Samantha Bowers — the singer-songwriter known as Sammy Rae — began her career in Brooklyn’s music scene. She visited venues where other artists listed their names with “and friends” on the setlist, meaning they played with whoever could make it that night.
“I would go see [a] show and be like, ‘So-and-so was awesome, but the bassist is killing, and I don’t even know the bassist’s name, and I’m probably never going to see him with this artist again,’” Bowers said. As a play on the term, Bowers decided to adopt “& The Friends” (”capital T, capital F”), meaning “these are the people you’re going to see at every show,” she explained. Her band came together through meetings at music events — including working a kids’ music program and playing a jazz cocktail hour.
Following two EPs and multiple singles, lead singer Bowers and The Friends will return to Roadrunner on Sept. 21 for Camp: The Tour. The band is also working on releasing their first studio album.
Bowers classifies her band — who released their first EP, “The Good Life,” in 2018 — as a mix of rock, jazz, and disco. Their soulful music reflects on growing into yourself and overcoming difficult times with help from people who care. The uncertainty is delivered through funky, upbeat songs, like their popular “Kick It to Me.”
“[Our band is] a party. It’s just very high energy. We have a lot of fun,” she said.
The Friends all live in Brooklyn and Astoria when they’re not crammed into a tour bus together. Bowers said they make their closeness work by caring for each other like siblings and engaging in effective communication.
“I think what we do very well is bring this don’t take yourself too seriously, campy, sort of whimsy to our music,” said Bowers. “It’s refreshing for people to listen to songs where the artist isn’t taking themselves too seriously, and we’re just talking about the simple joys of life and doing whatever you feel,” said Bowers. “Hopefully [those messages] inspire our audience with confidence to be themselves and be good to themselves and the people around them.”
Bowers explained that their concerts are free-expression zones where audiences are encouraged to dress and dance how they want.
In her early music days, Bowers played at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton. Although her band’s following has grown since, she said she is greeted by familiar faces years later at the front of her shows. “We’re getting older and growing up, and we can see [our audiences] growing up with us,” said Bowers. “There are some people who’ve been around from the very beginning, and we’re very grateful for them.”
Bowers said that as the band and their audiences experience more life, there are more “sad songs and breakup songs and actual love songs.” But, she added, Sammy Rae & The Friends will always open their concerts with a song that feels like a party.
After five years, Bowers said people are often shocked Sammy Rae & The Friends have yet to release a full-length studio album. (They released a live album, “The If It All Goes South Tour (Live),” earlier this year.) But she said they have been working on the 11 new studio tracks for the last eight months. “It’s a picture of where we are now, having traveled so much and played so many shows and taken in so much music and met and been inspired by so many other artists.”
Bowers said she is excited to return to Boston and is “obsessed” with Roadrunner — The If It All Goes South Tour stopped at the venue last year. Bowers ranks Roadrunner in her top five favorite venues of all time.
“It is just beautiful. It’s state of the art,” said Bowers. “The entire building is set up to make for a really thoughtful, generous experience for the artists.”
Sammy Rae & The Friends
Thursday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. $38.50. Roadrunner, 89 Guest St. axs.com
Maddie Browning can be reached at email@example.com.