Meet July's Artist Discovery: Family And Friends

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Family And Friends is an indie folk/rock band, full of energy and talent. They have steadily gained a loyal following with their spirited live performances and “good music, good people” mantra since releasing their first EP.

Family And Friends includes Mike MacDonald (guitar, vocals), Casey Harper (vocals), David “Tuna” Fortuna (bass), Ryan Houchens (drums, vocals), Alejandro Rios (drums), and JP McKenzie (electric guitar). The forthcoming album title, which loosely translates to “blessed mistake”, illustrates the notion that while we may continue to search for some semblance of meaning, the fact that we are here at all deserves to be celebrated, and Family And Friends intends to do just that.

We are fans of this band and we had the pleasure of asking the band members a few questions!

Get to know the band:

Who was the first artist you saw in concert?

Mewithoutyou in Atlanta at the masquerade. I tagged along with my older brother and some friends. Little did I know that night would send me into a deep desire for going to see live bands, and ultimately fuel my passion for being in a band. I will always remember the intensity in the room as hundreds of sweaty indie kids formed into a conglomeration of angst and passion as everyone yelled the lyrics at the top of their lungs and rolled like a swelling wave in an ocean of bodies. - Ryan Houchens


Who or what influences your music? 

One of the artists that has most influenced my playing has been Circa Survive. I can distinctly remember buying On Letting Go and Juturna and listening to the way Colin Frangicetto and Brendan Ekstrom interact with each other while creating true emotions in their playing styles. These two guitarists work so freely together yet intertwine so well that they give themselves to a true sonic experience. They paint pictures in technicolor using every tool. I can remember loving the way they never overplayed, letting silence speak as well. They use techniques that would typically be held in heavier music, let octaves form as leads, and blurred the lines between rhythm and lead throughout each section of a song. Combined with the way bassist Nick Beard holds down the melodies within the chordal structure, the band is able to become bigger sounding than I've ever heard a 5 piece. 

After hearing these records, I bought a DD-20 delay pedal and dove deep into the guitar. Their music has opened my ears to bands that would influence me even more Longer Afraid to Die, Minus the Bear, and so many more.

Even after all of these years, I can still go back to these records for inspiration. I've seen them about 8 times with each time bringing me more passion for not only their music but also playing music in general. I can honestly say that their music gives me hope and is inspiration for what I'd like to achieve as an artists. - JP McKenzie


Who is the first artist you remember listening to?

Pink Floyd. David Gilmour's guitar to be exact. I had definitely grown up with different music on the radio and have a special place in my heart for Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Martha and the Vandellas, etc. But the first time that music truly took me somewhere else was the first time I listened to The Wall. I remember sitting on the white carpet in my brothers room listening to the album almost through its entirety, until my brother realized I was in the room and kicked me out. I can remember the full body shiver in the middle of the outro of Comfortably Numb and feeling for the first time that music had really spoken to me. Pink Floyd was able to bridge the gap between lyrical content and musical tonality in a way that I had never heard before. The Wall in particular is a true masterpiece to me and my first experience of narrative songwriting and the power that music has to incite empathy and truly connect the listener to an emotion. I remember that it was the summer before third grade and almost every one of my binders that year having "Pink Floyd" written in it. - Tune Forutuna


What is the best live show you're ever seen?

I've seen so many great live shows in my life, but one that stands out in my memory was seeing Earth Wind and Fire perform live in 2016. They have always been one of my favorite bands, but I had never been able to see them perform live. It was actually only a week or so before Maurice White passed away so in a weird way that made it more special being able to see the band with its original founder. It was also a special night because I was surprised to find out that another of my favorite bands from that era of music Chicago was opening for EW&F. I was amazed at the talent and the passion with which the band performed, not to mention it's not hard to be totally surrounded by fans dancing and singing along and just seeing everyone in the place with a smile on their face was a such a great musical experience. That's what it's all about after all. -Alejandro Rios


What album do you play on repeat?

Personally, Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago has bee my go-to album for years. It's so unbelievably raw and packs such an emotional punch. I still remember the first time I encountered the album it was unlike anything I'd ever heard before. Justin Vernon has this incredible way of evoking feeling. It's not solely left to the lyrics. Every component of every song plays such a crucial role in creating a specific time and space. It's truly inspiring to see what he's gone on to create and accomplish and the direction Bon Iver has taken, but it all comes back to this album for me. In a world of constant noise, it's a deep breath and calming presence. It's my musical security blanket, and it's a testament to it's brilliance that i'm still discovering new elements and hearing things for the first time after all these years. - Mike MacDonald

Ally Lindell