A Judiciously Expansive Palette: The Kopecky Family Band, March 26 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 19 March 2013 16:46

The Kopecky Family Band. Photo by Will Morgan Holland.

The second track on the debut album by the Kopecky Family Band is the mid-tempo number “Heartbeat,” pleasant but unremarkable until the two-tiered bridge, which ultimately explodes with what sounds like a theremin.

It’s actually co-founder Gabe Simon whistling, multitracked and treated with reverb, and those 15 seconds demonstrate a maximalist tendency – understandable for a six-person band with members who play several instruments. The album starts with horns and cello, for instance, before the guitar rock kicks in, and the record employs an expansive sonic palette.

But the key thing about that whistling is that it’s right, the perfect touch at the perfect moment. Beyond the typical mix of loud and quiet songs, the Kopecky Family Band on the vibrantly dynamic Kids Raising Kids (out April 2 on ATO Records) has a judiciously sharp sense of how much or little songs require; adventurousness is tempered by discipline.

“Change” is acoustic guitar, some ethereal atmospherics, and vocals – anchored by the inherently poignant singing of Kelsey Kopecky. Straightforward opener “Wandering Eyes” has a swagger bordering on stalker menace. “Are You Listening?” finds Simon whistling again, but in a conventionally tuneful way.

“That’s the dynamic of the record: to get that simple or to get as a big as a song like ‘Hope’ – multiple layers, tons of strings, tons of keyboards ... ,” Simon said. “There have to be those moments when you say, ‘Does it need everything? ... Can this song survive just by itself? Or does the song need these layers to build it into something great, ... memorable?’ That’s what I think is cool about the record: It has both of those things. That’s what six people allows to happen.”

The band will perform on March 26 at the Redstone Room, and Simon said the group has had a family vibe since its founding six years ago. (Despite a name suggesting an ensemble of bluegrass-playing siblings, the members of the Kopecky Family Band aren’t related, and there’s little rootsy about the indie rock. That doesn’t stop booking agents from pairing them with opening acts wielding banjos.)

So there’s a communal aspect to the band, one that allows it to arrange songs without worrying about bruised egos. “It’s trust,” Simon said. “A big part of it is us all realizing that we don’t all have to be playing at the same exact time in order to shine, or have moments. ... It’s not six individuals on stage; it’s one complete sound.”

That closeness is reflected in the album’s title. “As we’ve been on the road, it’s pretty much been us raising one another,” Simon said. “We kind of fill in a lot of each other’s blanks in regards to what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives. ... It’s a story that we’ve made with each other.”

The Kopecky Family Band released a pair of EPs in 2010, toured heavily in 2011, and began work on its debut album last year. Simon has compared EPs to scrimmages, and he said the band wasn’t quite ready for game action until then.

“I think with EPs you can make broad jumps,” he said. “Songs one through five on an EP can just be totally different, because you don’t have the space on there to have those in-between songs – the songs that really allow for transitions to be seen, the songs that allow you to continue telling a story. ...

“We finally had a record where we thought we had the songs that were in between each track as well, so everything transitioned the way we wanted it to.”

One aim for the record, he said, was to make an album as expressive as the ensemble’s live show – which he admitted was an unreachable if noble goal. “The thing you can do live that you can’t do on record is show emotion,” he said. “People can see your face. ... You see the actual drums being hit and the guitars being pounded and all that kind of stuff. You can’t do that on the record. You can only hear it. So we wanted to make a record that was emotionally as big as our live performance ... .”

The Kopecky Family Band will perform on Tuesday, March 26, at the Redstone Room (129 Main Street, Davenport, RiverMusicExperience.org). The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $10. Evan P. Donohue opens.

For more information on the Kopecky Family Band, visit KopeckyFamilyBand.com.

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