“What’s your favorite band?”
I’ve been asked that question a lot. (I’m sure all of us have.) As with any “favorite” question, my response usually takes the form of a long list of groups, with me apologizing for not being sure which one is at the absolute top of my list.
That, however, may have recently changed. While there are still numerous bands that I hold in very, very high regard, and would easily gush about if given the opportunity, I think I’ve found a band that is, without question, my absolute favorite. I’ve fallen head over heels in love with their music, and that love hasn’t faded in the time I’ve been acquainted with their work…if anything, it’s grown.
That band’s name, you might ask? Say hello to The Family Crest.
Before I launch into my typical background information and all that, it’s best that I just show you what started it all for me…the music video for The Family Crest’s single, “Love Don’t Go”:
Back last August, I was lucky enough to be working for Arizona’s legendary, family-owned Linton-Milano Music again (I had worked there for about 8 or 9 months before I left on my mission to Peru) for a little while until I left for Utah. One of the many perks of working there is discovering new music. One day during a lull in business, my manager showed me a few music videos in between customers coming in. “Love Don’t Go” was one of them. I was instantly impressed, and although it was a bit of a slow burn getting me to check out the rest of The Family Crest’s songs…I kept getting more floored with each new glimpse that I had of their catalog.
The Family Crest consists of a 7-member core touring band, the band you see in the picture I posted above. However, that’s not all there is to The Family Crest. Listening to the music in the video, you may have wondered how 7 people can make that much sound…the answer is, they didn’t. The Family Crest also comprises hundreds of additional members who participate in recordings and other projects, affectionately dubbed the “extended family.” Many of them can be seen in the video as well as heard on the track. In addition to those who contribute their musical talents, there are also quite a few “extended family” members who lend their support in other ways. The band’s last few recordings have been enthusiastically funded by Kickstarter.
How can you classify their music? Well, now that you’ve listened to one of their songs…you tell me. The band likes the term “orchestral rock.” That doesn’t do much justice in describing the sheer depth and breadth and scope of their sound…but it does give you a start in understanding just how powerful and unique their music is. There’s strings, there’s choirs, there’s big moments for sure. There’s also bracing intimacy found in quiet, guitar-driven sections. More often than not, you find both of these elements, along with everything in between, within the same song. “Love Don’t Go” is a great example of that. The title track to the latest Family Crest album, “Beneath The Brine,” also showcases just how much they can pack into one tune:
They don’t just confine themselves to one area of the musical spectrum, though. Here’s a delightful big band-esque number called “Howl”:
They just draw you right in. A big part of their appeal for me is their absolutely incredible lead vocalist, Liam McCormick, whose range is astounding. He can go from a whisper to an impassioned shout on a dime, and yet his vocals never, ever go off the rails. His singing is full of emotion and power, but with a terrific grasp on the technique as well. It’s a wonder to behold. That said, the rest of the band (and of course, the “extended family”) is right up there with him. Everyone has something stunning to bring to the table, and lots of personality as well, and it’s a joy to listen to and watch them. Here’s another excellent music video, for “The World”:
I recently had the privilege of getting to see The Family Crest live in Salt Lake City, at the delightfully low-key Kilby Court. The band absolutely blew me away, and they were one member down (cellist Charly Akert had to deal with their broken-down tour van) to boot. They just fill up the stage, Liam’s vocals are as riveting live as they are on record, and it all just was so electric and beautiful and profound and exciting. I’ve been to some excellent concerts over the years, but this experience is one that will stay with me for quite some time. In preparation for the concert, I boned up on the band’s entire catalog, not just their most recent album, and found some gems. I’ll try to keep myself to sharing just a few with you. The thrill of falling in love with more of their songs should be yours, anyhow.
The title track of “The Headwinds” EP they released in advance of “Beneath The Brine” is an interesting departure in some ways from what the band usually does, and features band member Laura Bergmann prominently on vocals with Liam:
Another standout track from that EP, “Marry Me” (Liam commented at the concert that he wrote this for Laura…the two are, indeed, married now):
One of their earliest songs, “Falling Off The Wagon” definitely puts the “rock” in “orchestral rock”:
And I’d best let you get off to discovering more of The Family Crest’s fantastic work. One last tune I have to share…the breathtaking closing track on “Beneath The Brine,” called “Make Me A Boat” (it was featured in a GoPro campaign):
There you have it. My favorite band. It took a long time for them to come around and even longer for me to find them…but I’m ever so glad I did.