Chicago-based Family Groove Company (FGC) is touring behind their 2008 releases, Live in Chicago, and Models and Metrics, with an ambitious winter 2009 schedule that has them criss-crossing the Southwestern and Midwestern United States.
Commencing with a January 28th gig at Birmingham, Alabama’s WorkPlay Theater, the tour is slated to roll through prize venues like the Majestic Theatre in Madison, WI, The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS, and the Cabooze in Minneapolis, MN. The quartet will also debut in Chattanooga’s Rhythm & Brews, The Vogue Night Club in Indianapolis, and Boulder, Colorado’s Fox Theatre, before winding down on March 21st in Des Moines, IA.
KindWeb recently caught up with FGC bassist Janis Wallin, who will spend several weeks on the road with Steve Kimock’s new band, The Steve Kimock Crazy Engine, immediately following FGC’s winter dates.
1. We were sorry to hear about the cancellation of the 02/21 Park West Theater co-headliner with Soulive. Any chance another Chicago date might find its way onto the band’s winter touring schedule?
The Chicago cancellation was definitely a disappointment for the bands and fans, but we’re happy to report that we’ve rescheduled our Chicago Park West show for Saturday May 2. This time around, our co-headliner will be Hot Buttered Rum String Band. Hopefully, no band members will break any appendages between now and then. J (Note: Our February Park West show was canceled due to Soulive’s drummer breaking his hand. We wish him a speedy recovery!)
2. FGC’s third studio effort, Models and Metrics, has been garnering great press. How has the band reacted? Has this opened any new doors?
We’ve been really excited about the response to Models and Metrics. On both a technical and creative level, the band was very pleased with the outcome of this record. We did some cool stuff with the production side of this record, implementing some analog tracking at the outset, and later on experimenting with different effects. Musically, I think this record is more unified and concise than our prior albums, and it has an interesting contemplative theme to it thanks to our lyricist/vocalist/keyboardist, Jordan Wilkow.
3. You guys have been quite busy in the studio and on the stage this past year. How has this current recording and touring cycle differed from prior FGC campaigns?
We’ve always been a very hard-working band in the sense that we’re always either on the road, in the rehearsal room, or in the studio, without much time off in between. So our current and recent schedule has been the same as prior in that sense. In the past year, though, we did take a different approach to the recording process of Models and Metrics by allowing a greater window of time to complete the project (9 months, as opposed to 5 months of our previous studio album, The Charmer), which made everything slightly more relaxed and allowed for trying different things creatively with the album. Additionally, our touring schedule was changed a bit this Winter/Spring to allow for me to go out on the road with Kimock. It was a real challenge to play all the markets we wanted to within a limited window, but I think with the exception of the bad luck with our February Chicago show, everything worked out great with the bookings.
4. Tell us about hooking up with the Steve Kimock Crazy Engine.
Last summer, I had the opportunity to play with Steve Kimock at an Everyone Orchestra show at 10,000 Lakes Festival. The Everyone Orchestra is an all-improvised set with a different line-up of musicians at each show. Conductor Matt Butler leads the band through the set with hand signals and cue cards; it’s a very cool concept. A few months after playing the Everyone Orchestra show with Steve, I got an invitation to go out to his house in PA to jam for a couple days. I didn’t know Steve was planning on putting a band on the road and that this visit was an audition of sorts, but about a month afterwards, I got a call to join the Crazy Engine. We had our first full band rehearsals last month, and I think it’s going to be a very cool project. Melvin Seals is simply a monster on keys, and Steve’s son, John, is a very talented young drummer with great feel.
5. Your fellow FGC bandmates are outspokenly supportive of your involvement with the Kimocks. Can we anticipate a cross-pollination of sound and influence as you frequent both camps this year?
My bandmates have been amazingly supportive about this opportunity, so I’m very appreciative for that. Overall it’s been a bit tough to negotiate the excitement of this new opportunity with my disappointment of time lost for FGC, but I think so far everyone involved is doing a good job in making sure both bands thrive. As for the musical side, I think there will definitely be a cross-pollination of sound. Kimock is very adventurous with his approach to music, and I think that’s been rubbing off on me a bit, as I've found myself taking more chances and pushing the envelope a bit more at our FGC shows. On the other side of things, I’m really proud, for example, of the care and attention to detail FGC puts into rhythm section ideas - really tight, funky stuff. I think that kind of "groove-conscientiousness" will prove to be a real asset to the Kimock band.
6. What does Janis Wallin do to unwind when she’s not wielding a bass guitar?
Summers are my favorite time of year to unwind. The band is usually jumping from festival to festival every weekend, and these allow for lots of opportunities check out great music and hang out with fans and other musicians. It’s nice to have time to be a music fan for a change.
7. What’s in the five year plan for Janis Wallin?
I’m hoping to see FGC continue to progress as we have been the last couple years…bigger rooms, more festivals, etc. It’s been going great and I want to see where this momentum takes us. I’d like to record both a new studio album and new live album with FGC at some point. We’ve got a bunch of new tunes in the repertoire since Models and Metrics, and I’m excited to get them into the studio and see how they turn out. Our first and only live album, Live in Chicago, was a fun project and learning experience, and I’d like to take another crack at capturing FGC in a live setting.