From Athens, Georgia to Tampa, Florida: Family and Friends

Family and Friends by Sydney Kruljac
Family and Friends (from left to right) JP McKenzie, David (Tuna) Fortuna, Mike MacDonald, and Jamie Rios.



Hailing from Athens, Georgia, Family and Friends instantly captivates its audience with its energy and a two-drummer dynamic that pulses through the hearts of anyone within earshot. On Saturday, March 7, Family and Friends brought its spirited folk-rock 470 miles south to Tampa’s Gasparilla Music Festival to join many other great bands for a weekend event with notable headliners such as Modest Mouse and the Gaslight Anthem.

It is no surprise that the seven-member band, consisting of Mike MacDonald (guitar/vocals), Casey Harper (vocals), Jamie Rios (percussion), Ryan Houchens (percussion), JP McKenzie (guitar), David (Tuna) Fortuna (bass) and Maria Kindt (viola/violin) was one of the handful of bands selected to attend. Normally playing in venues across the northeast, Florida was a new experience for the band after nearly two years of playing together.

“We’ve always wanted to come to Florida,” drummer Ryan Houchens said.  “We just got the offer to play here and we just couldn’t turn it down, you know? Plus two of our favorite bands are headlining the festival. So it’s kind of like a vacation for us, kind of like a win-win. We get to play, but we also get to see one of the best concerts.”

The band got together in 2013 by mere chance, according to guitarist and lead vocalist, Mike MacDonald.

“It was more or less a web of fate really,” MacDonald said. “We were kind of connected by six degrees of separation whether we knew it or not.”

Throughout each of the member’s lives, music was an important and powerful component. Some, such as Houchens and Fortuna, were heavily involved in projects throughout college before Family and Friends began, according to MacDonald.

“Tuna was in a pretty rad band called Tumbleweed Stampede that used to put on a killer show,” MacDonald said. “Ryan is still in a handful of super talented bands around town including Waitress and Double Ferrari.”

Family and Friends has big plans for the future. As relatively young and fresh faces to the indie rock music scene, the 20-somethings are beginning to increase their popularity by they expanding their repertoire of fan bases in different states. When asked where in the world they would perform if given the opportunity, MacDonald listed a few of his desired venues including Madison Square Garden, Overseas, Underseas, Kansas City, Missouri, The fifth Harry Potter Novella and of course, New College of Florida.

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