As SpongeBob once told our generation in his gloriously nasally voice: " 'F' is for friends who do stuff together."
Friends help you make music, let you stay over when your parents kick you out, and are there for you when your girlfriend cheats on you for the 59th time.
But the word "friends" has a more complicated connotation for Miami singer Lavares Joseph, also known as Twelve’Len. His friends helped him create the best music of his life. They helped him catch a break in Miami’s rising rap scene. They also sent him into a deep depression, which led to the latest incarnation of Twelve’Len as a solo artist.
Last year, Twelve’Len was a band — or at least marketed as such. Lavares Joseph was the singer, Zach Fogarty played guitar, and John Falco manned the drums. The trio made four projects together and performed as one, but not everything was what it seemed. “I played with a live band, but I was not in a band,” Joseph says. The band, he says, was only an accessory to his dream of creating a different vibe in the South Florida music scene. He wanted to separate himself from the other Miami artists who showed up to shows with only a flash drive.
“The band idea was working because of the state of music scene. You’re a rapper or you’re nothing. You’re not going to win out here,” Joseph says. But Joseph worked with his band for two and a half years, growing close to the other members musically and personally.
Photo by Cristian Rivera
And then Fogarty moved to Los Angeles, California. He said he'd be back, but he eventually found a home in his new city. Falco, the drummer, soon left too, his interests leading him to new ventures.
“I realized that everyone has their own dreams, and you can’t rely on them all the time," Joseph says now. "People have their own jobs and people have attachments; they aren’t obligated to work with me.”
But what originally felt like scary, uncharted territory turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As soon as the band started to deteriorate, Joseph found his true voice as a solo act, quickly becoming the breath of fresh air the Miami music scene needed. He started gaining traction once his new music was released and began the rebranding of Twelve’Len.
He booked shows and the blogs started calling. The Fader offered him up as a temporary antidote to Frank Ocean's delayed album release. Suddenly, the solo path didn't look too shabby.
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For his next project — what would eventually become his latest album, Fri(end)s — he hit up Broward County's Nick León and Miami's Telescope Thieves. The album showcased Joseph's new sound, a mix of soft rock, soul, and R&B. “This is the project that will change my life,” he says. And this project did indeed change his life. It led to various offers from record labels, a new manager, and a press team. His old bandmate Zach Fogarty even contributed to the production because, you know, true friendship lasts forever.
The album is available now via Soundcloud.
The 12-track album taught him a lot — and, not surprisingly, a lot about friendship. “Being loving, proactive, giving, and overly concerned makes you a good friend,” he says now. It’s those qualities he tried to pour into the album. “Fri(end)s is a mix between all of my past projects with an emphasis on R&B,” Joseph says. With features from JK the Reaper, Savannah Cristina, and SandKastle, Joseph certainly hasn't given up on collaboration. But this is his show now. Ultimately, friends will only take him so far.