SONS AND DAUGHTERS
Sons & Daughters are - Adele Bethel (vocals/guitars/keyboards), Ailidh Lennon (bass/mandolin), Dave Gow (drums/percussion) and Scott Paterson (guitars/vocals).
"It comes from a dream that Adele had a couple of years ago," laughs Sons & Daughters guitarist Scott Paterson when quizzed on the enigma of just how they decided upon their name. "Bob Dylan was standing in her back garden singing 'The Times They Are-A Changing,' and she woke up immediately after he sang the line, 'Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.' And the name just stuck from there."
Formed in Glasgow over a shared love of Johnny Cash records and absolutely nothing to do with long-running Australian soap-operas, Sons & Daughters' sound is of blackest Americana mixed with broadest Scots, spinning dark tales of broken bones and tough love. "I had the idea of forming the band around two years ago," explains Adele. "Ailidh and I started writing songs in my flat, with me on piano and her on guitar. I'd known Dave for a long time since we'd toured together with Arab Strap, and he'd promised me that he would play drums in my next band. Then one night I saw Scott do his own solo acoustic thing, and we were all really impressed and asked him to join."
So the band was in place; Adele was the strutting front-woman/guitarist/keyboard player, Ailidh was the ice-cool bassist with a neat line in mandolins, Scott provided all the licks and Dave held it all together from the back. But Glasgow in 2002 wasn't the vibrant musical hotbed it became in 2004, and the band was initially met with indifference. "Post-Rock was very big in Glasgow at the time," recalls Scott. "Where as we just wanted to write short songs with strong melodies, lasting two to three minutes maximum. We wanted to make them really catchy and concise, edited right down so that there was only the bare minimum in there. And when everyone's playing Post-Rock, that doesn't sit too well!"
And so here begins the strange twist in the tale. There surely can't be many newly-formed unsigned Glaswegian bands whose first record is released on an American independent, and only made available in their hometown on import, but in the face of local nonchalance, that's exactly what happened to Sons & Daughters. "After a while," says Dave, "We'd played a few gigs in Glasgow and put together enough money to go and record some tracks. We sent some stuff out to the places in the UK you normally send stuff to, but we didn't get a whole lot of comeback on it. Ben, the guy who runs our label in America, was a friend of Adele's who had kept in touch; she sent him our demos and he loved them. He asked us if we wanted to record more for him, and we jumped at the chance. And that's basically where Love The Cup came from."
Released on US label Ba Da Bing!, Love The Cup comprises seven songs of black-as-coals American roots music spliced with traditional folk, new wave and deadpan Scottish drawls, boiling over with sexual tension and the constant spectre of violence hanging over it like a long black veil. It's right there on the album's remarkable opening track "Fight" as Scott and Adele embark upon a duel of one up-manship, attempting to outdo the other with an array of scowls and threats. "There is a very dark side to our music," admits Scott. "There's a lot of violence and melancholy in it, but at the same time, it's music that you can dance to. At gigs, there's nothing worse than seeing people just standing around, unsure of whether it's perceived as cool to be enthusiastic about the music. Essentially it's dancing music, even though to look at the lyrics you wouldn't think it."
For the last five years Sons And Daughters have worked towards fashioning a distinctive sound, image and story. Inspired by the melancholy storytelling of Lee Hazlewood, the lyricism of Bill Callaghan and Leonard Cohen, and the raw power of country, blues and folk, the Glasgow-based four-piece have been busy creating their own world and making it an interesting place to live in since 2002. The punk blues of their 2004 debut Love The Cup and 2005’s The Repulsion Box won fans such as Nick Cave and Franz Ferdinand, and marked Sons And Daughters out as a band of fine taste and judgment.
In the summer of 2006, Sons And Daughters holed up in a house in the village of Adfern on the west coast of Scotland. They had no television, no telephones, and worked on new songs in a converted barn for eight hours every day. “We wrote and practiced all day and played poker and got drunk at night. We were committed to writing a great pop record,” says Adele. “We all love Blondie and The Smiths and we wanted to embrace that and not repeat what we had done before. Then we thought: who would be the perfect producer for a record like this?” Domino’s Laurence Bell suggested Bernard Butler, and all being huge Suede fans the band agreed. This Gift bears out that Butler and Sons And Daughters make a winning combination, although it didn’t always feel like that at the time of recording. “He’s very, very tough,” says Scott. “He doesn’t sugar-coat anything and we had a lot of clashes. Then we heard the playbacks of the songs and it all began to make sense.” Adds Adele, “At first it was his way or no way. Then Scott got talking to him about Joe Meek and Bert Jansch and we started to click.”
The result, despite or perhaps because of the tensions and struggles that came during its recording, is an album on which a unique, inspired band step up onto a whole new level. The songs on This Gift offer glimpses of a romanticized Britain; a result of the band spending so much time out of the country, on the road, and going to US states like Montana, where Adele visited a rest stop bathroom to see a notice board listing 100 women in the area that had gone missing. “Things like that play on your mental state and fire your thoughts,” she says.
Scott couched the stories and sentiments in Adele’s lyrics with suitably elegant guitar parts. “I was looking for ways to expand the sound, to use as many different guitar styles as possible,” says Scott. “Then Bernard brought in the Gibson 335 12-string that Johnny Marr played on Strangeways, Here We Come and that was like Excalibur. The power of the Gods was with us.”