Interview w/ Athens, GA Based Family and Friends
Photo Credit: Chelsea Kornse
Starting off your weekend with an interview from Athens, GA based folkies Family & Friends! The guys have been featured on the site a couple of times before previously, known for their expansive folk sound that derives influences from the band's personal music collection, the guys have a feverishly eclectic stage presence that allows the audience member to grasp onto exactly what the band is telling them, and becoming lifelong and devoted followers of the band in the process. The guys were nice enough to carve some time out to do an interview with MusicBoxPete as we get to know a little more about them, how their music is usually crafted, plus we go behind the scenes as to what they like to do in their off time. Here is the transcript from our terrific chat:
Give us your names and roles in the band?
Mike MacDonald – Guitar / Vocals
Melanie Annabelle – Vocals
Tuna Fortuna – Bass
JP McKenzie – Guitar
Ryan Houchens – Percussion / Vocals
Alejandro Rios – Percussion / Resident Animal Expert
Take us behind the formation of Family and Friends and how you guys all
Mike: A few of us were friends from high school, a few met in college, and our
bassist, Tuna, and I met while working at the same bar in Athens. The rest is
what I’d imagine an episode of Cheers would be like where everybody ended up
at the same bar at the end of the day and already knew each other’s names. It’s
the episode where one of the characters had the idea to start a band together
and shenanigans ensued and they found themselves in comical situations only to
lead up to a well-timed punch line but not before learning something about
themselves in the process. We chose the name ‘Family And Friends’ after
discovering it was an anagram for ‘Friends And Family’ and because
‘Hoobastank’ was already taken.
Describe the sound of your band to those who aren't familiar with you?
Mike: Picture your left hand is “folk” and your right hand is “rock” and you’re
clapping at yourself in the mirror.
JP: I think the sound of our band is best described as a nice smooth beard stroke
from Tuna that is accompanied by a dry, well-aged dad joke from Mike, and a
spot-on impersonation of an antacid salesman by Ryan.
Ryan: It's like something you probably have never heard of.
How big of a role did music play in your upbringing and what were some
artists that still inspire you to this day?
Tuna: My older brother used to quiz me about bands that he was listening to and
beat me up if I didn't know who they were, so I had a pretty good grasp on 90's
alternative and classic rock. On the other hand my mother was into Motown
classics like the Temptations, the Commodores, and James Brown while my dad
was into country legends like Towns Van Zant, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.
JP: From my mom singing to my brother and I to sleep as kids to going to shows
with my best friends and my family, music has always been a huge part of my
life. It has always resonated on such a deeper level, and made so much more
sense than any other art form. I've formed some pretty incredible relationships
through music, and thanks to the support of so many people I've also been able
to see some inspiring places.
Artists that have changed the way I think of music are Explosions in the Sky, Ben
Howard, Circa Survive, Foxing, Andy McKee, Sigur Ros, Local Natives, The Oh
Hellos, Typhoon... gosh... Did I mention I'm a fanboy about a lot of bands? If it
makes you cry, I probably love it.
Alejandro: I wish my parents had made me listen to more good music growing
up. My mom would mostly play radio top 100 and my dad was almost exclusively
Salsa music. Once I was old enough to have my own music library I never
looked back. Still love that Salsa though.
Ryan: Whenever I would get in trouble I would go to my room and bang on the
drums real loud so my dad couldn't hear me screaming "I HATE THIS HOUSE". I
listened to a lot of Reba Mcentire.
Getting started down in Athens, GA how big of an influence were
hometown bands like R.E.M. and The B 52's?
Tuna: I've always been a huge fan of R.E.M., but I don't know that I'd go so far as
to call them an influence. The B 52's on the other hand have produced at least 3
of my least favorite songs of all time. I would say that I'm far more influence by
more recent Athens’ alumni like Reptar and The Whigs.
Mike: Being based out of Athens, it’s hard not to have anything but respect for
the hometown heroes, but I think collectively we’ve found ourselves more
inspired by the more recent and current generation of musicians. Reptar was the
first band from Athens that made the dream of pursuing music something
tangible in my eyes. Currently, there’s so much good music coming out of town
these days: Mothers, New Madrid, Roadkill Ghost Choir, Dana Swimmer, Chief
Scout, Grand Vapids, New Wives, Muuy Biien, and so many more. It’s such a
supportive and motivating scene. That in itself is inspiring to be a part of.
Ryan: Not very big of an influence. I'm scared of those bands honestly. Don’t ask
me why, but its because my older brother used to bring his friends over who were
bigger than me and they would play that music really loudly to where I had a hard
time focusing on my watercolor drawings. Then they would all flick me on the
back of my head when they passed by. Once Todd yanked on my ear really
Take us behind the recording process for XOXO and how much fun it was
to put all together?
JP: The recording process of XOXO was exciting, fun, and challenging. The
studio can be an intimidating place, but Dan Hannon and Brad Fisher made us
feel so comfortable and really helped us get the most out of the experience. We
went to Echo Mountain in Asheville, NC which is an old church turned recording
studio that sounded amazing. We were hesitant at first to go up there, but in the
end we realized it was worth the memories and we wanted to make it the best
possible. I think the most important thing is that we all became better players and
closer over the course of writing and recording this EP.
Ryan: Pretty much sat in a basement with Dan Hannon and Brad Fisher and held
in my farts. It was unforgettable.
What is your favorite song off the EP that you'll look back on fondly?
Tuna: I'd say Vestiges is probably my favorite song on the EP.
Alejandro: I love Vestiges. I think that song was one that was so much fun to
compose, and is one that I knew immediately I would never get tired of playing.
JP: It is really hard to choose a favorite because I love all of them for different
reasons. From the recording of gnarly feedback through my Bohemian Guitar on
Howl, to the ending of Wyoming where I got to layer a ton of ambient guitar, each
one has their fond memories for me.
Ryan: Probably the last song because that means the CD is almost over.
Besides music, what do you like to do for fun and leisure in your spare
JP: In my spare time, I love going to coffee shops, going on random trips, and
watching YouTube demos of guitar pedals.
Ryan: Watch VHS's.
Tuna: I like building things, reading philosophy, cooking things or working on web
Alejandro: Answer 1: Chicks!
Answer 2: Estudiar en la biblioteca
What have you guys got coming up for the rest of this year?
Mike: We’re currently in the process of writing our first full-length LP. It’s going to
be without a doubt the biggest project we’ve tackled yet. We’ve been
experimenting with our sound some and been very conscience of musically what
we’d like to put out into the universe. I think we’ve all been itching to get back into
the writing process and eventually the studio, so we’re all pretty stoked for what’s
JP: I think I have work tomorrow.
Ryan: Memaw is coming up to visit around my birthday. Hope she brings me
some lemon heads.
Lastly, how has being in this band brought you guys closer together?
Ryan: It hasn't.
JP: I think it is this band has brought us closer by allowing us to experience such
amazing parts of our lives together. Memories of these tours and recording are
stories I will be able to hold onto forever, and I am honored to share these
moments with these people.
Mike: I still can’t tell the drummers apart. I know there’s a chance one of them is
left handed maybe, but I honestly couldn’t tell you which one. I’ll usually say
something neutral like “man” or “dude” to avoid potentially awkward situations.
Physically speaking, when we play shows we’re generally standing pretty close
together on a stage whereas we might be standing farther apart in another
Alejandro: I despise everyone that has anything to do with this band.
Thanks once again to the fine and friendly folks of Family & Friends for being so awesome in doing this interview! As you can tell, the band are hilarious and extremely outgoing as people, and what you see is what you get from these outstanding citizens who are just regular people doing what they love for a living. Don't forget to catch them in concert on February 19th at Great Scott, and for more on Family & Friends you can 'Like' them on Facebook here and check out their latest album XOXO now available on their Bandcamp site at this spot over here.