When I talk about my love of orchestral indie rock group The Family Crest, most people have never heard of them. I’ll admit they’re one of my hipster bands, a group I can pull out and say “Oh you probably wouldn’t know these guys”. After they’re latest EP however, that’s looking to change.
Who is The Family Crest?
The Family Crest does things differently. They’ve got the pieces of any ordinary band: the singing guitar player, the bassist and the drummer.
After this, they begin to separate themselves. They have a singing flute player. They have a trombonist. They have a cello player, and someone who plays violin. Then they pull in ‘the extended family’.
You’ll hear it on a number of their tracks. The songs sound too big for seven people. That’s because many of their pieces have fans playing with them. They’ve created choruses, brass sections, and orchestras to suit their needs.
Their last LP, titled Beneath the Brine was released in 2014. From the dancing horns of ‘Howl’ to the racing strings of the album titled track, I was swept off my feet with each song. But it’s been nearly 3 years since it’s release. Has the Family Crest retained their magic?
Prelude to War
The EP itself sits at only five songs long, but claims to be “the first installment of a broader project by The Family Crest, The War.” This could explain what the hell I’ve been waiting so long for (not bitter) but admittedly is a bit disappointing.
The first song of the album, Sparks, begins in classic Family Crest fashion. The size of the piece tells fans “we have not changed”. Strings and vocals dance about each other in a way few other groups have even attempted. They race forward to the song’s conclusion where the two join as one for a moment before the chorus alone stands with percussion behind, begging to be sung with the audience live (AKA me in a few days).
The second song off the album, Mirror Love, sees lead singer Liam McCormick show off his vocal talents to a much greater extent. His voice plays around the edges of the chorus in the background, remaining close at times before jumping an octave away. The video itself can’t be ignored, adding beauty to the mirror theme of the song itself.
Don’t Wake Me
Don’t Wake Me brings a slow clarity to the album. Piano and guitar take turns leading the listener forward peacefully. Even when extra singers join the piece during the chorus, the calm of the song is not interrupted.
It is only during the bridge that it begins to fly forward. For a moment the entire Family is brought in to remind fans what they are listening to, and to remind fans the sheer size of the seemingly small five song EP, before slowing once more. Liam’s voice returns, lulling listeners back to calm.
Can You Stay
The fourth song brings us back up to speed once more, a strong brass section backing up the foot tapping beat of the guitar and drums. The chorus continues to swell throughout the song before blossoming in the bridge, reminding listeners they are not alone.
The fifth and final song on the EP brings the full strength of the The Family Crest to bear. The opening alone brought goosebumps to my arms.
The chorus, made simple for all to join, is the battle cry it claims to be. “I will fight for you.” McCormick cries as strings lend their weight to his voice. “I will die for you.”
For a moment after the bridge, the song grows quiet before roaring back to life in the very way that made me fall in love with this band in the first place.
It just feels so massive, so much larger than it should. It feels as if orchestras and concert bands back up the seven members of the Family Crest, not a ragtag group of musicians they have in an email list.
That is what this band, and this EP, do: they make you feel. From the love in Sparks to the inspiration in Battle Cry, each song strikes at some aspect of the human soul. The listener is left wondering how five songs can do so much, and only wanting more of this ‘broader project’ they hint at.
If this EP is any sort of indication of what’s to come, I’ll wait with bated breath for the next installment.