When I first heard the term “mystery friends,” I thought of a young gang of scrappy upstarts solving crimes together a la Scooby Doo. But if you like me live in DC, then you know Mystery Friends are actually a young gang of scrappy upstarts a la The Archies. Mind you, the new wave quintet don’t sound like The Archies unless you reimagine the fictitious group as an ’80s pop band.
I digress. Mystery Friends, a band worthy of your eyes and ears, sold out The Atlantis recently in an album debut party for the band’s second full-length record, Utopia, and they were nothing less than awesome.
Mystery Friends released Utopia independently about a week ago and then followed it up with a big concert that played like a great party at The Atlantis on Jan. 26. In the past, Mystery Friends has been a bit of a revolving door built around the core duo of Abby Sevcik (vocals) and Dave Mohl (synth/guitar). But the band seems to have found a footing with the addition of Jay Nemeyer (guitar), Zack Be (keys), and Enzo Ferroggiaro (drums). Jay Nemeyer and Zack Be helped to write several of the songs on the new album, and Nemeyer (also of Color Palette) also assisted with arrangements.
At The Atlantis, Mystery Friends played at least five songs from the new album across their set, starting strong with upbeat and memorable songs, “Beck and Call” and “Serotonin.” “Beck and Call” proved a strong way to start the evening as the song served as an invitation to lose yourself or get loose or fall in love. It leans well into a little bit of funky disco in its verses, and it’s a very good song. “Serotonin” appropriately kept the blood pumping. The feelgood number benefited from a touch of glam and radiated nu disco vibes.
Mystery Friends banked on “Fever Dream,” creating a simple but clever video that really captures a mood.
Watch the official music video for “Fever Dream” by Mystery Friends on YouTube:
Frontwoman Abby sang with an alluring and seductive voice that was made to serenade. She seems pretty down to earth, but otherwise she played a bit like Debbie Harry fronting Blondie without the cultivated space vampiness. (That’s not an insult to Blondie; I adore Blondie.) Abby is a great performer, moving as if conducting the band and audience as an ensemble while strutting between both. Dave brought some funk and glam guitar to the sound, and he looked cool while doing it.
I’ve only caught up with Mystery Friends post-pandemic, but they have been workshopping songs since at least 2017 and so I was pleased with the inclusion of “Cafe de Flore,” hailing form an early EP, in the setlist. For Mystery Friends, it’s a slow number compared to their recent output, but it’s a smooth and funky tune that showcased Abby’s versatile vocal.
Later in the show, Mystery Friends turned up the funkiness with “Match,” the lead track from Uptopia. As a listening experience, “Match” is a bit of a cunning fakeout because it’s about “fire match” and not “love match.” Its call to “let’s burn burn burn” won the crowd. They followed “Match” up with “Apartment,” Utopia’s slow ambient pop closer. It’s a bit melancholy, but it still felt elating. I guess that’s just what Mystery Friends do!
Like I mentioned, I have only caught up with Mystery Friends these past two years as a listener, and I hope that Color Palette’s Jay, keyboardist Zack, and drummer Enzo (formerly of Black Dog Prowl) are now permanent members of the band. Together, the five musicians who beguiled the sold-out performance at The Atlantis are a formidable team, and it was fascinating to see them bring their sharp instincts together as a whole.
Mystery Friends are a great example of why it’s a thrilling time to catch local music in DC. This killer homegrown band is poised for big things.
Here are some photos of Mystery Friends performing at The Atlantis in DC on Jan. 26, 2024. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.