"We built a DIY shower that drained into the bathroom sink below. We put up a swing. We also grilled steaks in the parking lot. It wasn't very thought out…" Family Of The Year are explaining their earliest origins, starting back in 2009 when singer Joseph Keefe formed the nucleus of the band 20 miles outside of downtown LA. The setting? An industrial, deserted suburb called Rosemead City. "Our apartments were all emptied and all of our belongings ended up in this disused warehouse, which in turn became our collective home."
Joe eventually grew the band into the fourpiece they are today, recruiting his brother Sebastian on drums, Jamsey Buckey on guitar and Christina Schroeter on keys. They all lived, drank and wrote together as one, settling on the name Family Of The Year "because it made perfect sense considering our situation and dependency on each other". Their earliest EP's, like the self-released 'Where's The Sun?' and last year's blog-hit 'St. Croix' combined the intimate beauty of classic campfire singalongs with hands-in-the-air Springsteen-esque anthemnics, and took shape while the band eked out a beatific existence in their own mini-paradise. Friends like Willy Mason would sometimes drop in to lend them a helping hand, and tracks were often thrashed out live during the band's now-legendary – and somewhat debauched – warehouse parties. "All sorts of friends would come out to our place to play with us," Joseph explains, "but the first one was mainly for our friends who had been asking, 'Where have you guys been all summer!?' I don't think we wore too many clothes at that one…"
As word began to spread about this band of LA brothers and sisters, bookings from further afield started to roll in too – so they did the honourable thing and bought an RV they named Rosie before hitting the road. They've been touring pretty much ever since, and all while becoming the royal family – so to speak – of LA's Silverlake scene (the LA suburb is currently home to most of FOTY).
"It's a bit like a high school, this place, where there are always a few bands ready to graduate each year," Joseph says coyly of the band's home city. In 2012 it feels like FOTY are set to be that band. They've already drawn support from further afield, having toured with both Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeroes. And there's a burgeoning camaraderie between the bands too, with the latter offering FOTY advice on touring Europe. The Mumford boys, meanwhile, provided inspiration in a different way. "Sometimes to warm-up we'll sing the '12 Sights Of A Mumford Show' song, to the tune of '12 Days Of Christmas'," Joseph says lovingly, before dropping into a quick burst of it ("Four techs a-lighting, three players playing, two waistcoats showing, ONE BIG BASS DRUMMM…..").
Alas, they've not recorded the track yet – but there is a new album ready to drop in the UK this July. The bands debut full-length, it's called Loma Vista and is their first on a label (Nettwerk picked them up in February 2012). Early single 'The Stairs' was an instant hit on 6Music a couple of months back, and the follow-up 'Diversity' looks set to grow on that success, which will no doubt be bolstered by the bands up coming European tour dates.
Ask them where they want to be in 12 months time and their answer is resolute: "We'd love to make it out to Australia, we'd love to have just played Coachella and we'd totally love to be preparing for a huge summer of European festivals and finalising the next album." Beats making dinner in a car park, right?
Pictures by Rennie Solis