Meet Super Doppler, Virginia’s Psych-Roots Band of Brothers

super doppler band

Super Doppler has been living on the road for years, touring the United States by highway. How does a band manage to do all the dirty work ­– lugging a trailer on long nights between cities and booking their own East Coast tours – without wringing each other’s necks? The Virginia group’s success is built on fraternal bonds: the band includes two sets of brothers, and the band members have known each other since they rode the same school bus.

Super Doppler is Cole and Neil Friedman (bass and keyboards, respectively), Michael and Bryan Adkins (guitar and drums, respectively), Tyler West on percussion, and Harry Slater on guitar. Super Doppler’s new album, Moonlight Anthems (recorded with Foxygen producer Matthew E. White) takes them to new places musically and geographically.

This album, released on June 16th, put the band back on the road after a short stint in a Virginia recording studio. Culture Creature caught up with Cole on his way to a week of shows in Colorado. Read our Super Doppler interview below.

Improvements after hundreds of shows in three years

Cole Friedman: We’re traveling in a fifteen-passenger trailer now. That’s the only upgrade since the beginning – a new van that’s not a piece of shit. The only thing that’s important for a touring band is you have to get to the next city. With the old vehicle, that was never a guarantee. With six of us, a fifteen-passenger van is pretty nice. We rotate drivers and shotgun.

The responsibility falls on me for most of the maintenance of the van. But we’re all pretty good at flats, like a pit crew at Nascar. With the old van, we were going through tires like crazy.

Life between gigs

A lot of time, city to city, you don’t have that much downtime to enjoy the place where you’re at; maybe you get to see the neighborhood where the venue is. You drive all day, get there, load in, leave. Sometimes there’s a rare day off where we get to stay in the same place. We were in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on an off-day. So killer. Getting to go hiking, cliff diving. On the East Coast on a day off you’re in the city. Here [in Wyoming], it’s the Grand Tetons, lakes.

On Virginia jam sessions

Neil and I were born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia, right by the coast. Close to the beach. We all went to the same high school. The band started out as bedroom jams, in my brother’s room. He had a drum set. My parents’ house was L-shaped, a Cape Cod. We were in one wing, our parents around the corner. They could watch a movie at the other side of the L, with multiple doors closed. If the windows were open, the whole neighborhood could hear, but my parents would be fine.

My brother and Harry just moved into a house in a neighborhood close by to where we grew up. When we were in high school, Harry was a friend who was really good with guitars. He would come around and string the guitars, show up for the show and hang out. He likes to say he started as a roadie. Sometimes he wouldn’t show up for a show and we’d call him and say, “Why aren’t you here?” and he’d be like, “I’m eating dinner. Why would I be there? I’m not in the band.” He could sing too, and slowly he joined on guitar and that pushed Neil to keyboards. And that’s our normal setup. Neil grew up taking piano lessons but played drums and guitar and wrote all the songs on those. So Harry coming in pushed Neil back into piano and organ. That’s an important factor in the band’s progression.

Producer Matthew E. White and the vibes at Montrose

What [White] brought to the table was being a coach, a kind of enabler of tone. His biggest skill set was his knowledge in the studio, running sessions. We needed that, as a six-piece band. It’s a split vote if it comes to it, and a lot of times it’s hard to make decisions because we’re such good friends.

Matthew really knows ‘60s and ‘70s rock, R&B and soul stuff. We’d tell him our vision, that we’re trying to get this tone or sound, how do we do that? And he has an encyclopedic knowledge of sounds and just knows what to do. Adrian Olsen, who owns the studio, Montrose, is equally brilliant. Together they’re a killer team.

Matthew started Spacebomb Records and does very intricate symphonic pop rock and roll. He produced Foxygen. They recorded all those horns in this same studio, Montrose. Matthew works with Natalie Prass, who we love, and if she brings him something his job is to make it huge. Her recording came out in 2015 and the guys in the band joked around, it’d be sick to work with Matt, he’s from Virginia Beach, it’s a cool connection. Then it became a reality when we got a meeting with him. He thinks in terms of albums. Are you going for Paul McCartney Ram or Brown Album The Band? He was like, “What are you guys listening to?”

The studio we recorded in, Montrose, is an hour and a half from Norfolk. It’s like in the middle of nowhere, across from a little horse farm. It feels isolated. Killer vintage, retro studio. Outboard analog gear, a Flickinger analog console. There’s a house attached to it, so we got to stay on the property while we were doing long days.

Sounds of Virginia other than Gwar

Gwar were from Richmond. Crazy how many awesome bands are coming out of Richmond right now. There’s a young growing art and music scene. A band called the Sleepwalkers, they are awesome. From Norfolk, a band who’s really killer, LADADA. You should check them out.

Os Mutantes

We actually got to play with Os Mutantes [in Richmond]. Really fucking cool, back in February. They had a mini U.S. tour and it was just luck. They were looking at the same club we were looking at for a Tuesday. The promoter said, “Os Mutantes’ promoter just emailed, do you want to move to a different venue or open for them?” It was like, “What the fuck?”  Of course. They played a ton of classic songs. That was a band I never expected to see let alone play with.


We’ve got two sets of brothers. Neil, on the keyboards, is my brother, and Bryan is the older brother of Michael. We always knew Bryan was really good at drums, but he graduated when we were in eighth grade. He was the best drummer in Norfolk. When we added him, it took the band to the next level. If you don’t have a strong drummer, you don’t have a good band.

We also have Tyler on percussion. His live set-up is ridiculous. Every possible percussion toy you could think of. I’ve been listening to a lot of Steely Dan. That is one of the coolest factors of those records, how killer the percussion is. And that’s something cool that we’ve got.

There’s no frontman in Super Doppler, no one guy who is more important. Everyone has a say and a part in songwriting, but they do start with Harry, Neil and Michael independently writing and recording a demo on Garageband or on a phone and bringing that to the band. Harry and Michael do most of the arranging, the harmonies.

Having two sets of brothers, I think you just get each other. We work well together. It helps musically and from a human stand-point, of living with five other people in close-knit quarters. Late nights in hotels on the side of the highway. It can be grueling.

Books on tour

We’ve got a little library. Books were getting crushed under seats, so we got a big box. Everyone brings books and puts them in the box. I’m a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, so I have most of his books in the van, hopefully not getting messed up. Cat’s Cradle, Player Piano, Dead-eye Dick. Michael Chabon, too, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay was one of the only books I’ve ever read that does it for me as much as Kurt Vonnegut. With Vonnegut, you read his book and there are recurring characters that have nothing to do with the plot. I like the universe he creates.

The road ahead

We’re on tour for another month. We started as a live touring band. That’s what we are. Seeing the band and the three-part harmonies sung live and the energy and it’s six guys that have really good chemistry, that’s what we have.

So we’re going to Colorado for a week. Then down to New Mexico, Idaho, Utah. Then we head east. Kansas. Missouri. Then it’s home. And I’ll hit the beach for as long as I can can have off.

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