July 2014 “Band of the Month” – FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Our “Band of the Month” feature began in January 2012, featuring Savannah-based trio CUSSES in a short interview that gave readers a glimpse of what to expect from one of Georgia’s hardest working bands. We then landed an interview with Of Monsters and Men right before they broke and would then go on to include acts like Ponderosa, Cheap Girls, Swear and Shake, Jonny Fritz, Torres, The Districts, and more over the next two years.
So as we move forward into 2014, our entire staff would like to extend thanks to the artists who have taken the time to speak with us and the readers who have been so dedicated to supporting the site.
Family and Friends seemingly came out of nowhere right around the turn of the year. At least for me. I caught wind of the Athens-based band after they shared the stage with Saintseneca at the Georgia Theatre in January. I expected most of the buzz from that show to be about Saintseneca, the Columbus, Ohio-based folk-pop group beloved by Dr. Dog and the whole ANTI Records crew. People loved them, but the real stars of the night were Family and Friends. Friends texted me about the show, my social media feeds came alive with pictures of the show, and so I dove into their debut EP, Love You Mean It. This past month, I was able to see the band (finally) at AthFest as they acted as main support on the Main Stage to Reptar. Despite poor sound the band was at a 110%, calling friends on stage to since, dance, and beat on drums. Athens loved it and my guess is you will too. Family and Friends return to the Georgia Theatre on August 23rd and will be performing at the 15th annual Bragg Jam Music Festival in Macon on Saturday, July 26th.
Family and Friends is:
Mike MacDonald – Guitar, Vocals
Casey Harper – Vocals
Jamie Rios – Percussion
Ryan Houchens – Percussion
JP McKenzie – Guitar
Tuna Fortuna – Bass
Maria Kindt – Viola, Vocals
Where does the story of ‘Family and Friends’ begin?
JP: Match.com really.
Mike: When I graduated, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that I loved this town and I’d always loved playing music and I’d do whatever it took to avoid the prospect of a desk job. I’ve always felt I’ll be able to reinvent myself if need be, but for now this dream is worth pursuing and I don’t want to look back and regret never giving this the chance I felt deep down it deserved and deserves. The band itself kind of fell together like a 7-piece puzzle.
Jandro: A few of us started trying to just structure out songs bare bones style in a makeshift office turned practice space that we shared with a few other bands at the time. The two kits just about touched the opposing walls.
Ryan: Family and Friends begins for me in my heart. When I’m willing to accept and engage in another person with the intent of building a continuing lasting positive relationship.
Tuna: And World Peace.
Things have progressed rather rapidly for you all.. From sharing the stage with Saintseneca at a packed Georgia Theatre to recently playing the Main Stage at AthFest just before Reptar..For any of you, what’s been that moment where you realized things were about to get really exciting?
Mike: For me, the first time we ever played as a unit in front of people I don’t think anyone expected much. We had practiced for months literally, and to physically witness people responding to the music was enough to know, if nothing else, there was at least potential here. That’s when the real work began.
Ryan: When we got our residency at the Green Room last July. It felt at that moment that people were responding to this and our work was starting to bear fruit.
Jandro: I always thought from our very first show, that we had something that people would really enjoy and could have some success at, but when we headlined the Georgia Theatre and I got to stage dive and people didn’t drop me is when I knew that we had something really good here.
Mike: Can’t say the same for Ryan.
Ryan: I jumped into Jandro’s gap.
Jandro: Buy me a drink first.
JP: We have an open door policy at our practice space for strangers and friends alike. Anytime people are wandering by and recognize our music, it blows my mind and makes me feel all of the warm and fuzzies. One night in particular, a group of swing dancers wandered in and danced with us, we met so many new friends and amazing people that night.
Tuna: There’s never a dull moment really, it’s always exciting.
You recently won big at the Flagpole Music Awards, taking home awards for both “Upstart” and “Artist of the Year”. What was the evening like for you all and how did you celebrate?
Tuna: Drunk in love. The Athens scene has shown us nothing but love. To be surrounded by a group of astoundingly talented individuals and being awarded such an honor was breath taking.
Mike: I think to take home either award was completely unexpected. There were so many deserving bands, and it truly was an honor to validate all the hard work we’ve been putting in. I’m so proud of these guys and gals.
Ryan: We celebrated with bad speeches and happy tears over Dawg On BBQ and beers. That rhymes.
Jandro: I was actually at the World Cup at the time and celebrated by dirty dancing in the Brasilia fountain and fell and cut my feet and hurt my wrist and made a lot of Brazilian familia y amigos.
JP: It made me feel so honored to be a part of something so much bigger than we ever anticipated, and especially to do it with my brothers and sisters in this band. We work really hard to make things come together, but we wouldn’t be anywhere if it weren’t for the people who are supporting us.
Ryan: And World Peace.
Mike: Most of us live by the “work hard, play hard” life outlook, and that night we definitely erred toward the side of playing hard from what I remember.
The band teamed up with Free People over the weekend of Shaky Knees to do some promotional work and a live session.. How did the seal of approval from the company help you out and how did you all spend the rest of the weekend?
Mike: Casey works at Free People and got us in touch with the right people. It’s a brand that shares similar values and that we loved the opportunity to align with.
Ryan: The Free People seal of approval helped spread our music to so many people that would’ve otherwise likely never heard it.
JP: That night was so much bigger than I think any of us expected thanks to how wonderful, friendly, and talented their team of bloggers is. We got to spend an amazing night doing what we love with incredible people. There was no pressure there, we could just be ourselves.
Jandro: It was a really fun night partying with the Free People gals and getting to know them all, they’re very talented and it was also cool running into them at Shaky Knees
Mike: Jandro and I went to the festival that weekend. It was exactly the motivation and inspiration I think we needed at the time to look at the artists performing and say “damn, we’re here on this side watching, we want to be over on that side performing, now what?”
Coming off of a sweaty and emotional set at AthFest, you’ll be headlining the Georgia Theatre later in August alongside Matrimony, a band who TheBlueIndian has followed and loved for a long time. What are you looking forward to most about getting back to the Theatre? If it’s anything like the AthFest set, the returning UGA students are in for a party..
Tuna: Playing the Theatre does feel like going home, if only for the people that work there, but also the reception that we’ve gotten previously.
Jandro: Its like a family reunion with friends.
Tuna: Yikes, that being said I think we fully understand the responsibility for making the show memorable, which makes it all the more exciting.
Mike: The Georgia Theatre really is more or less our home away from home and has always been great to us. They pretty much took a chance on us and gave us opportunities to play from the beginning and we legitimately wouldn’t be anything without the help and guidance they’ve given us.
Ryan: I’m most excited about getting weird and wild in there. It’s such a great space with a great sound. Can’t wait to get boogie woogie with it.
Mike: If you haven’t checked out Matrimony yet, you’re wasting your life away. Stop reading this, and go listen. It’s such an honor for us to share the stage with them. Georgia Theatre August 23rd is the place to be alive.
JP: We also have a tradition of taking a bathroom mirror selfie before we go on at the Theatre so I for one am excited to dust off the old scrapbook again.
In July, you’ll actually be making your debut in our home city of Macon for the 15th annual Bragg Jam Music Festival. Anything in particular you’re excited about for the festival? Any bad “Macon” jokes you want to share?
Tuna: We’re stoked on Bragg Jam. I think we’re excited to meet and greet with other bands at the festival. It’ll also mark the end of our tour, so it’ll be emotional as well.
Ryan: I’m even more stoked to be at the same festival as my friends in O’Brother!
Jandro: We’re always excited to play another music festival! We’re very new to that scene and excited to see what Bragg Jam has to offer. “Macon i barely even know her.” “Macon Can’t beat Bacon.” “Macon Cheese.” “Mac’On Mac’Off.” I’m spitballin’ here.
Jp: The only legitimately bad Macon joke that I know of is when Mike wrote “Bragg Jam’Macon me crazy!” when we announced the show on our Facebook. He took it upon himself to comment back on the post personally about how funny it was. He may still be the only one that thinks that.
Mike: It’s pure gold and everyone knows it.
Love You Mean It was released earlier this year and has become a favorite to audiences around Georgia and beyond but I know that plenty of people are wondering about a full-length…is that in the near future for you all or are plans focused more on writing and playing around the South?
Tuna: Nope. Never. Why would you bring that up?! Next Question.
Mike: This past year has been a learning experience from day one. The plan seems to be leaning towards another EP in the near future. We like the idea of digestible content and making sure every track is done to the highest quality. That being said, we’re definitely itching to get back into the studio, and word on the block it’s going to happen oh so very soon.
JP: We want to take some time to play around the South to show Love You Mean It to more people first, then hit hard with promotion of a new release.
Jandro: We definitely want to tour and get our music outside of Georgia in the coming months.
Ryan: The ultimate goal is to tour nationally, but the first step is to start hitting up towns and building markets around the Southeast.
Mike: We’re just a couple of G.R.I.T.S. at the end of the day.
Ryan: “Girls Raised In The South.” And we like grits.
Next time we make it up to Athens, what are the Family and Friends endorsed places to get good tacos, burgers, cocktails, or soul food?
Tuna: Cali N Titos, Tlaloc, and Senor Sol. Taco Lyfe forever.
Mike: Walkers Coffee & Pub is the place to be if you know for a fact you like to party. I’ll always be a mama’s boy for Mama’s Boy.
JP: One of my favorite places is the Georgia Theatre rooftop for tacos, burgers, and they make an amazing Cuban sandwich. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Ryan: Dawg Gone Good BBQ’s got soul power for days. Picantes will forever live on in our hearts.
Jandro: I know for a fact I like to party.
AthFest always exposes us to some of the best and brightest from around the area… What local bands or artists have you enjoyed seeing over the past few months? Anyone we should be keeping a close eye on?
Mike: Programs for sure, not to be confused with ProgRams.
Jandro: They have such an infectious live show and could be making some serious waves in the near future.
JP: I always love seeing Programs because I love those dudes so much and they make great synth-pop. Brothers, Mothers, New Wives, Padre, and Fake Flowers are my go-to local bands that I can listen to all day.
Ryan: Programs, and also Mothers, Dana Swimmer, Muuy Bien, New Madrid, there are so many more I’m not even naming though.
Tuna: Mothers, Brothers, New Wives, Deep State…
Mike: Mothers writes some of the most beautiful songs in Athens right now. Dana Swimmer is killing it. Sam Burchfield is just crazy talented and one of the nicest dudes you’ll come across. So many more. I don’t know, what everyone else said.
JP: I also got to see Little Chief from Arkansas for the first time and they blew me away so you should be on the lookout for them. I also love seeing the boys from Judah and The Lion because they are so talented and down to earth. We’re about to meet up with those guys and The Oh Hello’s for a few shows in July!
Jandro: Did we mention Programs?
Family and Friends – “Love and Other Drugs” at Glow in the Dark Studios