink-182 andGreen Day. “The first pop-punk I ever heard was ‘Anthem Part 2’ by Blink-182,” says Johnson, “and it totally changed my perspective on music entirely.”
“I was listening to Green Day and Blink-182 and their music would just excite me,” says Giacalone.
FRND CRCL has eyes on growing their reach and hopefully making it their full-time gig. But for now, Smith says, “If people are enjoying our music and continue to enjoy our music, that brings a smile to my face every single time.”
FRND CRCL will be playing at the Grape Room in Philadelphia on Nov. 6. Ticket information can be found here .