by Stephen Krock
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale. A whale of a tale even. I recently spoke with Sebastian Keefe of folk-pop band Family of the Year to learn more of the L.A.-based group’s musical inspirations.
“I guess it used to be a bit more Gilligan’s Island,” says Keefe of their sitcom-y lifestyle. “We were pretty closed off when we wrote Loma Vista [their most recent album], perched on a secluded hill in East L.A.” Along with his real-life brother, front-man Joseph, drummer Sebastian Keefe lives in a run-down house with band mates Christina Schroeter and James Buckey. These are all names which you’ll hear throughout the entire FOTY discography, as shout-outs are commonplace among the Family. And a family they are. It’s a concept they take beyond simply that of their namesake.
“That is based mostly in our friendship and unconditional feelings for one another,” Keefe says. “It’s not always perfect, but in the end, we’re in this together. No matter what.”
Not always perfect? Arguable. Family of the Year has received high profile accolades since day one, which wasn’t all that long ago- 2009, in fact. It’s the same year the band was handpicked by Ben Folds to open for him and The Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. Not long after, they were selected by SPIN.com as one of 25 must hear artists from the ’09 CMJ Music Marathon. From then until now, they’ve worked with artists such as Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Gomez, singer-songwriter Willy Mason and even made a fan out of Steven Tyler, who describes them as “The Mamas and The Papas on acid.” An astute observation- while listening to Loma Vista, I found myself dreamin’ of California.
The band’s sound harkens back to the time of classic pop. The Smiths, The Byrds, Fleetwood Mac. Yet Family of the Year still keeps a beat that is very current. “It is an album that came about during change,” Keefe says. “Hopefully that fear and heartache came across honestly [and we] managed to balance those feelings with the optimism and strength we found.”
There is certainly strength to be found in Family of the Year. The lyrics can sting, but they are eased by the comforting, hopeful and beautifully fun compositions. Vocals often occur in unison and all inclusive of each “family” member. It evokes an image of a campfire on the beach, making you at once nostalgic for times past and longing for next summer’s impending arrival.
The visual sensation their music inspires is no coincidence. “Joe and myself spent childhood summers around campfires,” Keefe goes on to say. “Our parents and their friends would have these beach parties that would stretch late into the night, playing guitars. It rubbed off on Joe and I, and we carry that tradition when we can- whether we’re in the woods, on a beach, or in a backyard in Silver Lake.”
Sounds like a group you’d want to hang out with, no? And luckily, you can! Family of the Year is kicking off the Radio 104.5 Summer Block series at The Piazza at Schmidt’s in Northern Liberties this Saturday, May 4th. The show goes from 3:45-7pm and it’s completely FREE. You owe it to yourself to go. And in a few summers from now, when you find yourself around a campfire of your own, you’ll be able to say with a certain amount of smugness, “I saw Family of the Year at a free concert way back when.”
Then your friends will all be like, “Whoa, man. Whoa…Pass me a beer.”