Family Dinner's New Album

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Photos: Courtesy

Chew on this: equal parts hip-hop, Latin, and ska, with crunchy bits of ukulele and country twang, stewed to perfection in a broth of straight funk. You’re now listening to Family Dinner.

Original core members Joel Spiral (lead vocals and ukulele), Reggie Padilla (piano and saxophone), and Alfredo Rivera (tenor saxophone) actually met at a family dinner. They almost immediately recognized each other’s passion for music and had started a band by the time the dessert plates were being scraped clean. The current lineup includes Spiral and Padilla along with Aaron Friedman (bass), Eric Folk (drums), Gilbert Batangan (guitar), Johann Montero (trumpet), Bart Howk (trumpet), and Brian Capobianchi (vocals). Since Family Dinner’s independent release of an EP in 2008, the band has seen its share of hardship and membership turnover. But new and old members alike have reason to celebrate how far their original flavor of music has come with the March 19th release of Now Serving, Family Dinner’s first full-length album.

Though Family Dinner remains loyal to its roots, it definitely doesn’t sound like other local bands. Presented with raw lyrics, mostly stories from front man Spiral’s life, Padilla—a classically trained musician and current director of University of Hawaii at Manoa’s jazz ensemble—comes up with an overall concept for the song. Other band members then season it accordingly, applying their own musical expertise, and the result is a fresh new composition. Rather than trying to fit songs into molds for established genres, Family Dinner picks essences from various musical styles to fuse with its own sound, creating new genres altogether. The band takes listeners on a world tour with tracks like “Rosh Pina” and “Gangster Hippie,” which feature sounds from Israel and Latin America, respectively. Spiral explains, “I want people to say, ‘I don’t like country, but I like that song. Oh, I don’t like hip-hop, but I like that.’”

Family Dinner’s uniqueness also extends to the bright purple vests worn by band members. Dressing in matching (usually purple) evening attire for all their shows, they are proving that showmanship is not dead. They appeal to kids and their parents, demographics that are generally ignored by contemporary bands. Also contrary to the norm, there is no cursing in any of their songs, and Spiral promises only one song about a girl. Nothing’s off the table except cliché. “I definitely feel like we’re unique enough to fill a gap. It’s just a matter of whether people notice that there is a gap,” says Spiral.

The guys of Family Dinner focus on creating a positive experience for their listeners instead of fixating on life’s problems. In other words, Family Dinner is good for you.