The late 80’s/ early 90’s were the best of times and the worst of times for Black Rock acts. On the one hand, rock bands of color had finally broken through a musical glass ceiling thanks to the success of Living Colour, Lenny Kravitz and Fishbone. On the other hand, those who controlled access to radio and record promotion were hard pressed to use up their resources on a plethora of alternative Black artists so sadly, some bands got lost in the shuffle. This is where The Family Stand ended up. The Family Stand (Peter Lord, Sandra St. Victor and Jeffery Smith) were a production team hired by their record label to produce the r&b acts of the 80’s. The trio however had their sites set on doing their own music. The band’s first two releases were mostly r&b affairs but the group came out swinging and guns blazing with their third release, 1991’s “Moon in Scorpio.” “Moon in Scorpio” was a 90’s rock disc like no other; equal parts gutbucket funk sweet seventies soul and a serious barrage of heavy rock guitars. The band quickly found themselves opening for The Red Hot Chili Peppers in Europe and on stage at the Pinkpop Festival alongside Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Sadly the disc seemed to be a bit ahead of its time, and it did not catch on with the masses. The “family” went their separate ways after being frustrated with lack of record label support.
The Family Stand has reunited and has a new disc (“In A Thousand Years”) getting ready to drop this fall. Peter Lord was in Los Angeles and I had a chance to catch up with him and chat about just how the “Family” is doing now.
David Carr: Peter, what prompted The Family Stand to do new music in 2010?
Peter Lord: All three of us have been active on our own doing music and producing. We got together back in 2006 in New York at Summer Stage in Central Park. We decided we wanted to do some new music together. We really don’t want to live in the past. We have been writing and recording new music for a couple years and now we have a new disc ready to be released.
David: How will you be releasing the disc?
Peter: The disc will be available via download. Folks will be able to purchase our disc on our website at http://thefamilystand.bandcamp.com.
David: Sounds like you are utilizing the technology of the times in order to get the record out there.
Peter: We used a ton of technology to record the disc! No matter what era we record in, our songs fit that era. We even used some auto tune on the opening track! HA! Like I said we do not like to live in the past.
David: I promise not to tell Jay-Z about your use of auto tune! And although I know you want to deal with the here and now I am going to ask you to indulge me and talk to me about how the band got together to start recording. You all were producers first and foremost, correct?
Peter: Our vision as a band was, we were going to do what WE wanted to do and what we LIKED to do. We were hired as r&b producers by Atlantic Records. We produced a ton of hits for Paula Abdul. When it came time to record our on music — our disc “Chain” only hinted at what we were about. We got some interest thanks to the song “Ghetto Heaven” but when we got the chance to record “Moon in Scorpio” it was clear that we were not into what was being considered r&b at the time. I was not into having a jheri curl, dancing and singing about — well, about bullshit! For me, for us, music was/is about freedom and rebellion. R&B was about assimilation and rock was and has always been about rebellion so that’s what led us to record that disc.
David: I have to assume that for some fans who knew your music, “Moon in Scorpio” was a bit of a shock.
Peter: It’s all about the era you grew up in and your influences. I grew up listening to The Rolling Stones, Sly and The Family Stone, Led Zeppelin and Stevie Wonder. It made sense for me to make the kind of music we make because of what I grew up with.
David: What were some of the highlights and frustrations you had in the early 90’s?
Peter: Well the highlights included touring with the Chili Peppers, touring through Europe and hitting the Pink Pop Festival with Soundgarden. The frustration at the time was dealing with radio programmers. At the time they just felt that there was no use playing us because they were already playing Living Colour and Lenny Kravitz. It was like they felt they had already reached their black rock quota!
David: Are you bitter about those days?
Peter: Now I have a perspective about the politics that were going on back then. There is a thin line between racism and cultural perspective. I mean as far as what happened in the past, I know that we made great records. I know we wrote good songs. There was nothing wrong with us! HA! We were a blue state band but we had to be marketed in the red states also. Back in the day I was mad at our label but to be honest they did the best they could with us in that particular climate. I mean it’s like when you go to buy toothpaste; you know what it’s supposed to look like. You are not gonna buy toothpaste that looks like a bar of soap because you have been programmed to understand what toothpaste looks like! That’s what was going on. Record and radio people had this image of what a rock band should look and sound like and we did NOT fit that image when it came to marketing. If we want things to change, we as artists need to change the political situation of the music industry instead of spending most of our time on how we look and our image.
David: Along with the band’s mixing of genres, The Family Stand is also known for getting political when it comes to the band’s lyrics. Do you think its important to have a social message as a musician?
Peter: The lyrics are important. Too many artists are getting over just by having a cool vibe and nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t want to be preachy! I mean the core of this is songwriting. Again, that is the problem I had with r&b. They were more concerned with “how” you say something rather than what was actually being said. You have to be able to write a good song and make it meaningful.
David: What are the immediate plans for the band?
Peter: The disc will be officially out on September 8th. We will be doing an acoustic, record release party in New York to coincide with the release of the disc. After that we will see what the response is and go from there.
If you truly are a fan of MUSIC, not image but serious musicianship and storytelling, make sure to check out “In A Thousand Years” from The Family Stand this fall.