New Yorker Samantha Urbani, has her parents to thank for the Italian, Swedish and Native American features that earned her a photo shoot with designer Karl Lagerfeld.
Her folks also were responsible for the free-spirited way of thinking that led the 25-year-old to form Friends, a delightful alt-pop combo that recently released a dazzling debut, “Manifest!”
Eccentricity is in her blood. “My parents met while working together at a submarine factory,” she says. “My mom was a pipe-fitter who ran away from home at 15, and my dad — who still works there — was her boss.”
The singer’s father taught her steadfast work ethics, while her more hippie-minded mother expanded her consciousness.
Urbani — who brings Friends to San Francisco this week — was mostly home-schooled or tutored. “My mom would give me a choice every year: Go to public school or stay at home,” she says. “My mom would always give me choices, because she never went to college, never had a career, but she’s taught art classes, worked at UPS, worked retail, been a stripper and a nude model for painters. She’s super smart, and she always knew how to make things work.”
The daughter took these lessons to heart. Post-GED, she took three years off to travel, even driving cross-country until her car broke down in San Francisco.
“I went to a couple of shows and hung out for a few days before I flew back home,” she says. “But all of that felt like very important life education, until I hit a certain point where I thought, ‘OK, if I’m ever going to go to college, I should do it while I’m still young.’”
Urbani attended New York’s liberal-arts university The New School — sharing classes with Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Cults crooner Madeline Follin — and designed her own unusual major: philanthropy. After singing and composing in private, she used logic to reason through a lifelong case of stage fright, then went public with her tunes.
“I’ve just always felt very intuitively, spiritually connected with music, but I was overthinking it for a long time,” she says. “So I decided to write some simple, catchy pop songs, and that’s exactly what ended up on our album.” The quirky, chirpy ditties include “Friend Crush” and “I’m His Girl,” which touts her belief in open relationships.
Not surprisingly, Urbani’s Friends cohorts look equally oddball, almost like a traveling carnival: “Which we basically are,” she says. “I wouldn’t be able to be around a group of people all the time if they weren’t a bunch of freaks, to be honest. I just can’t relate to anybody normal!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Tickets: $10 to $12
Contact: (415) 621-4455,