ATHENS band Family And Friends has been charming Savannah over the years with a captivatingly fun show and the radiant, vivacious energy current that runs through their music.
At last, the alternative indie-folk band is set to release an hour-long, 12-song full-length record: Felix Culpa.
It’s an ambitious and beautifully produced record about growth and navigating the physical and spiritual world while finding one’s place as a human being—appropriate for a band of folks who have gone through many major life changes together.
“Three of us knew each other from high school,” frontman Mike MacDonald explains. “The rest of us met in Athens through college, town life, and different work environments. Even just in the five-year span of being together and playing music, we’ve been experiencing the post-college life together.”
In the past, like on their acclaimed EP ‘XOXO,’ MacDonald typically approached the band with a song idea and the tune took shape in rehearsal. After a half-decade together, Family And Friends are truly creating music as a collective.
“The writing process has become a collaboration,” MacDonald says.
“A lot of the reasons this album took as long as it did and the way the sound manifested was from coming to terms with the new writing process and figuring out the best way to go about that. It’s exciting to write that way.”
Not only did the band mesh sonically, but Felix Culpa’s coming-of-age, spiritually explorative themes were born from the band’s unique chemistry.
“Our bassist and I met through the bar we were working at at the time, and he’s a Theology and Philosophy major,” MacDonald explains. “We’d have our six beers at two or three in the morning and talk about life. A lot of the elements would come out of the discussion.”
To capture the band’s matured sound, Family And Friends called in Brad Wood, the producer behind Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore, and Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary.
“He’s worked with so many incredible bands and musicians,” says MacDonald.
“We got to stay out in L.A. for a month—an easy selling point for us! He’s great and knows his stuff so well—he was able to bring a lot of good ideas to the table. One reason we were drawn to him is how big he can make the sound...a lot of parts on the album sound really huge, and that was all Brad.”
A Family And Friends show is always a transfixing experience with engaging sonic builds and engrossing moments, but the band isn’t fixated on interpreting the exact sound fans will hear on Felix Culpa.
“Some of these songs we’ve played for awhile, some are still in the transitioning stage of how to best play them live,” says MacDonald.
“It’s been exciting. We’re definitely a band that doesn’t ascribe to songs having to sound the same live—we want it to be its own experience. Translating them into a live setting and trying out different ideas in that realm has been really exciting for us.”
Felix Culpa will be released independently on June 8. After the record drops, the band plans on touring throughout summer and spring, and they’re particularly looking forward to their Savannah return.
“We love Savannah,” MacDonald says earnestly. “Playing on the road isn’t always easy—it’s hard to tell if people are into it. But that’s never been the case in Savannah. It’s just got such a great music scene and everyone’s into having a good time anytime we play.”