Rubbing Elbows with Family Time
The origin stories of bands are boring. Bands meet at school, at work, at a gig. They play the toilet circuit of their local town. They record some demos with a producer, put them online and hope people take notice. Oscar and Max Guardans of Family Time seem to buck that trend. If the little information online is to be believed, the cousins dissolved a previously successful electronic act, upped sticks from London to Mallorca, recorded an albums worth of songs in isolation, and subsequently embarked on a tour of the island’s hotels under the guise of a cover band.
Now settled in London and Barcelona, and with two fantastic slabs of woozy lounge-pop from their project now available to the masses, we rubbed elbows with the familial pair to discuss the facts behind the mythology, and the influences and inspirations behind their impending concept album.
What made you cut ties with what you’d been doing before, and head to Mallorca?
Max: I think at some point we discovered that the music we were making was not really what we wanted to focus on aesthetically or musically.
Oscar: We hit a low spot in optimism with the project, for a lot of reasons. And it was either, we can call it a day, or we can turn it the other way round. Make another band. Do something different.
M: Make an album!
O: Yeah, we’d never given ourselves the time to make an album and we thought, “Fuck it! No one wants this, but we’ll do it!”
M: We made a pop-up studio and we recorded everything in there. Whilst I was doing technical stuff, like mixing drums or whatever, Oscar would be writing lyrics. It was very spontaneous.
O: It wasn’t a particularly big room, and we had mattresses making almost a tent from the drums. I was recording vocals in the darkest corner of this little cave.
M: The setting was really nice though. It was summer, we could see the sea from both windows...
How long were you there for?
M: Two months.
Of just solid work on it?
M: Yeah 90% of it.
O: And it became a concept whilst we were recording it. The whole thing is a concept album. Very big-headed. We’d made really, kind of, shy music for a long time. We wanted to do the complete opposite with this, and do something really grandiose. Halfway through recording we came up with this idea of doing an album about someone’s stay at a hotel. Basically the idea of a man, which is some kind of version of myself, who goes to an island to unwind from the stress of the city, and instead of finding peace he confronts his own fears and anxieties in a very claustrophobic setting. This hotel seems to be kind of a dreamlike location to begin with but then ends up being just a very clear reflection of all these doubts and anxieties which one tends to bury.
Does that reflect your own experiences of going to Mallorca?
O: Yeah, because that’s kind of how we felt in that house whilst we were recording. It was very much like that. We were living in London, so we were very much in our city mood, and we went there and it was like “What is this crazy place?”. In Mallorca, it’s beautiful but at the same time it was a bit strange, you know? We were there for four weeks straight and then another four weeks straight after that. Recording every day, it gets claustrophobic. It gets a bit The Shining-esque. Obviously not to the point where we grabbed the axe, but some nights were a bit dark. It would get to weird places. I had to write lyrics about my feelings and it was very much in tune with that.
What were the main musical influences for the project?
O: I’ve had musical influences since I started learning music which I kind of buried for a while, whilst we were doing the more electronic stuff. Very guitar-based, sixties and the seventies records and all that. Maybe they came back a bit for this record.
M: I mean yeah, we did really obviously get very influenced by seventies sounding production. But It was never, “We like these three bands and we’re gonna…”.
I hear Connan Mockasin a bit in there.
O: Yeah, maybe one of the biggest influences. I think that’s a guy that we really…
O: Situate above us as a…
M: As a god! [laughs]
O: As a real influence. He’s one of those artists that has a massive influence on musicians. He’s a musician’s musician.
Yeah, you hear so many people reference him.
O: Maybe not that many people know him specifically, but his influence has brought so many changes in music now. But yeah, I think the more conscious influences on the album were thematic and cinematic, rather than any musical touchstones. We took our bag of music, which we gathered without thinking too much about, and then more consciously chose to place it in a certain setting, which was Death in Venice, The Shining. The Shining and Taxi Driver, as a kind of narrative of personal downfall and deterioration, claustrophobia.
And then you started playing the hotels once you’d finished the record?
O: Yeah. The original idea of the hotels was a plan for the long-distant future, like, “Imagine if we went around playing hotels, wouldn’t that be crazy?” But then it got to a point where we’d assembled the band, and we just thought, “Maybe this would be a good time to actually do the hotel thing. Maybe we should start with that instead of waiting for it to happen.”
M: So Oscar began managing the band as if we were a cover band...
What were the reactions of the guests?
M: Sometimes really nice, and sometimes....
O: Yeah it depends on the hotels.
M: We played in one hotel, with a Russian crowd I think-
O: The Russians were the worst! They were hard on us. It’s tough putting on a show, being the guy with the mic, and speaking to an audience that is not interested at all. That are almost pissed off that you’re there. But still, in the show with the Russians we still had someone in the crowd that was enjoying it.
M: Yeah someone asked us to do a song again! Which was great, because you’re just not used to that with official shows in venues. You have a timeslot and that’s it. But then in the hotels it’s like, you’re the magician there, you’re doing the tricks. Someone asked us to play The Grand Collide again and we were like “Yeah! Fuck yeah, let’s do it!” It was nice to have the hotel musician experience.
Have you been writing since, how does it work with you two in different countries now?
M: Yeah, more or less. We want to get together again and create more. Probably in the summer at some point.
M: It’s gonna be a similar process just with different concepts.
So you’ll go away somewhere together to write and record again?
M: Definitely, yeah. It’s a great way to force us to get together for a period of time and not do anything else. Getting outside of routines and friends, no distractions. Even phonewise and stuff, that gets moved away for a little bit.
O: It’s so much fun. I have so much fun with you Max! You know, if i didn’t have that… it now feels like… that my life could be quite stable and boring if it wasn’t for that decision to do something like that, which is more… more entertaining! It’s fun to do, you know? And if you’re in a nice setting it’s like the perfect time, you don’t have any distractions. You wake up, you make music, you go to sleep basically. Feels great!
M: Like an animal in the zoo!