In the same way that a match can burn twice, an album can have a second debut. Such is the case with Kopecky Family Band’s heralded first full-length disc, Kids Raising Kids, which the band self-released last October but which will enjoy wide distribution with a re-launch in April, thanks to Kopecky’s recently announced signing with Dave Matthews’ ATO Records.
But even with the obvious rise in profile due to their new label status, the band members haven’t significantly altered their concept of the future.
“I think we’re working for the same stuff,” says vocalist/keyboardist Kelsey Kopecky from her Nashville, Tenn., home on the eve of their first tour since inking the ATO contract. “From a literal standpoint, our goal is to be career artists, rather than a one-hit-wonder thing, and being able to create for a longer time. I think that’s the goal of ATO, too; they’re a smaller label that prides itself on artistry and musicianship. We’re all moving forward and trying to stay true to what we’re trying to do.”
Kids Raising Kids and KFB’s initial EPs have already garnered a great deal of critical acclaim and earned the band a fair amount of impressive touring opportunities. The atmospheric Indie Pop sextet (Kopecky, vocalist/guitarist Gabe Simon, guitarist Steven Holmes, bassist Corey Oxendine, cellist Markus Midkiff, drummer David Krohn) had a memorable 2011, hitting the road with Gomez and Devotchka. (They played Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival that year as well; “We love Cincinnati, we always have fun times and cool shows there,” Kopecky notes.) The band spent much of last year out with The Lumineers and Gogol Bordello and played last summer’s Bonnaroo Festival, all before Kids dropped in the fall.
That roadwork has forged KFB into a solid stage presence and a strong family unit.
“It’s comforting to know these guys can see me at my best and my absolute worst and still see the good in me,” Kopecky says with a laugh. “You know, after a two-month tour, you need your alone time and you feel very harsh as a person and you’re the worst version of yourself. And they’re still willing to help me with my keyboard when I’m falling down the stairs.”
Although KFB coalesced at Belmont University in Nashville in 2007, the band only began its full-time music pursuit about 18 months ago. As music business majors, the musicians were protective of their creative freedom and patiently waited for the right moment and the right deal.
“Before (the label), it was like us pooling our money together and playing whenever we could, like on weekends,” Kopecky says.
“We made it our priority, but it’s tricky with all your babysitting after college and stuff. So after a couple years of pretty tirelessly touring, we decided to join forces with ATO. Seeing the progression of deals changing and what we wanted, ATO gets our vision and understands that we want to keep the creativity in-house.”
In-house creativity has clearly worked for KFB so far. Their 2008 debut EP Embraces and its 2010 follow-ups, The Disaster and Of Epic Proportions, were all well received and provided the perfect learning curve for Kids Raising Kids. KFB also offered Kopecky a new group path for her previously solitary musical journey.
“With time passing and more playing together and sharpening our craft, we’re better musically,” Kopecky says. “From a writing standpoint, Gabe and I started writing together five years ago and I think we found the magic then of being completely vulnerable with one another and really creative.”
“I’m a couple years older than the boys and I was doing a singer/songwriter thing before we started the band and I remember feeling that every time I would do a co-write with someone it was like pulling teeth,” she says. “But when I started writing with Gabe, it was like I was alone with him, like there was this shared space. From there it has blossomed into more trust and more understanding of where we go from here. We’re all so much closer and therefore our art is more authentic, because we’re not trying to judge what comes out, it’s just a free flow of creativity.”
Kopecky Family Band's video for "Heartbeat":
Kopecky Family Band has been favorably compared to the likes of Grouplove, the xx, Arcade Fire and Poi Dog Pondering, but when Kopecky talks about influences, she’s more likely to reference the way music feels as opposed to name-checking specific bands or genres.
“Our influences have definitely changed over time, as far as our environment and what we’re listening to is always changing,” Kopecky says. “But I think the music that inspired us first, when we were young, to create or to hear that special spark that moved us, I think is the same special spark that’s present in other songs and bands. Maybe that’s the same thing that keeps us moving forward. We have such vastly different tastes; I’ll be listening to a yoga podcast, then Gabe will be listening to some Fresh Air thing, then we’ll be listening to Al Green, then Fleetwood Mac, then The White Stripes. It’s just this diverse group of stuff that we love. There’s a lot of good music out there.”
One of the words that gets tossed around a lot in reviews of KFB is “chemistry,” which is something that can’t be manufactured in a band setting. Kopecky recalls that she and Simon wrote five songs in their first two-hour jam session. And while the Kopecky Family Band’s lineup has shifted just slightly over the past five years, the connection between the members has remained a constant.
“Gabe and I started the band together in a practice room and our voices were the substance, if you will,” Kopecky says. “As we added members, the evolution of our sound comes back to that.
“ I always say there’s the magic and the math behind the songwriting process,” she adds. “I could write a Country song; being in Nashville, I have friends who are 9-to-5 writers and I understand the structure of a Country song, but that’s more like using the math side of my brain to create something with a formula versus riding this wave of being in a room with my best friends and having this magic happen that can’t be put into words.”