Summer Camp Welcomes: Family Groove Company with an Interview with Bassist Janis Wallin!

Family Groove Company is a staple at Summer Camp Music Festival.  This Chicago-based group has been playing the fest since 2004, which just so happens to be the first time I attended as well.  Over the years they FGC has captured the hearts of Summer Campers far and wide with their laid back, fun loving style that is free from any pretension.

Bassist Janis Wallin took a few moments to reflect on Summer Camp Music Festival and share some upcoming plans for this summer including FGC’s 5th album scheduled to be released later this year.

Did you go to summer camp as a kid?

I did. I don’t recall it being nearly as fun as the Summer Camp I’ve come to know as an adult. Looking back, I think maybe my parents were just trying to get rid of me for a couple weeks out of the year.

Do you have any big summer plans this year?

I’m hoping to play and see as much music as I can!

What are some artist or bands you hope to see perform live over the summer?

I’ve been a Phish fan since high school so I’m excited to check them out when they come to Chicago in July. Other than that, I think the Summer Camp lineup pretty much satisfies every musical interest I have, so I’m looking forward to getting my live music fix when I’m not performing. A few on my must-see list are: Trey Anastasio Band, Lettuce, G Love, Victor Wooten, The Wood Brothers, The Motet, and New Orleans Suspects.

Janis sits in with Victor Wooten at Summer Camp 2014:

What’s your favorite summer time beverage?

I like a nice fruity frozen beverage with a little umbrella in it.

What is your favorite festie food?

My favorite festie food is Minglewood Pizza! They’ve been a staple at Summer Camp and the smaller festivals around Illinois as long as I can remember. Best festival pizza ever cooked up by two of the nicest folks on the planet!

How many times have you been to Summer Camp Music Festival and what is your favorite part about the fest?


Photo by Nick Stock

This will be my 11th consecutive year at Summer Camp with Family Groove Company. Our first year was 2004 (known as the year of the tornado), and we were on the little camping stage. It wasn’t the camping stage we know today, but instead was a little slab of concrete in the woods with a tent over it. We were very fortunate to play our set before the weather turned evil that weekend. It’s been simply amazing to play this festival every year since then, and to see the festival grow and for us to grow along with it. I think my favorite part about Summer Camp is the people. In one weekend, in one place, I get to see so many people I know and love from all across the country…bands, friends, fans. Everyone is there and it’s like a big reunion each year.

What is your favorite SCamp memory?

Oh man, I couldn’t even pick just one. A few great memories that lump into one are FGC’s performances at the Thursday preparty, which we’ve been a part of since 2006. This is my favorite day of the festival, and each year it gets bigger and bigger. Everyone is amped and fresh, and it’s always an amazing way to kick off the weekend.

I also have incredible memories of playing latenight shows in the Red Barn. One year, FGC put together this big tribute to The Big Lebowski where we dressed up as characters from the movie (I was Maude), played songs from the soundtrack, and performed notable scenes from the movie. It was one of the most ambitious things production-wise we have ever done, and was a ton of fun. Our Red Barn latenights have also seen appearances by my alter-ego MC Ice, who ditches the bass and comes out to the front of the stage to rap. Always an adrenaline rush!

Family Grove feat. MC Ice performs “Humpty Dance” late night in the Red Barn:

I also love the collaborative atmosphere amongst the musicians at Summer Camp, and this has made for some great memories as well. Fiddle player Allie Kral is kind of a staple sit-in for FGC at Summer Camp, and last year we also had artist-in-resident Roosevelt Collier play some lapsteel with us. I myself love to make my way around the sit-in circuit as well, and over the years have jumped up to play anything from funk to folk to bluegrass with artists like Victor Wooten, Allie Kral & Friends, Jaik Willis, and Henhouse Prowlers.

Allie Kral sits in with FGC for a sweet and soulful rendition of “Bennie and the Jets”:

Do you have any new music coming out this year?

Yes! Family Groove Company is currently working on our 5th album, which should be released later this year.