Thursday, 15 May 2014

Family of the Year (Loma Vista) - Album Release & Interview

Family of the Year, 'The Stairs'

Info: Family of the Year are a California-based indie rock group consisting of brothers Joe and Sebastian Keefe (guitar & drums), James Buckey on guitar and Christina Schroeter on keyboards. Their debut album, Loma Vista, was launched last week in Ireland and Europe, following the release of the above single 'The Stairs'. The band have been together since 2009 and following the US release of Loma Vista, have had a sold-out tour of Canada and the United States, seen their first single, 'Hero' reach the top 10 in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and appeared on prime time shows such as Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien. 

Loma Vista can best be described as an infusion of old and new, sun-drenched Californian vibes echoing The Mamas & The Papas and The Beach Boys along with contemporary artists such as Band of Horses and Arcade Fire. The opening track on Loma Vista, ‘The Stairs’ and also ‘Buried’ have a country / folk feel to them while tracks like the hit single ‘Hero’ and ‘St.Croix’ are very much bursting with energy and a lot rockier before we get a real taste of where they're coming from with the shoe-gaze sounding ‘In The End’ and ‘She Wants To Talk’. 

With the band currently recording their second album due for release next year and on the verge of more touring, I managed to shoot the breeze with guitarist and vocalist James Buckey over the phone from Los Angeles, we had a very interesting conversation about music in general and somewhere in between there was even an interview, here it is, and thanks to James for taking the time to share his thoughts;

Remy: James, you’re from Jacksonville, Florida, which has a rich musical tradition and was the birthplace of famous musicians such as the Van Zant’s from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Scott McKenzie, Ray Charles and more recently fellow guitarist Derek Trucks, did you grow up listening to any of them or like a lot of teenagers was it mostly contemporary artists you enjoyed?

James: When I was growing up in Jacksonville there were All Ages Clubs (under-21 clubs) and a really cool skate park, so it was mainly listening to a lot of bands that were on the label Merge Records at the time and a lot of bands from Boston, which was why I eventually moved there. I suppose, before I knew any better at that age, I was listening to a lot of heavy metal, which is kind of embarrassing looking back, but one day one of the guys I skated with gave me this excellent Dinosaur Jr. mix-tape and that kind of changed everything for me in terms of influence.

Remy: I see you toured back in 2009 with the great Bell X-1, aside from those guys obviously, does anyone in the band have a particular soft spot for any artist from Ireland, past or present?

James: Well, that’s a timely question, what we’re recording right now, we got to a bit of U2-style bass so we can’t discount them, there’s also a band called Solas, during my time in Boston I got to see those guys quite regularly. Also, I like Glen Hansard from The Frames, around the time before he won the Oscar for the movie Once, I was working on a show doing monitors in Boston, and I remember him getting off the bus one morning and he kind of stumbled out and gave a nice morning stretch! He's always generally come across as a very genuine person and you could see that from his Oscar speech, where he avoided all of the usual clich├ęs like 'I want to thank my family' etc..

Remy: From the 50’s to the early 90’s there were so many iconic musicians Elvis, Dylan, Hendrix, Prince, Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain (and say bands like The Clash, Pixies, Talking Heads) etc., the landscape has changed greatly in the last 20 years, is there anyone at the moment in this different world that you would put in this bracket?

James: Well I saw Jack White with Neil Young last night on the Jimmy Fallon Show recording a vinyl record in a booth on the show and that was pretty cool, but it’s been a while since something really impressed me, but I would probably say The Flaming Lips from The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi phase, it was something completely different that I’d never heard before, but it just seems that people these days think that what society wants equals culture, that using weird vocals and folk singer songs is something new and unique, but, actually no, it’s not!

Remy: Is there a mini-revival of L.A.’s indie scene happening over the last decade or so with bands such as yourselves, Eels, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Devendra Banhardt, Best Coast, Cold War Kids etc., or do you think there’s just a higher output of musicians nowadays?

James: None of us apart from Christina are from California, but we all moved to L.A. together, for Joseph and I, we spent a lot of time in Boston, and it’s amazing how many people from Boston we’ve met living in L.A. now, a lot of Bostonians end up in L.A. because, well, the weather is better! But seriously, it’s nice to be associated with certain acts, we’ve been listening to some new Best Coast stuff and it’s fucking awesome, it’s weird thinking of yourself as being part of a 'scene', there will always be that root in East Coast music though. Of course we grew up with The Beach Boys and stuff like that, when you don’t live in California, and you’re listening to that music, you imagine a much different place, but when you get here you realise, hey, it’s just another city.

Remy: Sticking with the L.A. theme, NWA. or Cypress Hill?

James: Oh NWA, Straight Outta Compton! Me and my friend were in junior high school when NWA, Straight Outta Compton came out and it was super-big, I could probably sit here now and ad-lib the whole track ‘Gangsta Gansta’. Remy: Maybe that’s something you could do in between tracks on the new Family of the Year album? James: If it works…

Remy: Cassette, CD, mp3 or vinyl?

James: At the moment it has to be mp3 because it’s so immediate and you don’t have to physically transport music with you. I grew up listening to cassette tapes and making mix-tapes for a friend or a girlfriend, and there was something about watching the wheels of a cassette turn in the player that made me want to be a recording engineer, and it’s interesting watching how the science of recording has changed from back then, but yeah, mp3 now. 

Remy: Moving on to the album now, Loma Vista was released Stateside in mid-2012, and now gets its European release this month, is there a new album around the corner?

James: We’ve actually been in the studio for the last few days and have another 5 days of recording ahead of us, and we have 12 tracks ready to go now. Loma Vista came out a good while ago in the States and we’ve been touring for the last two, two-and-a-half years with it, so it’s a bit of a leap frog to this stage, but right now it’s looking like it might be a release in mid-2015. 

Remy: Listening to Loma Vista reminds me a bit of a melting pot of MGMT minus the electronica, Band of Horses, Polyphonic Spree, Weezer and Belle & Sebastian, but also further back there’s a bit of a Beach Boys thing going on with some late Beatles, are any of these groups influences?

James: Maybe not the Polyphonic Spree! The four of us all come from various backgrounds, Joe or Seb are a bit more Dylan, Beatles, being brothers they wouldn’t be too far apart in their influences, but there’s an experimental influence from the likes of Animal Collective and Arcade Fire, especially when it comes to percussion and drums. Christina’s from the West County, so she’d have a more punk background, Greenday, Operation Ivy things like that, and I come from a shoe-gazing background, My Bloody Valentine, The Flaming Lips, so I think when we all come together it’s a mix of things, and living in California we are spoilt, apart from earthquakes, every day is a beautiful day, there’s no sad, gloomy, rainy days sitting on the guitar thinking ‘Woe is me’!.

Remy: From start to finish the new album feels very catchy, upbeat and positive, is it a case at times of hiding darker cryptic themes under the music or would you generally just consider yourselves to be of a sunny disposition!?

    James: Quite the opposite actually, when we were recording Loma Vista it was during a very long, and hard time, on a number of levels, when you take the name Family of The Year, it sounds happy, but, when you look at any traditional American family it’s ‘Oh hi! Yeah we have a dog, 2.5 kids, and a house with a picket fence’, everything looks okay from the outside, but inside the house, you see the reality, the dad is angry because of work, the teenagers don’t understand their parents and vice-versa, the mom is angry because she married a schmuck of a husband, but at the same time, the album sounds so happy because we had gone through a hard time personally, and we didn’t want the listener to have to listen to sad sappy songs, about trying times.

    Remy: I see from your website you are playing a handful of concerts in Europe during the summer, any plans for trip to Ireland or any of the festivals in Ireland / UK soon?

    James: We’re playing at Glastonbury on the Sunday in the U.K., other than that not right now, apart from Switzerland to do a festival in June, but currently it’s only Glastonbury in terms of Ireland & the U.K.

    Remy: What are you listening to at the moment? And are there any current albums that the whole band enjoy listening to together on the tour bus, or is it all headphones?!

    James: To be perfectly honest, when we were driving around in the van for the same year, everyone was listening to the same thing, and whoever was the driver, got to pick the music, but after a while I just insisted on driving because I wanted to pick the music because I couldn’t stand what the others were playing! But after that it went to headphones, Spotify and that sort of thing, but we all listen to different things, it’s like any group of individuals, it depends on the mood at the time, if you want to put on some hip-hop or rock, it’s up to you, we’re all in a space where we respect where each other comes from with regard to musical tastes.

    Remy: If you could collaborate on a song or album with any artist past / present, who would it be?

    James: Well we’d probably all have different points of view, but I’m also a recording engineer as well as guitarist, so from that perspective I would have really liked to have been an assistant engineer in the studio when Elvis or Johnny Cash were both in their Sun Records period, it would be nice to look back at the age of 80 and reminisce on something like that.

    Remy: Finally James, I’ve done a bit of detective work and I see you’re following Danny Glover on Twitter, do you think you’d have been a lot calmer than he was in the toilet bomb scene from Lethal Weapon 2? 

    James: Okay....well, umm, if it is in that era…Danny didn’t have his cell phone, so he couldn’t text someone and say ‘Hi, by the way…..’, nowadays everyone takes their smartphone to the toilet, playing angry birds or words with friends then realise they’re sitting on a bomb, I’d probably text the LAPD!

    Loma Vista is out now and available to purchase online from and in Europe

    Follow / Like & Listen to more from Family of the Year at:
    Twitter: @FamilyoftheYear
    Instagram: familyoftheyear

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