It’s a Couples’ Thing

Audra and Bryan of Factories

Being in a band is tough. Being in a band with a significant other is even harder – just ask Greg Allman and Cher, Lindsey and Stevie or Liam and Noel (OK, so the Gallagher brothers weren’t really a couple but they sure did act like one). A band, any band, is like a big ol’ dysfunctional family. There’s the creativity. There’s the arguing about what gets written and what gets played. And, musicians are just a handful. Throw in all that and then add the dynamics of a personal relationship and it’s amazing anyone stays together.

Personally, I am in a band with my significant other, and I’ve always wondered if couples in bands face the same challenges, and the ups and downs as we do.

So I went looking for couples in bands. Married or coupled. And there are a lot of them in this city. I found four couples: Niki and Nick of The Nixs, Audra and Bryan of Factories, Former Friends of Young Americans’ Toby and Amanda Jane, and Clayton and Lindsey of The Midnight Vitals.

The Nix are super new and super good. A blend of shoegaze and pop, Niki and Nick share the guitar playing duties, and they share the vocals as well.

Factories, a Valley favorite, dish up electronica, distorted guitars and sterling vocals. Audra and Brian share the singing duties and their shows are virtual dance parties.

Toby and Amanda Jane of Former Friends of Young Americans, best name ever, are among the best electronic/shoegaze groups here and beyond. And as multi-instrumentalists, their shows are lush with sound.

The Midnight Vitals are also new to Phoenix’s stages. A healthy dose of rock and pop drive their music on their new EP, and as far as I’m concerned, Clayton and Lindsey nail it.

I virtually gathered everyone for a couple’s night and asked them a few questions to see just how they handle being band mates.

Clayton and Lindsey of The Midnight Vitals

Frank Ippolito: How long have you two been together?

Former Friends of Young Americans: We have been dating almost two years.

The Nix: About 7 years.

Factories: We have been married for 4 years, but have been together since our junior year of high school…so I guess that makes it 15 years. Whoa.

Midnight Vitals: Over 3 years.

When was the first time you two got together and jammed?

FFOYA: We started casually playing together at home within a few months of dating. The first time we performed together was about a year ago during one of Toby’s nights at Carly’s Bistro – which, incidentally, was where we went on our first date.

The Nix: Back in ’06 or ’07 when my friend Ixchel asked if I wanted to play guitar. I said yeah, let’s do it. We later met up at the Bikini (Lounge) where she introduced me to Nick. He was cocky at first, assuming I couldn’t “really” play. Later during practice, I must’ve proved him wrong.

Factories: Bryan used to play with a good friend for years who moved away to New York. Bryan still had the practice space and he would just go jam by himself, and one day he asked me if I wanted to come play some keys and do some harmonies on some songs he had written…that was ’05 I think.

Midnight Vitals: October 2011

Were you a couple before that?

FFOYA: Yes, for a about a year.

The Nix: Nope.

Factories: Yup. We’ve known each other since middle school, but started dating in our junior year of high school.

Midnight Vitals: Yes.

Toby and Amanda

When you did decide to be a couple, was jamming together the same or a little weird?

FFOYA: It happened very quickly. We were already a couple for about a year. Toby had a tour scheduled last January and his band mates at the time (also a couple) couldn’t go. Since I was planning on tagging along for part of the journey anyway, I plunged in. After one practice, we performed the next 14 straight nights on the road as a duo. It’s all evolved quite naturally since.

The Nix: It slowly happened. I think Nick really like me but I was reluctant because I had just got out of a relationship and I didn’t want anything awkward between our friends and us. He was pretty persistent, so it just eventually happened over time playing together.

Factories: Being a couple came first, but yes, it was weird. I never thought of myself as a musician and was surrounded by a bunch of dudes, so it was pretty awkward for about 3 years or so for me. Bryan is a natural, so I think it was much more comfortable for him.

Midnight Vitals: We didn’t feel like it was. For the most part it’s always been something we’ve enjoyed doing together.

Does the music ever become bigger than the relationship?

FFOYA: The music – and touring and things that come along with it –  are just part of the relationship now.

The Nix: At times yes it does. We often argue about music but not for too long. It took us years to figure it out. Now that we know how handle it, it has made a huge difference. We are friends first, a couple second, band mates third.

Factories: Not bigger…just a separate life in a weird way. We rarely talk about the band when we aren’t practicing or meeting as a band.

Midnight Vitals: I wouldn’t say so. Even though music is important to both of us, its more of a back burner kinda thing in our lives, if its starts taking up too energy and time, we reel it in.

When it comes to your music, who is responsible for writing?

FFOYA: I’ve always been FFOYA’s main songwriter and wrote all of the material on the album to be released in October before Amanda joined the band. Amanda brings a new skill set to the table: she is a writer by profession, a skilled poet, a flutist, a soulful gospel-like singer, and she has contributed several new songs that we are currently performing live.

The Nix: We both collaborate and write fairly equally. Mostly we start with guitar and/or keyboard and flush out some chords or a certain riff. Then we bring the idea to each other and work it out from there by just noodling around. We equally write lyrics and it’s usually on a per song basis.

Factories: Bryan writes the lyrics and comes up with the original idea…I’m usually pretty good at writing a “hook” or a catchy “Ooh” part or harmony. As a band we kind of rework the songs to get the sound we do, but Bryan really is the songwriter.

Midnight Vitals: Clayton does the majority of the writing and then brings the song to the rest of the band and they embellish some, but usually all the song parts are written before anyone else hears it.

Say someone writes a song about “relationship” do either you ever go, “Uh, is that about us?”

FFOYA: (Toby laughs) We’re both divorcees, so we already of have a decent well of relationship vitriol to pull from. We don’t need to take it out on each other.

The Nix: We don’t think we ever specifically wonder if a song is about us. The beauty of music is that you can relate your own personal lives to however that song is grabbing you.

Factories: I’m usually listening to whether the vocal line is catchy or interesting and not paying as much mind to the lyrical content…that’s more Bryan’s gig. He really loves poetry.

Midnight Vitals: Oh yeah. We’ve been through some shit together so song lyrics touching on a subject we’ve experienced is pretty common.

Nick and Niki

What advice would you give other couples in a band?

FFOYA: Make sure you are old, withered and all of your bad times are behind you before you embark on that one. A divorce or two might help.

The Nix: Patience and kindness. In the end, we are doing this because we love music and each other.

Factories: Make sure you know how to be a couple without the music in your life. It can only enhance your relationship…but if you bring your relationship “baggage” to practice, it will be hard to get any work done. The best is when you write a sweet song and can jam out in the car together on the way home. That makes it all worth it.

Midnight Vitals: Make sure your priorities are in check. Music can be an important facet to a relationship but can also cause some tension, we can attest to that, (Clayton laughs). Not taking it too serious makes the process a lot more enjoyable.

Check out the artist links below –

Former Friends of Young Americans

The Nix


Midnight Vitals

by Frank Ippolito
Staff Writer