When lead singer Jason Shine placed an ad in his local paper for a bass player after moving to Los Angeles, he had no idea that the person who would respond would be Julio Montero, longtime friend and co-founder of the band they had created in Brooklyn back in 2005. Family Cave was soon born — or, rather, reborn — through what Shine calls “sheer coincidence.”
They reunited in 2011, after Montero had started his own side project, Cuñao. The duo met up with drummer Mitch Lestner and pianist and vocalist Kristina Thoergesen, and rediscovered qualities that had once inspired Shine and Montero’s band name — a home and a feeling of belonging.
The reunion of original members coupled with the familial connection between the four gives the band a comfortable feel.
The quartet claims to put a new twist on indie rock in the context of the current music landscape, placing more of an emphasis on the power of the melody and on the story within the lyrics as they hope to demonstrate on their upcoming album.
“A lot of the music that’s out there today, as opposed to the music of the past, is less melody-driven,” Shine said. “It’s more based on simply a mood or a feeling, and a lot of the time, kind of lacks a story — that’s something that I never latched onto. For me, I’m always much more interested in a story. Not necessarily storytelling as a ballad, but having an idea of something I’m trying to say and having a beginning, middle and end.”
Shine’s focus on storytelling is an evident and important aspect of Family Cave’s originality. Their process gives each song its own unique, quirky personality. The time and energy that Family Cave puts into incorporating stories into their lyrics is evidenced by the quality of music they produce.
Shine, who teaches music theory and songwriting at Brighton Hall Prep School in Burbank, Calif., often attempts to tell two stories at the same time in each song — their meanings are sometimes obvious, but at times more complex.
“There’s this song — I was really kind of obsessed with Battlestar Galactica,” Shine said. “The idea is that these people create these robots of the future, that they’re trying to live forever — you wouldn’t necessarily know what it’s about, but there’s a story lying behind it that inspires the meaning of the lyrics.”
As the songwriter of the group, Shine contributes most of the lyrics and cites David Bowie as a major inspiration when writing. The instrumental scores, however, involve every member of the band.
“I teach a lot of songwriting and [Bowie] is great to teach from because the songs are so well formed,” Shine said. “As for the instrumental part, that’s the part where it’s pretty important for each person to contribute and put themselves into it. You might speed it up, you might slow it down — allow each person to develop on their own.”
The soft release of their new single, “No Sleep Tonight,” is now available to download for free on the band’s website. Shine said that what he appreciates most about the track is the fact that it is one of their most collaborative pieces.
“Of all the songs we have, it’s the most evenly split,” Shine said. “We were just kind of sitting around and each person came up with something — I came up with the riff, and someone came off of that, and someone took it home. The song is about running away from your problems. When you have a problem, the impulse is to run away and start something fresh, and so the idea is about not doing that anymore.”
Fans are hoping that “No Sleep Tonight” foreshadows what is to come on the rest of their album. The highly anticipated album, already months past its original release date, has endless possibilities. Audiences can expect an abundance of story-telling, along with Family Cave’s traditionally demure background tracks. Hopefully, however, the band will branch into more variety as well.
In their first college campus performance, the indie rock group is set to play at Tommy’s Place tonight as part of Underground LA. Because they mostly perform for an adult audience, Shine said the band is looking forward to reaching a new demographic.
“As far as the adult nightclub crowd in Los Angeles, with a lot of band venues, it’s really sort of hit-or-miss, depending on the nights you play, the venue you play and who they put you with,” Shine said. “I’ve been to Tommy’s Place, and it’s a pretty live venue, so we’re excited to be playing for a younger audience … We’re excited to be playing at USC, which is the age of students looking for up-and-coming bands that are kind of a different sound.”
Family Cave will play at Tommy’s Place at 8 p.m., tonight.