Album Review: The Family Crest returns with Prelude To War

The Family Crest, Prelude to War

It’s been two years since San Francisco orchestral pop band The Family Crest released Beneath the Brine, a breakout that led to the group’s first national headlining tour and commercial licensing deals. A large chunk of the intervening time went to touring, including a slot at Outside Lands in 2015. But now we know the band soon returned to the studio. The end result is new EP Prelude to War, and hints at the group’s next full-length album, War.

Prelude To War
The Family Crest
April 28

The EP, out April 28, presents a new direction for the band. Where Beneath the Brine and previous material all centered around classical instrumentation and incorporated jazz, folk and cabaret, rock takes center stage on four of the album’s five tracks. But the band also retained its signature layered harmonies, string flourishes and dramatics.

The Family Crest debuted the first song, “Mirror Love,” with NPR, which has championed singer-guitarist Liam McCormick, flutist Laura Bergmann, bassist John Seeterlin, cellist Charly Akert, violinist Owen Sutter, drummer Charlie Giesige and trombonist George Mousa Samaan in the past.

“Mirror Love,” is the clearest appetizer of the band’s new sound. The song channels Snow Patrol through The Family Crest’s symphonic filter. McCormick sounds desperate when he sings, “Well we fall apart when there’s no one around/ And we move it off to a dying sound/ We’re all just passengers waiting here to go down/ Screaming give me what I need.”

A funky brass interlude, with trumpets, sax and trombone and other instruments add to what is The Family Crest’s best dance song to date.

The Family Crest
8 p.m., Saturday, June 3
Great American Music Hall
Tickets: $20-$45.

The closing track, “Battle Cry,” is led by the string arrangements rather than the dance beat, but is no less driving or passionate. McCormick wails: “Oh my love, don’t cry/ We were born to die/ Before this moment, for all time/ I will fight for you/ I will die for you.” The band was influenced, like many artists, by the opposition to the current U.S. administration. And “Battle Cry” is the track that acts as a de facto transition to the forthcoming full-length album. But if these lyrics are any indication, the War to come is just as much personal as it is political.

The album’s five tracks are split in the middle with a more traditional The Family Crest track, the down-tempo, orchestral “Don’t Wake Me,” featuring a slow kick drum and classical piano overlaid with infrequent acoustic guitar strums. Four-fifths of the way through, the song begins a build, with other instruments joining to create the band’s signature symphonic pop, letting the melody speak for itself. It’s a breezy, contemplative song, with McCormick singing about the feeling of waking up next to a lover. The atmospherics conjure of white curtains billowing in an open doorway. “Now that your body is lying next to me/ Now that the world is sleeping at our feet/ Now that the waking of our hearts is clear,” he sings.

The Family Crest will kick off a five-week tour the day of the EP’s release. See the dates below.

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April 28 Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Theater | Tickets

April 29 Phoenix, AZ –The Rebel Lounge | Tickets

May 1 Dallas, TX – The Double Wide | Tickets

May 2 Austin, TX – Stubb’s BBQ | Tickets

May 4 St. Louis, MO – Blueberry Hill | Tickets

May 5 Nashville, TN – The Basement | Tickets

May 7 Atlanta, GA – Aisle 5 | Tickets

May 9 Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel | Tickets

May 10 Philadelphia, PA – Boot & Saddle | Tickets

May 11 Boston, MA – Café 939  | Tickets

May 12 Burlington, VT – Signal Kitchen | Tickets

May 13 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge | Tickets

May 14 Pittsburgh, PA – Club Café | Tickets

May 16 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Tavern | Tickets

May 17 Ferndale, MI – The Loving Touch | Tickets

May 18 Chicago, IL – Schubas Tavern | Tickets

May 19 Milwaukee, WI – The Backroom at Colectivo Coffee | Tickets

May 20 St. Paul, MN – Turf Club | Tickets

May 22 Denver, CO – Lost Lake Lounge | Tickets

May 23 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court | Tickets

May 25 Seattle, WA – Barboza | Tickets

May 27 Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge | Tickets

June 3 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall | Tickets

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