San Francisco orchestral indie-rock band The Family Crest is recording its second album, but staying far away from the studio.
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To date, the sextet has recorded strings in a living room, hand bells in a church and vocals in cafes and bars for background noise. Vocalist-guitarist and leader Liam McCormick plans to record horns in a wind tunnel.
“You can get a better performance when you’re not in the studio because it’s not a sterile environment, and you can play on someone’s emotions,” McCormick says. “If you take a string quartet, for example, and put them in a really beautiful church, they’re going to … sound better because there’s reverb.”
If The Family Crest’s current trajectory — playing the Golden Gate Bridge 75th anniversary celebration, opening for The Head and the Heart at the Fillmore in June and opening for OK Go at the Stern Grove Festival on Sunday — is any indication, the follow-up to May’s “The Village” should go over well.
McCormick started the band in 2008 as a project to record musicians throughout Northern California. He and bassist John Seeterlin soon realized that some of the musicians wanted to continue the band on a permanent basis and created The Family Crest with a six-member core and a family of rotating members that now number more than 250 — anyone who’s ever performed is an official member.
“We want to make the creation process really communal,” McCormick says. “When we’re out playing, we ask people if they want to be on our record. If it works, we fit that instrument in. It makes things really interesting for us.”
Core members also include drummer Charlie Giesige, vocalist-percussionist-flutist Laura Bergmann, violinist-percussionist Owen Sutter and cellist-percussionist Lucas Chen.
Bergmann, Sutter and Chen are classically trained musicians, but the band’s sound incorporates jazz, folk, cabaret and rock with the symphonic element.
“‘Indie’ represents a whole lot of different genres,” McCormick says. “At one point, even Coldplay was considered indie. Some hip-hop is indie. Including classical is just a natural progression. [Strings have] always been something people loved hearing in rock music. Look at [Bush’s] ‘Glycerine’ or [the Smashing Pumpkins’] ‘Tonight, Tonight.’”
Additional instruments on The Family Crest’s next album will include pedal-steel guitar and organs. McCormick is responsible for composing and arranging the music.
“I had never composed anything [prior to “The Village”],” he says. “Now for the first time I’m guiding woodwinds and horns. And the pedal steel is one of the most versatile instruments I’ve ever heard. It automatically adds a mood to a song.”
If you go
The Family Crest
(opening for OK Go)
Where: Sigmund Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, S.F.
When: 2 p.m. today