Sons Of An Illustrious Father (Interview)

When you talk about Sons of an Illustrious Father, you have to speak of the band in terms of eras. Their initial recordings were folky, even vaguely alt-country, as if exhumed, dusted off, and brought down from the mountain. The vocals on these songs are beautifully breathy and cigarette stretched, the drums play a lithe shuffle, and are accompanied by banjos and the echo of an electric guitar. The music the band produces in its current iteration retains many of these facets, but has also noticeably evolved. Their latest two singles, “Very Few Dancers” and “Strange Home,” carry influences as disparate as folk, psychedelic rock, and contemporary hip-hop, and rely heavily on electric instrumentation. Still present though is that singular voice, which hopefully the band never outgrows.

Your sound has evolved noticeably since your earlier releases. There’s still that distinct Sons sound, but the work has shifted away from your folky roots for a more electrified sound. Was that a conscious choice, or something more organic?

J: Something more organic. Our songwriting has slowly shifted from having so many different writers, and the introduction of a keyboard was also a big change.

L: This band has also existed seven years; people change, the things they feel change, the noise they make about those things changes.

E: Definitely organic. Bacterial. Amoebic. We’ve just been expressing ourselves at each stage, so it actually feels entirely consistent, even though it sounds different.

You recorded your first album in “massive uninsulated barn on a mountain in Vermont,” how did that come about, and what was the experience like? 

E: I met Oliver Ignatius on an unusually bouncy trampoline and we decided that he would record our album with very few words and very little time. We didn’t have or know of any studio options and the barn in Vermont was really the only space available to us. It was extremely cold and while that was logistically problematic and probably technically problematic, in terms of cold-finger-musicianship the harsh conditions really ended up informing the work.

J: It was chill.

Your music seems very influenced by location, not just by where you record, but the space you surround yourself with while writing. Having conquered uninsulated barns, where would you like to record most? 

J: The Chauvet Cave in France seems like a good idea. Really brings it back to the roots.

L: We’re actually in Montreal right now, recording at hotel2tango with Howard Bilerman, which is dreamy. We also look forward to recording at the new Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen.

You recently released a string of fantastic singles. It’s a novel approach to releasing music, and maybe a better one considering people’s curtailed attention span. Is this a model you’ll keep using, or are there plans for a longer release in the near future?

J: The album as a distinct piece of art is something that we’re all pretty attached to, so we definitely plan on working on albums in the future.

Of all the bands I know, you’re probably the one which tours the most frequently, are things you’d recommend that bands should do on their first trip out, things you’ve learned the hard way.

J: If you’re doing a DIY tour, you can never plan enough ahead. Make an itinerary with all of the load in times, travel times, possible places to sleep and eat. Stuff that seems really superfluous in reality ends up being terribly useful. The more you know!

L: Stay hydrated. Be friendly and grateful.

You must be excited for autumn, because collectively as a band you always have the best coats. I guess my question is, where do you get such awesome coats?

J: Lilah generally hunts, skins, and tans her leather jackets herself. Ezra is usually gifted his jackets by Nigerian Princes for his constant financial help whenever they email him. The third member who preferred to remain anonymous in this discussion is actually a cat burglar and jewel thief.

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