A listen to Family of the Year’s albums, conjures images of cruising California’s coastal roads, projected before the warmth of a dreamy sunset. As their sound suggests, brothers Joe and Sebastian Keefe — who spent a chunk of their youth in Wales — have fallen easily into an L.A. state of mind, the city where they and bandmates James Buckey and Christina Schroeter currently reside.
Since the release of the band’s sophomore record, Loma Vista (Nettwerk Records), last summer, Family of the Year has been steadily building a solid fan base with hits like the album’s soft-strung track “Hero.” Like this listener’s favourite, Loma Vista embraces the songwriting roots of folk featuring songs that whisper blissful emotion against distinctly West Coast indie-pop beats as heard in the wistful “St Croix.”
While the beach-y vibe of their sound points to their L.A. address, Family of the Year was originally formed on the sleepy island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. What started as a way to pass the time by playing local venues, soon became something that the group wanted to bring to the next level. And with this decision, the band packed their bags and headed westward to sunny LA.
Not long after, came the band’s self-released debut EP, Where’s the Sun, in September 2009. This was then followed by a chance to open for musician Ben Folds at his Boston Pops Orchestra performance that fall, an opportunity realized by beating out 700 artists, who also auditioned for the opening spot. Family of the Year have since gone on to share stages with bands including Mumford & Sons, Gomez, The Antlers and South Australia’s Atlas Genius, whom the band is currently on tour with in the U.S.
On the road leading up to the Life is Beautiful music festival in Las Vegas at the end of October, where bands including Beck, Kings of Leon and Vampire Weekend are scheduled to perform, the band’s lone female, Christina Schroeter, took a moment to share with FILLER an inside look at what goes on behind closed doors when this band on the rise gets together to make music.
Can you tell me a bit about how you became a band? You have a very interesting name, what’s the origin story there?
The band formed in LA back in 2009. We were just a group of friends, all playing music together, playing songs like [Jimmy Buffet’s] “Margaritaville” and whatever, and then we started working on some songs Joe had written. Pretty soon, we had a show, and then we had more shows, and now…we have played many shows and can consider ourselves a band, I think.
And the name?
The name came from a song we never released called “Family of the Year.” We needed a name and it fit the bill.
It works. How would you describe your sound?
Yep, I think I can hear all that in the new album. About Loma Vista, how does the sound on the album differ from some of your older work?
We worked with a producer on Loma Vista so the sound is a bit more cohesive. Everything prior [to this album], we had recorded ourselves on our dinky computers and released on our own. We all contributed to Loma Vista more than on the previous record.
It’s a sophisticated record with a really concrete sound to it. If someone didn’t know you, what would be the one song you would recommend they listen to?
“The Stairs.” It’s honest and a bit rude. It shows how we can be selfish and vulnerable at the same time.
The new album has really taken off, everyone is talking about it, and you’ve had the chance to play on shows with huge reach including Jimmy Kimmel. What would you say has been your biggest “making it” moment so far?
Playing Red Rocks in Colorado was pretty epic. It’s the most gorgeous venue I’ve ever been to in my life, and The Beatles played there!
How’s it going out there on the road? Any stories you can share?
It’s a damn long road we’ve been on, but it’s been fun. We just wrote a song a few weeks ago mentioning bits of tour stories. Hopefully that will make it on the next record…we partied with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony in San Francisco…
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony? Well, you’ve definitely piqued our interest! What’s the inspiration behind your music, any influences?
Everyone and everything: love and life and heartbreak and our moms.
About covers it. How would you describe your band’s style — your stage image?
People seem to think we are folk hippies or something, but that’s not true. Someone called us punk hippies. Maybe that’s more accurate.
If you could change your sound for a day, what musical style would you take on?
I know it’s a girl band, but Ithink we’d all have fun being in The Runaways. I mean the guys all pretty much have the haircut down…
That’s true. What era of music are you especially a fan of?
We like everything from country to reggae to mainstream pop to punk and metal.
What about the music scene right now, do you feel like it’s an exciting time to be a musician? Is it harder or easer or the same as it has always been?
Yeah, it’s totally fun to be a musician. In some aspects it’s harder to be a musician because no one spends money on music anymore and that whole thing, but if you’re willing to work for it, you have much more control in getting yourself out there thanks to the internet and all that. But of course, so does everyone else so there’s more competition.
I guess those things balance each other out…
I’m just gonna try to enjoy it for what it is. Writing music and playing it for people who wanna hear it. I feel lucky to be doing what we’re doing.
What’s next, anything exciting we can look forward to in the near future?
After this tour, we’re going to finish writing and record the next album! Yeah!Published October 16, 2013