Peter Lord, co-founder of one of the most influential soul groups of the ’90’s, The Family Stand, is never remiss in acknowledging how past influences have helped shape the bands musical vision. “There’s always been a certain classic element to what we do,” he says. “If you go back and listen to music from about ’68 to about 1975 or so, that was the golden era for that mixture of funk and soul that seemed to have a real freedom to it. I loved that era of music. Then the bicentennial came and fucked everything up,” he laughs.
But the point he’s trying to make is not lost on the philosophy that goes into the making of The Family Stand’s inspiring mix of percolating rhythms and pinpoint social commentary. Now, finally, contemporary musical ears have caught up to them. Among the originators of the Afro-Bohemian sound sweeping pop and soul (Maxwell, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo), the group’s new album, Connected, delivers on all of their previous promise.
Whether it’s the vampy optimism of the album’s first track, “Keepin’ You Satisfied,” the psychedelic funk of “Don’t Ask Why,” or the socially relevant “What Must I Do Now,” the themes on Connected are both visceral and spiritual, aimed at moving the body and the mind. The group somehow manages to brew it all in a bubbling cauldron of classic soul, without ever sacrificing their originality. “We always want to do something that cant be pigeonholed,” says singer/songwriter/producer Peter Lord. “In the seventies, music wasn’t as categorized. You take an album like Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, and you can see all the boundaries it broke. We model what we do on a vibe that reaches the listener in as many ways as possible.”
Peter, and Family Stand guitarist/saxophonist/vocalist Jeffrey Smith have enlisted singer Jacci McGhee to take the vocal reins on Connected. The former solo artist, (she recorded a self-titled debut album/hit single “It Hurts Me,” featuring Keith Sweat) has contributed her vocal talents on a duet with Keith Sweat (“Make It Last Forever”), and has worked with Salt N’ Pepa, among other groups, immediately gelled with the bands experimental approach to their assortment of sounds. “She has a real street quality,” says Jeffrey. Jacci says she also adds another flavor.: “I’ve got this Tina Turner thing that seems to fit in with the whole idea of breaking down walls, which is what the band has always tried to do.”
The Family Stand has been extending musical boundaries since 1988, with the release of their debut LP Chapters: A Novel By Evon Geffries And The Stand. Their 1990 breakthrough album, Chain, featuring the groundbreaking single “Ghetto Heaven,” elevated the group to cult status. A buzz was building around the group’s hybrid brand of rock/soul and funk. Their follow up album Moon In Scorpio cemented the group’s status as one of the more influential groups in R&B. Rolling Stone magazine called them: “An oasis in the desert of post-hip hop half-stepping.” The Family Stand has drawn comparisons to such historic artists as Sly And The Family Stone and Prince, but the band has never been content to rest on their critical laurels, taking equal pride in their diverse fan base.
“It seems like there is an audience out there now who are ready for us more than ever,” says Peter. “Hip hop has based itself on a lot of stuff from that golden era I was talking about,” he says. “The key is to not homogenize it, and not to distance yourself from it. The vibe runs through a lot of what’s popular today.”
Songs on the new LP such as “Connected” and the afore- mentioned “What Must I Do Now.” A song like ‘Keepin’ You Satisfied’starts it off with a more physical attitude,” he says. “But as you get through the album you see we’re dealing with heavier things. The album is put together in the way Stevie used to, connecting on all those fronts.”
Peter points to the album’s middle, and “What Must I Do Now,” which contains a part 1 and 2, as an example of this continuity. “The first part is an acknowledgement of the humanity of the black community,” he says. “But when you get to part 2, it’s about Tupac Shakur.”
On that song, The Family Stand explores the broader themes of what a contemporary young black man must go through when confronting his own fears, and the expectations of others who look to him for leadership. “Are you revolutionary, are you playing thug” the song asks. “Do you play the fool that walks the wire?” The Family Stand does not shrink from asking such questions of the musical community in general. The band sees its prime mission is to not only entertain, but to bring to light the full scope of their vision, artistry and humanity.