Around Town with Amy Modesti: Interview “Family Tree” Band

Written by on November 1, 2021

Interview and Photos by Amy Modesti

“You got your family that you were born into, and you got your family that you choose. And that second family, you’re drawn to through chemistry.” – Lori Friday –

Our music community is inner twined, ever grown. Musicians meeting for the first time at music jams, concerts, or music stores grow as branches extending into the sky. Their love of music, performance, and chemistry they feed off each other on and off stage is electric. With the growth of branches come colorful leaves and the beautiful friendships/partnerships that blossom just from the power of music and common interests.

Chris Carey, Steve Candlen, Lori Friday, Kenny Hohman, and Chad Ploss are the leaves that make up “Family Tree”! Happening every Monday evening at Putnam Place, these fine musicians deliver some of the best jams to Saratoga Springs. Included within that crowd are friends of “Family Tree” who are invited exclusively to perform on stage with them within each seamless set. Event attendees are encouraged to leave a tip in the bongo drum to keep the love of live music alive.
Monday, August 30,2021, I made the trek to Putnam Place to speak to my friends about “Family Tree” and how it evolved from its days in Albany, Troy, and now, Saratoga Springs.
RRX: How did you all team up together to form “Family Tree”? How did you become friends & why is it with this combination of people that are involved with “Family Tree”?
SC: The names of the guys that were in the original part of this thing were George Moscatiello & Ryan Lucas, & then we had a little group that was the “Family Tree” that was also called Fund the Mentals, and that featured Dez, Daniel Hulbert. (This incarnation of Family Tree was active in the early 2000’s, with Steve on Drums, Lori on Bass, and Kenny on Guitar, backing up improvisational rap battles at the El Dorado in Troy, NY.)
LF: Steve introduced Kenny & I to one another 26 years ago, which is a funny story for another time! We have played in our band Super 400 for 25 years and have met countless great players along the journey. Kenny is a player & singer with incredible skill, and I have been utterly blessed to play alongside him. Steve is a fantastic musician, both as an amazing drummer & singer/songwriter. I met Chad many years ago, he is always on top of what is happening on stage & as a bass player, I love carving out new feels and grooves with him every week. Both drummers are so much fun to play with because they have supreme feels as well as the willingness to listen and shape their sound around what is happening with the music, moment to moment. I met Chris when he worked at Parkway Music, and always admired his great enthusiasm & musical skill. He is a blast to play with-he is up for anything and brings a lot of depth & joy to the jams. This combination of players covers a vast array of styles & backgrounds. When we got together the first time, the chemistry was fun and there seemed to be a bottomless treasure trove of musical ideas.

RRX: How do you choose the songs for each week?

KH: Text threads, maybe like Chris says, ‘Hey you know, I like this artist, I’d like to sing this song.’

RRX: What’s been your favorite “Family Tree” that you had both here and at the Ale House?

KH: Tonight. Every one we do I feel like, ‘Yeah that one was the most fun,’ and then we do one next week and then I feel like, ‘Ah this one is the most fun,’ I had the most fun myself tonight. There’s so much good stuff going on and any one of us can completely stop playing at any time. And I do it often. I’ll just stop and listen to the band and it’s just fun.

RRX: No. Even just being out in the audience tonight. I’m watching it as you were and just taking it all in, and how you were interacting with George, or how Chris and you were playing the guitar for certain parts.

KH: Yeah?!

RRX: And with everybody just meshing, the transitions among each of the players was seamless tonight.

KH: And Steve comes out of the drums and plays the guitar and sings and Chris can play any of the instruments on stage and sing and everybody sings lead at different times.

LF: That is something. That is the essence of what we are. It’s a shared feeling, a shared thing, and it’s moment to moment.

SC: Hence the name.

KH: Anybody can lead at anytime and everybody supports each other, that’s how it is.

CP: You wanna hear something cool too? When Steve said, ‘How about “Family Tree” for the name?’ I’m like ‘awesome’! My aunt, who recently passed away, when he mentioned it, had a store near Speculator that was called “The Family Tree”. So, I was like, ‘Yep, that’s it!’

RRX: Awe, that’s cool!

LF: That is really nice.

RRX: And everybody is connected musically and not blood-related within this musical circle that you have going on.

LF: Well, you got your family that you were born in to and you got your family that you choose.

CP: Correct

LF: And that second family, you’re drawn to through chemistry.

SC: An extended family with those few people that have played with us.

KH: And those who have common interests. Yeah.

SC: Dustin Deluke has played keyboards a couple times with us. Who are the other guys that we mentioned?

CC: Chris Kyle.

SC: Frank Daley, Joe Mele.

KH: Tony Perrino, Chuck Lamb, Andrew Lynch, Drew Costa

SC: And the other drummers, Dicky Ogden, Leo Kachidurian.

CC: Mark Foster

KH: Joe Daley of course.

RRX: So “Family Tree” originated in Albany? Then it settled in Troy & now Saratoga?

SC: And now it’s heading for the world.

CC: It literally encompasses the Capital Region. I don’t think there’s a place where we wouldn’t play right? I mean the Ale House is the size of this room so. (The Green room where the interview was held)

RRX: Yeah true.

KH: The Ale House is a magical place. It sounds great cause it’s all wood, its old wood, it just sounds real good in there.

CC: If we do The Hangar, just set the stage up in there.

RRX: Yeah, that’s a great idea!

LF: Yeah, we need to.

SC: And (Putnam Place), they’re very supportive of the band. Extremely. We owe a lot to these guys.

KH: They have the stage, the lights, the PA, and everything already so we don’t have to load it all in every time we play.

CP: Yep

CC: And they commit to us on Mondays which are not a historically slamming night.

SC: That was just because I’m thinking that everyone would be off their gigs.

CC: I’m so glad to do it cause otherwise I am just like, I would be working, just screwing around BBQ Ing or whatever on Monday.

RRX: I love it. Or watching TV at night.

RRX: And the Putnam Place jams are held weekly from 7-10 pm correct? Where can music fans go to check out the photos/videos from the jam on social media?

LF: Weekly from 7-10, yes. Anyone can join the Facebook group “Family Tree”. There are lots of videos on the page, and people can get the information on where we’re playing next.

RRX: Who is invited to sit in at the Family Tree?

LF: The Family Tree is a pro jam. The players that sit in with us are professional musicians in our extended ‘Family’ in Upstate New York. It’s an opportunity for us to make music with people in the community who we normally would not have the chance to play with. So many times, we said, ‘let’s get together and play some tunes’ but it never happens, because we’re all gigging all the time, & life gets in the way. But Family Tree opens that door and we’re able to make that musical connection. In turn, we share that music with the audience. The people who come to listen each week are amazing-so supportive of what we do. They give us loving energy & are a big part of the show!
Some folks have come to The Family Tree, thinking it is an open mic jam. There are lots of great open mics around the Capital District, but this is a different scene. If you aren’t a professional player, we welcome you to come & listen, and enjoy a great night of friends and music. It’s a very inclusive scene & the club is very welcoming and friendly.

CC: I’d love to emphasize Don, Sly, Nick, and Kayla here (at Putnam Place), how good they are to us.

SC: And the Ale House? Brian, Molly, and Booie. And we’re looking forward to the future anyway. This is just the beginning.

RRX: Exactly!

SC: And we would like to thank Amy.

RRX: You’re welcome! Thank you, guys, for having me be a part of “Family Tree”. I love being included in stuff like this because we’re all family.

SC: Yeah, hence the title.

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