Sammy Rae & The Friends ready to change the world

It’s not often that tears come to your eyes while watching a music video. But the latest release from Brooklyn-based jamming band Sammy Rae & the Friends, “If It All Goes South,” is likely to evoke that reaction.

Set to a light and airy song, the touching video shows an elderly couple meeting and falling in love; Singer Sammy Rae – aka Derby, CT native Samantha Bowers – plays the good angel who brings them together. In addition to starring in the video, she also co-directed it.

“It’s a song that says, ‘No matter what happens next, we had a lot of fun’ — and that’s a common theme in a lot of our Friends material, that there’s something to be gained in the present moment,” she said last Week. “When I started playing it for the band everyone was like, ‘I know that feeling, that’s young love, it’s like 16’. And I thought people will think of youth when they hear this song, so we show two seniors falling in love. I don’t think people over 50 are well represented in the media and I wanted to tell their story.”

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It was also her idea to cast Barbara Lochiatto – from Some Kind of Heaven, a recently acclaimed documentary about pensioners – as the female lead. “When I saw this film, I just fell in love with its story and its look. So I found her online and when I found out she was still in Florida I said, ‘That’s it, let’s go’.”

Although Bowers grew up listening to classic rock, he sings in a gospel-inspired style that suits the band’s multicultural mix of rhythms. “I found the church to be a pivotal part of my growing up – I went to different churches, from Catholic to Baptist to Pentecostal, and tried everything. I’m also a big fan of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, which can be seen in my habit of constantly packing too many syllables into a sentence to get the message across. I think we’re like the E Street Band in that you’re looking at the stage and it’s not just about Bruce; Everyone on stage is a unique individual with their own sound. The glue is my vote and the fact that you never know what you’re going to get.”

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On stage, Bowers does everything possible to make her shows as warm and inclusive as possible. “We want our shows to appeal to everyone, especially those who are most often forgotten in the live arena. We tour with an ASL interpreter and we advocate not using flashing lights for people with sensory issues. A large part of our audience is young and creative, and many of them are queer. It can be difficult to know that you’re safe, especially when you’re leaving the big metropolitan areas on the East Coast, so I don’t think that can’t be said enough. Also, a big part of our mission is that you are free to be yourself. We’re pretty crazy characters ourselves, so we want to make this so hard you can’t help but do it yourself.”

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The band is serious about the friendly atmosphere they maintain; During a 2020 show at Sinclair (which was filmed and uploaded to Youtube), drummer Sebastian Chiriboga even paused during his solo to express his love for his bandmates. Bowers admits moments like this can make cynics wonder if they’re real.

“The risk is absolutely there, but honestly I don’t care. Because we really are. People may find it unusual to see grown men professing affection for friends, or to see a young woman in command of everyone on stage and in the audience. Or to see an audience made up of people from different races and different economic groups. A lot of what we do on stage will make people uncomfortable – and I hope so because we’re trying to change the world here.”

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