Family Of The Year and Gold Motel
Los Angeles sextet Family of the Year only released its debut full-length, 'Songbook,' last November, but quickly followed it up with an additional EP, 'Through the Trees,' in March. Even prior to 'Songbook,' their music attracted the attention of Ben Folds and Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, who hand-picked the group to play with the Pops at Boston's Symphony Hall in October 2009. Frontman Joe Keefe recently spoke with Spinner about the group's preparations for SXSW.
Describe your sound.
Probably, like, American summertime music or something like that. Guitars. Harmonies.
Your brother Sebastian plays drums in Family of the Year. When did you both start playing music, and how did you decide to be in a band together?
We've been playing since we were younger. We kind of always would play music around the house, but didn't really play until a drummer dropped out of one of the bands I was in when I was just out of high school. And he had been playing drums a lot, and so I asked him to join the band at that point. That was when he was, like, 18 or something.
How did the rest of the band come on board?
It's just basically everyone we've always kind of played in bands with on the island where we're from. It's kind of a mix of all the people who've come and gone. Various bands all got together in one big group now.
What's the dynamic like with all of you living and working together?
(Laughs) We've actually been living in a tiny little apartment, all of us, for the past month, living in a rehearsal space, kind of recording and working every single day. It's intense. For some reason, it feels like we're all used to it. It's kind of what we want. It's nice. It's comforting to always have all your best friends around you. So the close quarters don't really bug us at all. You get really good at just kind of staying out of each other's hair. We're very polite to each other.
How did you come up with your band name?
We were Bogie Ogreton [at first]. It wasn't a serious project at the time. And then, as it got more serious, we were advised to maybe change [the name]. And we had a few ideas, but we had written a song and it had a line about "family of the year." The song was about a family with a lot of dark secrets, pretending, keeping up appearances for the neighbors, and just kind of appearing to be a perfect unit. So I just kind of threw it out there one day and was like, oh, that's pretty cool. And we were like, all right, fine, we are all living together, hanging out all the time. We are a family. And it stuck. I think it's kind of cool. Bands are families, when you're in them.
Before your record even came out, you played with the Boston Pops. How did that come about?
I think that was our third, maybe our fourth gig ever. Our brand-new manager at the time entered us into, I think it was like an Internet kind of thing, where Ben Folds and Keith Lockhart from the Boston Pops would basically hand-pick a band to come and open up at Symphony Hall. And then they chose us, which was absolutely amazing, because we were a brand-new band and fans of Ben Folds growing up. So we were like, oh s---. And a lot of us are from the Boston area, so it's cool to go back home. It was an amazing experience. It was really nice. We went there and played to a bunch of people and we were all dressed up.
What are your musical influences?
Personally, I grew up listening to hard rock music, Black Sabbath, all that kind of stuff. My dad always played Bob Dylan and the Beatles, so there was always that in the house. But recently, like for the last album, it was kind of a lot of like 1970s singer-songwriters. Definitely Fleetwood Mac, we were listening to. Jackson Browne and Paul Simon, that kind of stuff.
Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
Oh, I don't know. Depends on what day of the week it is. Probably the Beatles.
What's in your festival survival kit?
(Laughs) A buddy, first of all. Definitely a friend. You don't want to go out there by yourself. I think that's probably all.
What's your musical guilty pleasure?
Probably Ke$ha these days. I love the first single ['Tik Tok']. It's awesome. We all love it.
What's the craziest thing you've seen or experienced while on tour?
I don't know about the craziest. I can't think of anything. There's no craziness around us.
Appearing with Gold Motel, The Hush Sound, and members of This Is Me Smiling
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701 A E. Washington Ave.
Madison, WI 53703
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