Exclusive interview: Snowboarder Jack Mitrani talks about his music festival

A photo posted by Jack Mitrani (@jackmitrani) on

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What started as a group of friends in pursuit of good times and great snowboarding video parts has turned into an annual festival of music, camping, yoga, food, skateboarding, dance workshops and a general community gathering. 

Hosted by professional snowboarders and members of the infamous Frends crew Jack Mitrani and Danny Davis, the Frendly Gathering takes place June 23-25 in Windham, Vermont.

“I think it’s just a more intimate version of Coachella,” Mitrani said. “I went to Coachella in 2010 and had so much fun. But there’s just so many people there, and it was hard to get to the front of the stage and the lines are really long. I had a blast, but I also went to a music festival with Danny Davis called The Pickathon in Oregon which is a much smaller music festival and that was just the direction we wanted to take Frendly Gathering.”

Headlining musicians for the Frendly Gathering include Twiddle, Turkuaz and Moon Hooch. Mitrani emphasized the intimacy, music and community events of the Frendly Gathering as the highlights for the event.

“It’s like 3,000 people, there’s 25-30 bands, there’s a skate-ramp, there’s a pond, everyone camps out for the most part,” Mitrani said. “It’s more of a reunion than a music festival and by the end of it, everyone’s friends with each other and it’s just a good place to go and meet new people and just kick-back, relax and have a good time.”

Frends was formed with professional snowboarders Mitrani, his brother Luke, his Frendly Gathering co-host and collaborator Danny Davis, Mason Aguirre, Kevin Pearce, Keir Dillon and Scotty Lago. 

What started as a close group of professional snowboarders making an animated website highlighting both their athletic and goofy sides with snowboarding video parts evolved into a headphone business and now a music festival.

“Basically it started out as a crew of friends who traveled around the world snowboarding, doing what we loved and really just shared these experiences that was just the dream and we were getting to share it together,” Mitrani said. “And so at the time we just promoted Frends as a lifestyle, and it really started to gain attention, and we started to build a fan base and knowing that snowboarding wasn’t something that can really last forever as far as making a successful career, unless let’s say you’re Terje Haakonsen, we were just trying to be smart as youngsters and kind of plant the seeds for a business opportunity that had some longevity so we could continue to stay relevant in the action sports industry after our knees start to give out.”

Mitrani laughed at himself when referencing the imagery of an aging professional snowboarder, then elaborated on how the Frends crew evolved into a headphone business.

“So we thought it was going to be a cool idea to stick together as best friends and start a business together, and so from there we started a headphone company called Frends Headphones,” Mitrani said. “We all listen to music as we snowboard and thought that’d be a good idea. It didn’t really go too well off the bat. We didn’t really do so hot in the action sports world. The headphones kind of shit the bed off the bat, to say the least. They were breaking everywhere and so it wasn’t the most successful launch.”

It was Mitrani’s Frends partner Kier Dillon who redirected the headphone side of the operation into a successful venture.

Jack Mitrani. Photo: Courtesy of Ali Kaukas

Jack Mitrani. Photo: Courtesy of Ali Kaukas

“Kier Dillon saw an opportunity to actually transition from action sports into women’s fashion,” Mitrani said. “Basically, he went into an apple store and he was like, ‘Look there are so many competing. Beats By Dre. Skullcandy. There’s so many headphone companies that it’s hard to actually stand out but there’s nobody really doing women’s fashion (such as) accessory headphones. And so Kier kind of took that direction with the headphone company and we were kind of like, ‘Okay, well that’s not really true to who we are so we’re going to keep going with the music festival that we started in 2010, Frendly Gathering.’ And so now Kier Dillon, and let’s just call them ‘the management,’ have the headphone company, and myself and Danny Davis are continuing down the path of more community oriented. A music festival essentially.

“It’s not really a huge business thing,” continued Mitrani. “It’s not like we’re making bank on it. It’s more of this is just a humongous passion, and maybe one day it will. I’m still trying to make it as a host now, and other things to support the passion, but I wouldn’t say to friends and family it’s the bread and butter to be successful.”

While Mitrani is no longer a full-time professional snowboarder, he still finds the time to hit the mountain.

“I snowboard for the fun of it,” Mitrani said. “I kind of got burnt out on snowboarding for photographers and judges, and now I’ve kind of taken a step back and just like snowboarding for myself and not feeling the pressure to do anything I don’t feel comfortable with doing. I think I spent 15 years sending it as hard as humanely possible, so it’s nice to go up and actually just enjoy the different things on the mountain that I normally (wouldn’t since I usually) just go to the park and go hit jumps and hit the pipe.”

“And now I just get to soul shred and go ride as much powder as humanely-possible,” continued Mitrani. “Snowboarding is my biggest passion in the entire world and so you’ll never be able to take it from me. I’m just not going to go 25 feet on the half-pipe anymore.”

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