top of page

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

REALLY hard.

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

to come.

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.

15 views0 comments


bottom of page