Think of jam songs like dragsters: shaky vehicles flirting with disaster. The tires might blow, the car could hit the wall, and the next one looks to do the same. Bands often lose sight of composition and rely on jams like a parachute. Family Groove Company (FGC) is one quartet with their hands gripping tight on the wheel. Adam Lewis (guitar), Jordan Wilkow (keyboard), Janis Wallin (bass), and Mattias Blanck (drums) met on the West Coast where they formed the group in 2001. Since moving to Chicago in 2002, they’ve played over 200 shows throughout the country, from Colorado to Connecticut.
They’ve never lost sight of the structural elements of music.I first learned about FGC from a bumper sticker in my hometown. The name stuck with me and later I found one of their shows using Furthurnet, a “legal-live music” file-sharing program. And I’m glad I was able to. I’ve always thought that software like Furthurnet is a great way to be introduced to new bands. Yet so many musicians don’t allow taping at their concerts — it’s like they’re bottling their sounds in a jar and slapping a price tag on it.
FGC understands the publicity show-traders create. Wilkow explains that “The last thing you’d want is yet another impediment to getting the word out.” Wallin agrees, “Taping and trading is particularly beneficial to artists in our scene.” As you listen to FGC’s debut album “Reachin,'” you recognize the influences immediately. Steely Dan, especially in “Flowers For Gisa;” Medeski, Martin, and Wood, heavy in “The Rattler;” and various funk, rock and jazz flavors all season the unique style of their songs. I was even reminded of some classic Beach Boys harmonies. But that’s not to say FGC isn’t original.
There’s a distinct groove to all of the material on the CD. The second track, “Just Like I Planned,” ends “…the best part of the song, it’s all in where your focus is.” In the case of “Reachin'” my focus was never lost. The sounds of their studio work differ from the live recordings because of the element of improvisation. “The goal of course is for us all to be listening to each other, gently prodding and shaping the dynamic of the larger conversation we’re all having,” describes Wilkow. While avoiding excessive guitar solos, FGC manages to jam around the core of a song and maintain its foundation.
A great example of this can be heard in their song, “One’s on the Way.” Lewis’ undulating and inspired guitar styling dances with the keyboard and supportive bass, all strung together by Blanck’s steady beats. On the road no two shows are identical, but the same strength and song structure is present in each performance. FGC’s latest tour brings them to the Eclipse Theater in Waitsfield, VT for an all ages show February 26, and to Nectar’s in Burlington for a show on February 27. And if you mention to a band member that you saw this article, you can get a free live FGC record. Or go to www.familygrooveco.com/freecd and fill out some information to have one sent to you. Then listen and enjoy. The band hopes to release a new album soon. “We’ve written a ton of new material in the last couple years, and we’re anxious to get back into the studio and cut another disc,” said Wallin. “We’re all really enthusiastic about what the future holds for us,” added Wilkow. FGC’s commitment to their craft shows in all of their work. The humble group concentrates first and foremost on music, unwilling to prostitute their talent or become clouded by the distractions polluting the industry – just good people making good music.