While not actually related, the three founding members of the Brooklyn-based band might fool you. They really could be two brothers and a sister. All three members sport red hair and have a bond on stage that implies they have been making music together their entire lives.
In fact they have only been together since November 2007. Katie Vogel hails from Charlottesville, Virginia, where she sang and played music with her step-mom, a bluegrass musician. She met the other two members, Ian McLellan of Connecticut, and Gabriel Gall of Virginia, at NYU.
I asked them how they got their start. “We met at school through some mutual friends a little bit into my freshman year,” said Vogel. They hung out, sitting around playing songs and found they enjoyed it.
Gall added, “We just really liked singing together.”
Three years later, that’s exactly what they are doing, still singing together. The Relatives really are, like their MySpace page says, “desperate to please your ears.” All three play multiple instruments and sing. Said Gall, “I know its cheesy, but we are inspired by each other.”
The Relatives have added bass and drums to some of their live performances. With the full band, their folk sound gets huge. It’s very Bob Dylan, circa 1965 at Newport Folk Festival with electric instruments, and it can get shockingly rocker with a folksy sound. Unlike Dylan’s performance in ‘65, though, the audience seems to embrace The Relatives’ shift to an electric sound.
With the intention of having a bigger rock sound, Vogel said, “we have started to just play the shows that we are really excited about. We used to play anywhere that offered us a show, and we played some really weird places.”
Onstage, The Relatives really get into it. McLellan dances around the stage. Gall taps his bare feet wearing a wool cap, bathing suit and button-down shirt (a surprisingly good look). Then there’s the big voice that commands attention coming from Vogel, the smallest member of the band.
McLellan said after taking the summer off, they are gearing up for more shows and the release of their first studio album, “hopefully in early November, but it has been pushed back before.” The record will reflect the more electric sound with drums and bass on every track, and even the addition of a synthesizer on a few songs.
Recently the band met Adam Schatz, founder of the record label Museum People. He is producing their record, which will only be available on vinyl. “Because that’s how they do it,” said McLellan.
“Adam is helping us develop our sound and line up more shows,” said Vogel. Not all the shows are lined up yet but when they are, The Relatives will surely sing and play their way into the hearts of audience members who gather to hear their new big sound.
Check out some of The Relatives’ tracks on their MySpace page before the album release.