Band of the Week: LA’s Folk Popsters Family of the Year

Los Angeles folk pop band Family of the Year appeared on our radar in December, thanks to a friend who turned us on to their brilliant, and addictive, 2009 release, Songbook.

The LP is one of those albums that you find yourself loving more and more with each spin, and that you go back to again and again. The band is now one of our favorite new bands, and definitely a band to watch in 2010.

Family of the Year, who hail from LA’s Silverlake area, a hilly region east of Hollywood, are not completely unknown in the world of music. They played four shows at New York’s CMJ last fall, and toured the U.S. in a RV that they lovingly call Rosie. But it was the release of Songbook that really put them into a new category of prominence.

Moreover, last September, conductor Keith Lockhart, and singer-songwriter Ben Folds, selected the LA folk pop band out of more than 650 applicants to open for Ben Folds’ performance with the Boston Pops on Friday, on October 2, 2009, at Symphony Hall in Boston.

“Let’s Go Down”Family of the Year from Songbook (2009)

There is some relevance to the band’s name – it started as a project of brothers Joe Keefe (guitar and vocals) and Sebastian Keefe (drums and guitar), and Jamesy Buckey (guitar and engineer). The brothers, who grew up in Wales, first gained recognition on the local scene as part of the Martha’s Vineyard-based raw rock ensemble Unbusted. Not long after, they were featured in the Edgefest Cafe’s broadcast on June 21 and 22, 2006, prior to the Boston Pops performances with My Morning Jacket.

Family of the Year’s assemble expanded with the addition of singer Vanessa Long, an Orange County, California native, and actor, whose feature films include XII, I’m On Fire, and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Keyboardist Christina Schroeter, also from Orange County, is an entertainment public relations professional, and bassist Brent Freaney, hails from Long Beach, Mississippi. Contributing members include musicians Meredith Sheldon and Farley Glavin.

Family of the Year’s original name was Bogie Ogreton, but, at the urging of friends, family and their manager, they changed their name. Sebastian Keefe recently told Blast Magazine about the name change.

“(Family of the Year) was nice-sounding, and we kind of evolved into a family, the six of us,” Keefe explained. “We all live together in the same house and we all travel together … so it was kind of fitting.”

Keefe said the band’s main influences – which are apparent listening to Songbook – are The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Crosy, Stills, Nash and Young, and Bob Dylan.

“Feel Good Track Of Rosemead” Family of the Year from Songbook (2009)

Mixing upbeat rhythms, sunny folk ballads, rich melodies, uplifting choruses, sweet pop harmonies, impressive story-telling, and even some dance beats, it’s no wonder Family of the Year were chosen to open for Ben Folds and the Boston Pops.

Because there are so many memorable, ‘keeper’ tracks on Songbook, it was quite a challenge to pick a few songs that stand out the most. We suspect that fans of the band who have listened to Songbook multiple times (and it’s hard not to), face the same dilemma if asked to choose two or three favorite songs from the LP. Other standout tracks – and most songs on the LP are – include “Surprise,” “No Good at Nothing,” “Stupidland,” and “Let’s Be Honest.”

Family of the Year are selling their debut LP using the Radiohead model – basically name your price (minimum of $1). The CD version is $15 via their record label, Washashore Records.

The band is performing tonight, February 1st, at the legendary Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles.

“Summer Girl”Family of the Year from Songbook (2009)

Family of the Year on MySpace

Family of the Year on FaceBook

Family of the Year on Twitter

Here’s a great interview with Sebastian from the blog, In Your Speakers.

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