Like many bands around the world, the origin of Family of the Year began in a garage. But, their music is anything but garage rock. At times, the band often features acoustic strums, interwoven vocal harmonies, and textured melodies, a sound that made their 2012 song “Hero” into a critical and popular hit. Now with the new self-titled album, the troupe explores new territory with songs that are expansive power-packed anthems, tailor-made for summer music festivals and cross-country road trips.
Formed in 2009 by brothers Sebastian and Joe Keefe in a rented out auto body shop in the sleepy Los Angeles enclave of Rosemead, they created their first songs with friends, keyboardist Christina Schroeter and guitarist James Buckey. The brothers grew up on Martha’s Vineyard, and first performed in bands around Boston, but they say Los Angeles is where their music took root. “Half the people who were in this band hadn’t been in a band before,” Joe says. “We were playing games at 3 in the morning, drinking cheap wine. It was like a clubhouse. And musically, we wanted to have no rules. We let go of all the people-pleasing music, and were making records for ourselves.”
In 2011, the band self-released their debut album, Songbook. Then in 2012, their breakthrough album, Loma Vista was released on Nettwerk with renowned producer Wally Gagel at the helm. “He took us from a low-fi band to a hi-fi studio band,” Sebastian says. Their mix of indie pop flavors with Joe’s earnest lyrics landed the band a huge hit with the pensive, acoustic-guitar driven single, “Hero.” Their rapid critical and popular acclaim earned them performances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and Conan. Extensive national and international tours followed, where the group’s sound resonated in Europe, landing top 10 in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. Their songs even appeared in films like Richard Linklater’s Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe winning film Boyhood.
While the effect of “Hero” exposed the band to a wider audience, the trajectory wasn’t a full representation of their broader sound. “So many people came up to us after our show and said, ‘okay, we didn’t know we were going to see a rock band,” Sebastian says.
“With the success of “Hero,” we knew that more people were going to hear the new album. We didn't try to make a reactionary record or try to recreate anything we'd done in the past, we just wrote the same way we always have. We went into the studio and recorded songs that were dear to us and pushed ourselves to make something that we love, “ adds Joe.
Their new self-titled album is a journey from the sounds forged back in that Los Angeles garage to a band that has found success here and abroad. Between tours, the band lived like nomads, Air B’N’B-ing houses in Los Angeles neighborhoods of Mount Washington, Echo Park, Silver Lake and Highland Park. They recorded demos along the way, amassing songs Joe says were a departure from the tone of Loma Vista. “I like to write weird stuff, things you wouldn’t expect from us, with lyrically strange ideas and non traditional instruments mixed together,” he says. “This one’s a darker, personal record about troubles and troubled people in my life. I wanted to be honest that there’s beauty in sadness.” They then relocated to the hip neighborhood of Kreuzberg in Berlin, where they recorded with producer Gagel at Tritonus studios, a facility packed vintage analog gear that Joe says was essential to creating the fuller tones of their new album. But while Europe was their base for nearly a year, Joe’s heart was still back home, caught up in memories of growing up on Martha’s Vineyard and the tightly knit community he cultivated in Los Angeles. “It’s an L.A. album, we recorded in
Berlin, about the Vineyard,” he jokes.
With big beats and driving piano chords, the anthem “Make You Mine” is an ecstatic ode to summertime flings that Joe pulled from his East Coast experiences. “It’s about darkness and light…the winter and the summer. It was written during a blizzard while visiting my mom on Martha's Vineyard. As a teenager, I remember how much we looked forward to summer and how we were just trying to get through the cold winter months. Growing up on an island that was bleak and vacant most of the year and then beautiful and full of people for three months is really interesting.”
On “Carry Me,” Joe’s acoustic folksy fingerpicking pairs with his gentle voice, then the song amps up with distorted rock guitar, backing the sing-along lyrics, “You got the smile I want to see, you’ve got the heart to carry me.” The upbeat song represents the fusing of the band’s past and present sounds, juxtaposing lithe folk with anthemic rock. While the music is
uplifting, Joe says the lyrics come from seeing friends pull through on difficult situations. “There’s been some tough times and people in our lives who have gone through dark times,” he says, “but they have people to help them persevere.”
From the soaring guitars and Sebastian’s propulsive drumming on “Facepaint” to Schroeter’s slightly funky keyboards on “We Need Love,” the album burgeons with new effervescent energy of a band that has undergone a rebirth and a refocus. And underneath their indie power-pop, there is a message, Sebastian says. “Music is how we reconcile our world around us. Our music hopefully helps people to understand that no matter what, you can always defy expectations. It feels like a dream, to be part of the fabric of someone’s summer. That's why we do this.”
Description provided by artist representative