After bolting out of the gate with the raucous title track, Family Dinner kept the hits coming on their debut EP, “You’re So Cool“. Coming in at just under 12 minutes, it’s a quick listen that keeps the blood pumping and the energy coursing through your nerve endings all the way through. It’s a little bit 90s grunge, a little bit pop rock, and a lot of fun. Like, almost too much.
We chatted with vocalist Natalie & guitarist Michael about the stories of the songs on this EP, screen printing their own merch, bringing their community up with them, and… frogs. Quite a bit about frogs (my bad).
Congrats on the EP release. How’s it been going so far?
Michael: Thank you. It’s been pretty good, very well received. Wish we could have done things around it, but it’s hard planning stuff these days.
Yeah, no kidding. Have you found anything that’s been able to help fill that void of the normal day-to-day band activities?
Michael: Just writing more. That’s all you can do.
Natalie: It’s been really cool hearing the feedback that we get and how happy our music has been making people, just seeing people bumping it in the car and making their days not so mundane.
Michael: Yeah. Having people in bands that I looked up to in high school hitting me up on Instagram, telling me how much they liked the EP is really cool too.
That’s gotta be fun. And that’s got to at least offset it a little bit. I know it’s disappointing not being able to do a release show and meet people, but it’s nice that fans still seek you out to make sure you know that your music is a part of their lives.
Michael: That’s the best part, I guess, is people telling you. People have to tell you now, they can’t just come to your shows and have a good time during your set. They have to tell you that they like your stuff.
Honestly, it’s so funny, but it’s nice to like… I don’t know, get that practice of saying nice things to other people and not worrying “are they gonna think I’m such a loser for saying this to them?”
Natalie: It’s definitely way more authentic feedback than “sick set, dude.”
Michael: Yeah, “sick set, can I borrow your amp?”
Natalie: Or “that’s so nice of you to load in your boyfriend’s band’s gear”
Michael: Oh yeah. Natalie gets that a lot.
Maybe we’ll fix that by the time we go back out to shows. People will just be so excited, they’ll say, “maybe we’ll just forget about casual sexism.” Speaking of which… I feel like a lot of artists I’ve spoken to have had a shift in values this year. That or just their balance in life between work, music, and other hobbies. Have you had a similar experience at all?
Natalie: Yeah, definitely. I’m finding a better work-life balance on the days that I’m working from home, at least in between emails and stuff. Like I can throw in a load of laundry on my lunch hour, I could break out the sewing machine instead of just sitting at my desk, staring at my cubicle. So that’s been cool.
It makes your days feel more full, doesn’t it?
Michael: Yeah. I was already very disassociated from my job, thinking about music. Now being at home the entire time, I’m even more disassociated from my job because I have my guitar next to me while I’m teaching. It’s not like I’m not paying attention, but it’s just… when the period’s over, instead of immediately going to grading things or whatever, I’m going to pick up the guitar before I read any essays.
I can’t blame you. And when you don’t have that distance between work and home, you’re just… always at work. So it’s nice to be able to separate your time a little bit. Has it been good for writing, are you able to find the right head space for it?
Michael: Absolutely. We’re doing a lot of cool stuff. We feel like with the EP, we definitely have a sound. And now with all of these new songs that we’re writing, it’s progressing and maturing. I’m no longer writing just punk riffs and having Nick, our drummer, turn them into pop songs. I’ll write a dance riff or we’ll write a goth track or write things outside our wheelhouse and kind of experiment and do weird stuff. “Mahogany” on the EP is probably the standalone track, the one that doesn’t sound like the other three.
When you first released. “You’re So Cool”, I thought, “oh my god, how are they ever going to live up to this?” Like if this is what’s first, how can it keep getting better? And then the EP came out and I was like, “oh, got it.”
Michael: Yeah. Our whole thing is just hits. The whole record’s gotta be hits.
I mean, in this age of streaming, it’s so important to have each song able to stand on its own because some people only listen to one.
Michael: Yeah, you can’t have the cool lull intermission songs on the record anymore. You just gotta have hits.
I’m loving it. My other question is also related to “You’re So Cool”, but… this track was inspired by 90s horror movies?
Natalie: More like crime romances.
Michael: Like True Romance, Natural Born Killers…
Natalie: Honey Bunny and Pumpkin from Pulp Fiction, that kind of thing. Badass couples.
Do you have future plans to continue writing from that perspective of putting a song to a movie or to a theme? Or was it a one-off thing that happened?
Natalie: I could definitely see that happening again in the future. I like storytelling with songs, not always necessarily my own life. “Mahogany” was another song like that, where it was basically around a character in a movie. “Bradley Cooper” was the original title.
Michael: We wanted to call it that, but nobody else in the band was down for it. We refer to it as “Bradley” though. A lot of the stuff that Natalie writes… it got to the point where I was like, “that’s so cool, what is that about? What made you write that?” And she told me, and I thought the thing that sparked the lyric was so weird compared to the lyric on its own.
It’s cool how any idea can turn into a fully fleshed-out song that so many people can connect with and feel something for. If you thought about its actual origin, you’d have no connection to it, but everybody can put their own meaning behind it.
Michael: That’s the thing, Natalie really wants people to take away whatever they want to take away from the music.
Natalie: Yeah. Getting interviewed before our songs even came out really messed me up. For example, “Stagnant” was one of our songs that came out, and a publication just completely slapped a meaning on it that was not what I intended it to be, but I thought it was cool. ‘Cause somebody can interpret it as that, and they can wear that sweater, you know?
Do you each have favourite songs from the EP at the moment?
Natalie: I think I’m still a sucker for “You’re So Cool”. Just tied with the visuals and everything that we have, that makes it mine.
Michael: We have a lot of good memories from shooting the video and writing that song, and recording it. “Mahogany” is my personal favourite because I wrote the riff 10 years ago when I was 19. I was finally able to use that song that I’ve been sitting. I haven’t been in a band that’s good enough for me to be able to pull that out yet. Yeah. So I get to see this thing that I did ten years ago finally turn into something else.
Speaking of the visuals, I was a big fan of the visualizer for “Song Four”, with the frog? And then he just PASSED AWAY??
Michael: Yeah. Our buddy Christian, who did the video, he was like, “is it cool if I put my frog in this next video?” We were like, “I don’t care what you do, man.” He did it, and it looked super cool.
I am such a frog fan. I was like, “wow, this band knows me.” And then the frog DIED??
Michael: I hate frogs. I think they’re really cool, but I don’t want them near me. I think they’re gross. Like they’re slimy. If you’re over there, that’s cool, but I’m not coming over and hanging out with this frog.
Natalie: There are going to be some cool frog related things in the future, so stay tuned.
Michael: Our buddy Louis is a tattoo artist. When everything locked down, he couldn’t tattoo so he was doing commissions for people, but he was only doing frogs. He’ll do anything in frog-form. He’ll draw you and your girlfriend as frogs. He did Freddie Mercury as a frog. I had him do a wrestler I love as a frog.
This is my niche. I can’t believe this.
Michael: Do you have a frog??
No, but I’m allergic to everything, so I’ve always wanted one because I don’t think there’s anything to be allergic to. But like my whole… you know how when you’re a kid, your family hears you say something once like, “I like the colour pink.” And then everyone’s like, “we’re going to get you pink things until you die”?
Michael: Oh, that was me with Insane Clown Posse. When you’re in elementary school and you like ICP, your older cousin buys everything ICP related from FYE for you until you’re in high school. And you’re like, “I’m not wearing this.”
Everything around Family Dinner feels very family oriented. You bring so many people around you into things, like bringing in a friend to create videos, or with the album artwork being found through a photo of your friends. It seems like a very community based approach. Do you have other people on deck that you’d like to work with?
Michael: My cousin did the artwork for our first single “Pigeons” that we released a few years ago. So that one wasn’t a photo of family or friends, but it was a family member who did the artwork. And then the second thing we did, it’s a selfie of Natalie when she was four years old. We were going to originally use a photo of her dad, and around that time we were all going through like old photos. I think we found all of our album covers for the next 20 years, we never need to look any further. We’ll just pick a picture from the collection and that’s gonna be it.
Natalie: We like keeping it within our little community, I guess you would say. Anybody we’re friends with whose art we appreciate, we’re always looking within.
This is a weird time and it’s important to support the artists that we love. What’s the best way that people can support Family Dinner right now?
Michael: Buy merch.
Natalie: Merch sales are what’s going to get us back in the studio. If you can’t purchase merch, put us on your playlist on Spotify or wherever you have your music.
Michael: Tell your mom, dad, sister, brother, uncle.
Natalie: Torch the Spotify building, tell them to pay artists.
Michael: Yeah, commit arson.
Natalie: Yeah, just spread the good word.
Michael: We print all of this stuff ourselves. We have this one logo design that we’re working through and then we’re going to have something else for the summer. We’re trying to do different designs for each season.
Oh nice! Did I see that you guys are doing the screen printing yourselves by hand?
Natalie: Yeah, that was another fun project for me that I finally had time to do during quarantine. I’ve been having a lot of fun making those shirts and relearning screen printing. I learned how to do it in high school, and then I fell off for years, and then I was equipped with the tools again and figured it out.
That’s so sick. And it had such a nice, unique feel to the merch too. Not only do I support the band, but they hand made this for me.
Natalie: In the beginning, it ended up getting kind of overwhelming because I was like, “yeah, let me do it in custom colours or whatever you want,” and then ended up buying 20 different t-shirt colours and like, “oh, which round of inks can I do today?”, ’cause you can only do like one colour at a time.
Michael: Yeah. She had to prioritize like… there’s more people who want red ink, so we’ll do red ink today so we can knock all those out. And then we’ll do the blues tomorrow or something. The custom coloured shirt and ink thing was a great idea at the time, and then it quickly became overwhelming.
Natalie: And I’m glad we were able to do it.
Michael: We were in a hardcore band before Family Dinner and playing all of these shows with quintessential hardcore merch designs. Satan this, Satan that, everywhere. And we’re like… white tie dye. We’ve got white, and we’ve got tie dye. What do you want? What’s up? Whenever we asked people what they wanted, we asked them specifically to do the opposite. We had very good business tactics in that band.
Incredible. And now we’ve reached the final question. Y’all really set a great trajectory for yourselves. The EP is amazing, you’re writing, you have more things on the horizon, frogs shirts, tie dye merch. The world is your oyster. What should we be keeping an eye out for during the rest of this year with Family Dinner?
Natalie: We’ll be back in the studio sooner than you think.
Michael: Definitely going to be back in the studio sooner than later. We have a nice little split with a friend that we can’t name yet. We had all these plans to tour last April and we had this sold-out show with I Am The Avalanche. We had a lot lined up, and then that didn’t happen. It felt like all those things were taken away from us. But then the universe was kind of like, “here’s some other cool shit to make up for everything that happened.” And so all that cool shit is stuff that we can talk about, and I wish I could.
It gives us something to look forward to in this unknown.
Natalie: Definitely cool things coming and we’re really excited about it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to tour sooner than later.
Michael: We will be doing a full band livestream. We’re going to be doing the EP and an old song or two, hopefully by the summer to do that. We’re going to try and do a zine as well. Put something together. Hopefully a physical release for the EP too. That would be fun, hopefully by this summer. Yeah. Summer is looking good.