One of the stand-out acts of last month's tremendous FestivALTAZ was without a doubt Family of the Year. Tonight they return to the valley supporting Lord Huron at Tempe's Marquee Theatre. The band has released some singles deeply rooted in acoustic and folk rock the likes of popular tunes, such as "Hero" and "Buried." But the band delivered so much more than that. It turns out that Family of the Year has mastered of sunshine-drenched pop and straight American rock 'n' roll. While they strolled through selections from their records, weighing heavily on 2012's Loma Vista, they also injected the set with new songs from their forthcoming third album. And these were some of the best songs of the entire day.
Nearly everyone knows "Hero," whether it was due to the film Boyhood or its many placements elsewhere. "Buried," "The Stairs," and "Carry Me" breed similar familiarity. It is the songs between these singles, though, that bring about a cohesive vision of Family of the Year and all together what makes Loma Vista such a compelling album. It's no wonder why they have been able to tour behind it non-stop for three years. It is a modern take on the entire gamut of what used to be called "California Rock," and it's simply stunning. Whether it is the sunshiney keyboard driven pop of "Diversity" and "St. Croix", the outright Pet Sounds delivery of the magnificent "Everytime," the synth baroque charm of "Living On Love," the wistful homesickness of "Hey Ma," the pure Beach Boy laden pop of "In The End," the rock of "Never Enough" or the lulling, perfect finale of "Find It" all provide a depth to their sound that their singles may not reveal.
Family of the Year construct a sound out of their strengths: fantastic harmonies, fascinating multii-instrumental experiments, a unified vision pointed toward making beautiful music. The combination of Joseph Keefe (vocals/guitar), Sebastian Keefe (drums/vocals), Jamesy Buckey (guitar/vocals), and Christina Schroeter (keyboard/vocals) create something truly special in their sound that glows of a warmth not found in many acts these days. I recently caught up to Schroeter to find out about what kind of dynamic is responsible for six years of fantastic music. "Well, everyone kind of has a role," she said. " Joe’s our musical director and general cool guy, Seb lights the fire, Jamesy is our road pilot, live tech master and therapist, and I don’t know what I do. I tweet and keep everyone up to date on what Miley’s doing."
Songrwriting and recording has a similar commitment as their roles in the band and in their lives.
"Joe does most of the songwriting, but I chime in with lyrics, and sometimes Seb or Jamesy will come up with some chords or lyrics and we’ll all work together," Shroeter said. I was most curious about the new songs that they played from their forthcoming, as of yet untitled, follow up to Loma Vista, because those were the songs that sealed the deal on me loving their music. "We recorded our new record in Berlin, so it was pretty cool to be out of our element," Shroeter said. "A lot of the songs were written in LA, but to be in a new studio with all these cool old instruments and keyboards, we kind of had no rules. We put silverware on the piano strings, busted out the Leslie, and I played electric guitar through a toy battery powered amp. I think Joe recorded a song in the hallways of the building we were in because the reverb was so cool. We were just like, whatever let’s do whatever."
After years of touring behind Loma Vista, the band's philosophy toward live performances reflects the joy they project in their music and as people themselves.
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"We can stress all day long about the live performance while we’re at practice," Shroeter said. "But when it comes time to play the show, it’s like, let’s have fun and if anyone screws up, whatever… but we don’t really say the last part out loud and we don’t really acknowledge it after the fact either."
Yet, when on tour, weird stuff is bound to happen, in the case of Family of the Year, they seem to be haunted by ghosts.
"Weird stuff happens all the time, and after a while none of it seems weird anymore," Shroeter remarked. "I saw a ghost standing at the end of Joe’s bed at a kinda creepy hotel in Wyoming and I made the mistake of telling him, so neither of us could sleep after. Might have been the only time we were up before hotel breakfast was served. Oh and in Kentucky, a ghost pushed Seb and he broke his foot."
Perhaps they will find a ghost to tell stories about in Arizona. One thing is for sure, their forthcoming album is sure to be great. During their set at FestivALTAZ I honed in on the song "Make You Mine" as my favorite of the evening and it turns out that will be the debut single. Be sure to keep an ear out for that in later this Summer. In the meantime, you may want to head to the Marquee tonight to catch this tremendous quartet as they open for Lord Huron. Christine says that she just hopes "a lot of kids come kick it with us on tour and dig the new tunes!" Don't let her down now.