01 September 2010

Scots Way-Hay #31 - The Son(s)

There's a certain amount of irony with me posting about a band called The Son(s) in the week that I had a beautiful baby daughter. At the back of my mind I guess I always thought I would start this weeks introduction with some kind of terrible pun like that, then again cheesy is what I do best. Right that's enough about my private (or not so private) life, on to with The Son(s), one of the greatest bands in Scotland that you've probably still to have heard of. I first heard the band a few months ago when they got in touch to send me a couple of tracks, honestly I was quite taken a back by just how good their tunes were. I honestly thought that I had 'discovered' something quite sublime, then it turned out that most of my blogger/podcaster pals were already well tuned into the band, not that it made me love the band any less I might add. They're a mysterious bunch are The Son(s), they seem quite protective of their identity, which for me personally it makes them all the more intriguing. They're a tricky band to 'pigeon hole' as they don't really sound like anything else that's coming out of Scotland at the moment. They have been compared to a Scottish 'TV On The Radio', which I kind of see, but that would probably have a lot more to do with the vocals, there's something there that I can't quite put my finger on. All I know is that I really love this band, their debut album should be out some time next month, personally I can't wait to hear it.

Would you care to introduce yourself?

Hello Peenko, I write & play songs for The Son(s), you know that already.

Where are you based?

The band were based in Edinburgh originally but now we're scattered about. One of us lives somewhere near Oxford, one in London and I live in the far north of lowland Scotland.

How would you describe the music you make?

It's very difficult to hear the music you make in the same way you hear music you don't make, so I'm the last person you'd ask. To me our music is clumsy & awkward but not without it's charm. Like the Pearl & Dean singers in league with Mickie Most. Probably more accurate are some of the descriptions we've had from other folk, for instance:

"The Son(s) are a beautifully enigmatic band who produce intimate songs that seduce your thoughts with rich honeyed vocals and delicately picked guitars. A lot like a Scottish indie TV On The Radio, what with its messy-in-a-good-way vocal harmonies, a lot of wooing (be it electric guitars or vocals), but with the great addition of some acoustic guitars. It's hard not to like."

"The Son(s). Wonky guitars and swearing always make me smile."

How did you come together as a band?

The commune-ist and I were in various other bands in and around Edinburgh for ever, none you'll have heard of, many didn't make it out of our heads. I can't really remember how we met our drummer. We auditioned some really interesting drummers before we met him, I do remember one guy had a double kick drum and he could play it/them really fast. We only played with him once. Auditioning is miserable.

How did you start out making music?

When we grew up we had a neighbours old & out of tune piano in the house. My mum was the only person who could play it and she could only play the first half of the theme song from The Sting - dum dum dum dum der dum der dum.. It made a real impression on me. As a wee kid it just held me spellbound. I think making music is like that for kids, they can see the 'play', so we'd make her play it again and again. Then I suppose a little later on I borrowed a guitar from a friend's brother, took it home and sat and tried to play chords from a chord book along to songs I liked, or that sounded easy. I think that's fairly normal behaviour for some kinds of teenager. I grew up in a small village just south of Aberdeen which had no street corner, so there wasn't much to do in the evenings in those years (before the pub became a daily possibility). I quickly found that I couldn't play any other people's songs very well, I'm just not a good enough musician, so I kinda fell into writing my own. I guess if I'd been a better musician I probably wouldn't have bothered writing songs myself. Much easier not to have to. Both my brothers followed a similar path into playing their own music, but there's nothing musical in our family before us. Bar my mum's Entertainer.

What process goes into the way you write songs?

Well I have to find a trigger. It can be a word, or a few words, a few notes, a chord... you get the idea. Often it's nothing very much at all, but you know one of these things the second you see it or hear it, so I'll try to make sure to collect these wee things somehow, on paper or on tape or something. Then once I have a kernel then I'll try to work it up into something more substantial. I usually find I can write the first part of a song quite quickly, almost straight away. Then I'll record it as it is. From there it's like solving a problem. Then you experiment and play around, see if you can find what it's missing, or what's extraneous. Sometimes you'll complete the song - hurrah! Sometimes it has to get flung away because you can't find a resolution or because you get lost or stalled or just fall out of love/bored with the initial idea - meh. Of course the question assumes there is a process and, for me at least, there isn't a hard and fast one. I think that the way a record sounds, is the most important thing, not really the song, certainly not the words or the melody or the chords. It's one of those ' the whole is greater than the sum of the parts' things. There are lots of those all about aren't there? Football teams, bands, families.

Who are your big musical influences?

Currently I love the John Grant record, Robert Wyatt, Grizzly Bear, Dept of Eagles, the Call To Mind EP, . I've a soft spot for I Am Kloot, Elbow, SwordfishTrombones (and bit's of Raindogs), Satchel, Big Star, Kelley Stoltz amongst many, many others. On top of those then we've recently been listening to some of the great deal of exceptional music coming out of Scotland just now. I mentioned Call To Mind above but there's also Meursault, Conquering Animal Sound, Trapped in Kansas, Yusef Azak, Dems, EagleOwl, Kid Canaveral just to mention a few - the list goes on and on. We've you and your good cabal of bloggers & podcasters to thank for introducing us to most of those bands. It's a really exciting time to be writing about or making music, because that kind of synergy exists just now. I know that doesn't answer your question.

Is it true that you are still to do your first gig? And if so why have you chosen to avoid playing live?

To answer the first part of your question we have played in Edinburgh a fair few times in the past both as The Son(s) and under different names. Gigs in darkest Aberdeenshire, even Glasgow once or twice. So The Son(s)'ve broke their duck. However I'm solely responsible for everything you hear on these records and I can't think how I can play it all solo live. I guess I could use a backing tape but that seems to me to defeat the the purpose. Given that limitation I'm happy using my wee bit spare time writing, recording and talking to you. No point in wantin' after what you can't have is there? We'll play live again, no doubt. For what it's worth, it's not compulsory for a band to play live is it? The great majority of my favourite songs I've never seen and will never see played live. It's never bothered me. If anything quite the opposite, for me it's a bit similar to not wanting to see the film of a book you particularly like. They're separate skills playing gigs & making records. Some bands do both, some bands don't. Of the bands that do both, very few do both well. Do you think it suggests something distasteful about us that you haven't seen us live? Do you have to see a band live to like them, or for them to exist?

There is definitely an air of mystery about the band, is this deliberate or you just shy? That's a nice thing to say. Are you sure it's an air of mystery? Is there any truth in the rumour that I am about to make up, that you are actually just a figment of my imagination?

That would explain a lot, as I know you have violent and sadistic tendencies, if only towards seabirds, but that's where Dahmer started. You'd probably want to make some customisations if we were your imaginary band. I reckon you'd imagine us a keytar.

“The Sons were three. Two left. Now there is only one. The Son(s)” - what happened to the other two?

One Son went to London and now directs big music videos & adverts that you'll have seen on the telly. Another Son went to Oxford and lives in a small commune there. You won't have any way of knowing who he is but I'd like to tell you that he still records the odd, occasional song with his beautiful voice. It's online if you know where to look.

What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?

Do you have any new releases planned for any time soon? Yes, we do! We plan to release 10 songs on CD (hopefully vinyl) and download. You'll probably only need to pay for the CD/vinyl version but we hope to make them worth owning, at least for those that like the music in the first place. We've made the songs, we'd like you to hear them, we don't want to profit from them, so we'll charge you what it costs us to make the things. We have a video in the works for one song (though not by our drummer as that would just be too obvious - plus he's a tardy sod). Also we hope to be on a couple of compilation records and on some radio stations. I love being on the radio. Then, once we have released the release, we have a world tour booked to start in January.

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