"Family of the Year releases its 'Songbook.'"

By Jason Tanamor

If you like Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles and wished they would combine their sounds into one, fear not. The band Family of the Year did just that – sort of. Actually, Family of the Year just “wants what any band wants in the country right now which is a sustainable income so (they) can play “mom rock” for the rest of (their) lives.”

Joey Keefe, one of the singers and guitar players of the band, recently sat down with Zoiks! Online to talk about Family of the Year.

Q – How did the band come about?

A - Vanessa (Long) and I met a year and a half ago at the local crazy house in Silverlake and started hanging out at our rehearsal space/studio downtown LA. We just started recording songs, starting with drums then staying up until sunrise to get the vocals done. Months later we felt the need to play live, etc. so we asked our friends to come play and help us learn the stuff live so they did. I think we had a gig booked before we even had the music down.

Q – Where did you come up with the name?

A - It was the title of one of the first songs Vanessa and I recorded together. A dark story about a messed up family. When we were thinking of names, Seb (Keefe) just threw it out there and we liked it. We were starting to feel like a family spending tooooo much time together, but unconditional love was always there in the end.

Q – Who are the members of the group?

A - Brent Freaney plays the bass. Christina Shroeder plays pianos. James Buckey plays guitar. Seb plays drums. Vanessa and I both sing and I play guitar too.

Q – Are there actually any members that are related in the band?

A - My brother and I are ummmm brothers and V (Vanessa) and Christina could pass for twins but we're thinking that we might all get married and make it official.

Q - Your debut album, “Songbook” will be out in February 2010. It’s said to be a mix of Fleetwood Mac and late-era Beatles. With the way music is today – hip hop, metal, and pop – how do you go about reaching an audience that may not be so receptive to your music?

A - When we made this record we thought we WERE playing hip-hop, metal and pop. And I guess this is just how it came out - sounding like the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac. I don't think it's so much influences and sounds that will make or break a record with today’s audience, probably just whether or not they’re good songs. Everyone likes “Hey Jude,” everyone likes Outkast and everyone likes Taylor Swift, and let's be honest, “Enter Sandman.”

Q – I’ve heard the new album. I totally dig it. It’s very unique and the lyrics are intoxicating. Having said that, and continuing with the previous question, what do you want to accomplish in terms of being successful with a record that is both Fleetwood Mac and Beatles-esque?

A - Those are some awfully generous comparisons and I can't say I honestly see us like that. If that was the case I don't think anyone would have a problem with success. Unless it's a total rip off, but I see how some parts are a little early sounding and that is a part of our musical tastes and upbringings that I'm sure can get a band stuck in the "retro" bin. That being said, I think we want what any band wants in the country right now which is a sustainable income so we can play “mom rock” for the rest of our lives.

(Courtesy of Rennie Solis)

Q – What I like about the CD is it’s a great “artist” album and not manufactured to be a radio juggernaut. I meet a lot of people in music and entertainment and they always tell me that they do it for the music. Although that may be true in some respect, isn’t it about making money and selling albums so you can get to the point of releasing a follow up?

A - Radio juggernaut, that’s cool. As things are now, we can record and release the albums ourselves. That makes it so we never really have to pay for that part besides rent, etc. But yes, it's sad but we do want people to love our music and buy our stuff. It goes hand in hand; the more people like us and buy the album, the more fancy shit we can buy to make a fancier, better record next time.

Q – What are your favorite songs on the album and why?

A - We love all our children equally, but if I had to choose I like “Staple Jeans (Intervention Song)” because it's crazy, and probably “No Good at Nothing” because I think it's beautiful.

Q – What songs do you like playing live best?

A - I really like playing, “Let's Be Honest.” Everyone has the most fun.

Q – Ben Folds has been a huge advocate for Family of the Year and you even opened up for him. How has playing with Folds helped the band out in terms of visibility and generating excitement?

A - It was great. Our first trip to the east coast was based around that show and the whole thing seemed a bit ridiculous, you know? Yeah, we're playing at Symphony Hall next week. People didn't believe it.

Q – So, the show went well then?

A - We had a grand piano in our dressing room and sold a dozen Family of the Year dog shirts. Yes.

Q – I’ve let people listen to some of the songs, both of whom are metal heads, and both said the same thing, “It’s different.” Was that something you wanted to be – different from what is out in music today?

A - Not at all. We're trying to become more generic but we're not getting anywhere. Everything comes out sounding different and it suuucks. Seriously though, there was no plan, everything just came out as you hear it - not much editing or checking yourself. Maybe it sounds different because we did it ourselves without anyone looking over our shoulders telling us that our ideas sucked. Or maybe we're just out of touch. I don’t know.

The album, “Songbook,” comes out February 2, 2010. However, you can get the album as a digital download at the band’s website: www.familyoftheyear.net.


Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at jason@zoiksonline.com.

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