The Family Business
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The Family Business

Madison, Wisconsin, United States

Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Band Rock Americana

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"MadTracks: "Chances" by The Family Business"

MadTracks: "Chances" by The Family Business
Jessica Steinhoff on Friday 07/05/2013 11:41 am

In 2012, local band Fedora changed their name to The Family Business. Though a new moniker doesn't necessarily lead to a different sound, it can signal a new approach or a desire to reach out to additional audiences. Fedora seemed to emphasize singer Alec White's ability to croon like a member of the Rat Pack. But his band has much more to offer, as their track "Chances" illustrates. With the new name comes a commitment to exploring new musical territory and highlighting the group's instrumental talent.

"Chances" is earthier than a Rat Pack song, as well as "Sing," the Sinatra-esque tune that precedes it on the Family Business' new album, Rock and Roll Machine. Its intro reminds me of a Handsome Family song from the early 2000s, played at a faster clip. The Family Business set the song's tone with strings, establishing a propulsive beat with a guitar during the first few seconds. On top of this they add an arpeggio-based loop that rings out like a music box, adding a hint of nostalgia while urging listeners to tap their toes.

White's voice recalls Johnny Cash when it enters, noting that "most of us will do what we're told/With someone else in control ... Your life is always beating on the back of your mind/And it's up to you to find it." The accompaniment's insistent rhythm sounds like life rapping on the door that separates the front of the mind from the rear. When White dips into his lower register, it's hard not to imagine the Man in Black, but he rarely sounds derivative. Instead, he's like an old sage who sees through someone's façade: "There's weather in your eyes from what's behind them ... from all the times you chose to try and hide them."

These elements alone would make an appealing song, but the band take things a step further with smart use percussion and brass. The second verse starts with a series of thuds that lend drama to the proceedings. Then the mood lightens in an interlude featuring a playful trumpet and strings. This section may remind some listeners of Andrew Bird's work in his late-'90s group, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, especially when Kenny Leiser's violin tremolos up a scale, then vanishes into thin air.

The Family Business will play songs from Rock and Roll Machine for their release show with The Jimmys at the Majestic Theatre on Saturday, July 6.
- Isthmus - The Daily Page


"It's time to join the Family Business"

There’s nothing flashy about The Family Business’ down home blues-rock, and the local crew’s latest album, “Nightmares and Wildest Dreams,” arrives packed with shaggy guitar riffage, propulsive drums and workmanlike vocals courtesy of frontman Alec White.

Songs like “Downhill” and the relentless “Sword Swallower” could serve as the ideal soundtrack to tearing down Route 66 in a vintage T-Bird, or, in this case, downing cheap beer in a cramped rock club. When the band does opt to slow things down, as they do on the strutting “The Man You Love,” shades of electric bluesmen like B.B. King bleed through. Still, White’s Everyman voice is better suited to those more aggressive numbers, and he sounds infinitely more at home growling alongside that assortment of backfiring licks.

The band brings its blue-collar sound to the Dragonfly Lounge, 401 E. Washington Ave., for a 9 p.m. show on Friday, Jan. 11. Tickets for the 18-and-over event are $5. Visit the Dragonfly Lounge on Facebook for more information. The Earthlings and Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas also perform.

-Andy Downing
- 77 Square


"Business Brisk for Local Band"

MONTICELLO - Holding band practice above a cheese factory is not for the weak of spirit - which of course makes it totally rock 'n' roll.

Thursday evening in Monticello above the Swiss Heritage Cheese factory, The Family Business forklifted muenster packing boxes out of the way to make room for amps and gear. The day's oppressive heat had baked the dry-storage loft, which doesn't have air-conditioning, to a temperature optimistically described as therapeutic.

But The Family Business had rehearsing to do. The band is playing tonight at Old Smokey's Bar, Saturday at Rhythm and Booms in Madison, plus more than a dozen other gigs this summer, including a coveted spot next Sunday, July 8, on the Harley Davidson Stage at Summerfest.

The four-member classic rock band started as Fedora in 2005 when they were still in high school. More recently they changed their name to The Family Business because they felt it jumped off the page better, said guitarist Eric Ziegler.

The new name is also true to life. The Family Business grew up together in Green County, learning music from the same teachers and tagging along to their dads' gigs - bassist Garrett Wartenweiler's father, Gary, and drummer Derek Hendrickson's father, John, have played in local favorites The Jimmys and The Crashers.

Three in The Family Business graduated from Monroe High School, Ziegler and singer/guitarist Alec White in 2006 and Wartenweiler in 2005. Hendrickson graduated from New Glarus High School in 2006. Now he works at and lives above the Swiss Heritage Cheese factory in Monticello (and supplies the after-hours rehearsal space).

"We've been together for a long time. Knowing each other from a young age, having that common background, it makes it easier to understand each other. We all speak the same language," said Wartenweiler.

Even when they aren't practicing or performing, "we'll usually all end up hanging out," said Ziegler. On Wednesday nights, they play in a softball league together.

The Family Business calls Madison home now and is quickly making a name in the music scene there. This spring they beat out seven other bands to win Project M, a contest organized by 105.5 Triple M. It earned them the gig at Summerfest, among other perks and prizes.

In March they released their second album, "Nightmares and Wildest Dreams," recorded with engineer Mike Zirkel at the since-closed Smart Studios. The Family Business was one of the last bands to record at the legendary studio, where Garbage, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and dozens of other big names recorded or mixed albums in the past three decades.

"It was in the process of being closed down when we were in there," Ziegler said. "It was definitely cool to be able to record there."

The Project M competition pushed them to write new material. Each week, the competing bands had to perform a challenge. These included playing a cover of the University of Wisconsin fight song "On Wisconsin," writing a song themed around a holiday, writing a song inspired by the news and writing a song no longer than two minutes.

"This was the first time we had to write songs with a deadline in mind. That kind of forced us to explore some different approaches to songwriting that we hadn't done before," Wartenweiler said.

Instead of "piddling around" and taking three weeks or longer to come up with a new song, Ziegler said, "now we've seen we can produce fairly quality music in a week."

Currently, they're saving money to record a third album and shooting to do it yet this summer with Zirkel at his new studio, Audio for the Arts.

Project M also gave the band some direction.

"(DJ) Pat Gallagher had some good advice: really try and be yourself. You don't have to change what you do to be successful," Wartenweiler said.

With sweat-shiny faces Thursday evening, the band ultimately decided the loft was too sweltering for practice and carried their guitars and amps through an open attic area to Hendrickson's low-ceilinged apartment, where a window air conditioner was hard at work.

Here they assembled in the modest living room - next to Hendrickson's vinyl record collection, posters from Stevie Ray Vaughn shows and a shelf of biographies about their idols, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles - and started to play.

- The Monroe Times


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Still working on that hot first release.

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"One thing Family Business won't suffer from is 'next album syndrome." If they keep pushing out such varied styles every year, they'll be worth every penny."

-Clive Rawlings, Blues Matters Magazine

 

The Family Business has been hard at work writing a mess of new material over the past two years, and havent given indication they plan on slowing down.  After self-releasing two full length albums in just 16 months, the band is already putting finishing touches on a new EP due out this spring, as well as ambitiously writing material for a full length album they hope to release later this year.   In the past we've spent a lot of time rehearsing tunes to death before we take them into the studio, but as we evolve, the time between the conception of songs and tracking them in the studio seems to be lessening," says singer and guitarist Alec White. "I think we are all having more fun with it this way, and the more we experiment, the more intriguing the recording process becomes.

 

The new EP will serve as a follow up to 2013's Rock and Roll Machine.  Described by Blues Rock Review's Richard MacDougall as "a nearly flawless album," the record showcased the band's diverse style.  Continues MacDougall, "a more subtle approach is taken that highlights the bands use of melody and harmony above and beyond anything theyve previously done."  Much like The Band or Exile-era Rolling Stones, the band easily transitions across musical styles, incorporating blues, folk, and soul into their own brand of rock and roll.  Jessica Steinhoff of The Isthmus, writes that the album displays a commitment to exploring new musical territory and highlighting the group's instrumental talent.

 

All that isnt to say the band cant get loud when it wants to.  Look no further than the band's 2012 release, Nightmares and Wildest Dreams, which arrived "packed with shaggy guitar riffage, propulsive drums and workmanlike vocals (Andy Downing - 77 Square).  Beginning with the raucous guitars and compelling hook of Downhill, the record vaults the listener into a nearly 40 minute voyage that could serve as the ideal soundtrack to tearing down Route 66 in a vintage T-Bird, ordowning cheap beer in a cramped rock club (Downing).   The album garnered the band five Madison Area Music Awards, including Rock Album of the Year, Rock Performer of the Year, Rock Song of the Year (Downhill), Unique Song of the Year (Boogie Man), and Male Vocalist of the Year (Alec White).

 

Originally formed in 2005 while most of the band was still in high school, the Family Business has played hundreds of shows over the past nine years, including opening slots for Rival Sons, Blues Traveler, J Roddy Walston and the Business, and Black Stone Cherry.  While the bands chemistry and instrumental prowess is heavily reflected in their studio works, it is even more apparent in a live setting.  Mixing in the occasional ballad amongst a plethora of high energy rockers, the foursome effortlessly guides their audience through the peaks and valleys of their extensive repertoire. 

 

Now in their mid-twenties, the band is hitting stride, writing and recording more than ever in their main rehearsal space situated above a cheese factory in southern Wisconsin. Its kind of fitting that were from Wisconsin and practice in a cheese factory.  In reality, its just a big, open space that we feel comfortable in.  Its a bit secluded so we can isolate ourselves and focus on writing, says Bassist Garrett Wartenweiler

 

Together with Wartenweiler, drummer Derek Hendrickson completes a rhythmic section that plays in intuitive accord.  Perhaps their synergy isnt surprising given that their fathers played together for decades in a number of local rhythm and blues outfits.  Its this history; together with their deeply rooted belief in the power of music and the importance of family and friends, which inspired the bands name.  Rounding out the Family Business is guitarist Eric Ziegler, whose poignant and blistering guitar work provides an excellent complement to Whites soulful timbre at the forefront of the bands sound.





Band Members