Grace and Lies. On the surface, the two concepts couldn’t seem more different. One of them restores, the other ruins. One of them forgives, the other deceives. But to hear Kim Krans, frontwoman for Family Band, tell it, the two aren’t opposed – they’re intertwined. “Grace and Lies are two characters I envisioned last summer,” she says, by way of explaining the haunting title track on the group’s second record. “I couldn’t get them out of my head. I saw them in a field behind our cabin, singing and slow dancing – like ghosts, sort of. They’re the rulers of beauty and false promises. And we all fall for them from time to time.”
And therein lies the beautiful dichotomy of Family Band. A collaboration between visual-artist-turned-singer Kim Krans and her husband, onetime heavy-metal guitarist Jonny Ollsin (Children, S.T.R.E.E.T.S.), the merging of the couple’s sensibilities makes for music that’s simultaneously elegant and visceral. Their songs are as stark as bare trees in winter, Krans’ baleful alto swooping mournfully over Ollsin’s glimmering guitar like a black crow against a grey sky. As its title implies Grace & Lies is equal parts light and shadow, evoking the mystery and terror of early Cat Power, the ghostly aura of Warpaint, with whom Family Band toured in 2011, and the hushed longing of prime-era Cowboy Junkies. Though they explored similar territory – both sonically and lyrically – on their self-released debut, Miller Path, onGrace their canvas is wider — the greys lusher, the blacks deeper. Assisted by bass and lapsteel player Scott Hirsch (Hiss Golden Messenger), with production and instrumental work by Dan Rossen of Grizzly Bear on “Again,”the couple has made a record that boldly confronts life’s darker questions. It’s a document of a band staring down life’s larger riddles – love, death, loss and deceit. But for all its lyrical intensity, there is a current of beauty and hope beneath its fragile, delicate songs.
Despite its dark subject matter, Grace is the product of a band coming comfortably into their own. And while Grace & Lies is not afraid to disappear into shadow, in the end, it’s about understanding and growth. “In the end,” Krans says, “This record is about learning to rewrite your own myth.”