Thursday, January 05, 2006

Interview with Sons & Daughters: Just Dance Me In

During her band's recent Australian tour, bassist Ailidh Lennon from brooding Glaswegian band, Sons and Daughters took the time to talk to Counterfeit about the influence of blues and classic Americana, duelling vocals and recording their album, The Repulsion Box. Below is a transcript from the interview which aired on Counterfeit on January 2nd 2006.

Sons & Daughters, Vogue l'Uomo Sep 2005
Genuine kids with a guilty smile: (L-R) Scott, Ailidh, Adele, Dave.

Counterfeit: It's a great pleasure to be interviewing you!

Ailidh: Aw, thank you.

C: So how are you going?

A: I'm fine, I'm a wee bit spaced out still!

C: Aw, we hope you're feeling better. So how did you guys form and were you attracted to any particular types of music at the time that may have influenced your sound?

A: Well we formed quite a while ago really cause it took quite a long time to get started, if you know what I mean. Adele was in another band with David and she kind of wanted to start her own band so she spoke to Dave about it and he said he would drum. She came back home and the two of them started writing songs in my flat. We were at a show one night and Scott was kind of doing his own solo thing and we kind of asked him to join. We all sat about talking about it cause we were all friends and we all hung about together so it was a while til we had a proper practice. Then we started playing shows in Glasgow. I mean, we were all into kind of similar music but also quite diverse music between the four of us. At the time in Glasgow there wasn't very much happening cause it was at the end of all the post-rock stuff. We just wanted to be in a band that just had short songs?

C: Yeah, the press had said that you guys were perhaps a reaction to the whole post-rock movement?

A: Well, I suppose in a way it's true. We wanted to get back to having short, traditional songs and structures, so I suppose that's the opposite to what the whole post-rock thing was about.

C: Did growing up in Glasgow have any sort of cultural effect on the band?

A: I don't know, I guess in a way Glasgow's a great city for music and you're exposed to it from an early age. There's a lot of great touring bands that go there and there's a lot of great local music. There's a lot of dark music, but I suppose Glasgow can be quite a gothic type of place? It can be really dark in the winter and a lot of Scottish literature which me and Adele are into is also quite dark.

The Sound of the Band

Counterfeit: Listening to both your mini-LP, Love the Cup and now, The Repulsion Box, at certain times there seems to be a bit of a country tinge to your music especially with songs like Johnny Cash. I'm just wondering how this came about because it seems a bit far removed from what might have been happening in Scotland.

Ailidh: Well we're all really quite big fans of Smog, Palace and that kind of Americana stuff, but also we're kind of into American folk music as well. At the time we were also quite into Johnny Cash as well so I suppose that was an influence as well. It's hard to say because we were more slower and introverted at the start and we had the song. One day we just sped it up and added that scuffle kind of drum beat. We were just like, yeah this is what we want to sound like.

C: Well you play mandolin and bass in the group. What does a mandolin bring to an indie group, particularly with this blues influence?

A: Well the mandolin is usually quite a pretty instrument and when it's on it's own it sounds quite pretty.. but with the kind of music we play, I think it adds a bit of a sinister edge. We didn't intentionally start using a mandolin, like I never learnt to play a mandolin. I just got one for my birthday one year and I brought it in to practice one time and we started messing around with it. I guess we really liked the different range it brought us.

C: Is it harder to incorporate it into songs?

A: Yeah, in a way it is. Cause there's a traditional way of playing it that I never really learnt how to do so it's hard to play things on it that don't sound like an old country record! But I suppose that's also quite a good thing because you have to be more inventive?

C: Yeah, it really brings a unique element to the band. I also really like the duel vocals that Adele and Scott share on the record. I think it's effective, that contrast of a guy and a girl's voice. So how did that idea of having a guy and a girl's voice come about and do you think they share a good chemistry?

A: Well, yeah they definitely do. When it started, it was just going to be Adele singing and Scott would sing backing vocals but it just got more "equal" I suppose. I mean, Adele's always been interested in the male singer/songwriter that has female backing vocals and so she thought it would be quite interesting to reverse it. They just sing what they write but it's just been kind of a natural thing.. and a more interesting thing too.

C: Oh it definitely is. I really enjoy it, particularly in Taste the Last Girl, I think the track worked really well with Scott's vocals rolling in the background, during the chorus. *general clamor and agreement* Was it very hard to strike a balance between the two? Is there a general assumption that Adele is the main lead vocalist?

A: Well, that was the way at the start, because we all had to assume a role before we started rehersing. We just kind of sat about and talked about it for a long time before we started playing, so it would be the Adele would sing, I would play the bass, Scott would play the guitar and Dave would play drums. But as we developed as a band, everyone took on slightly different roles. We weren't sitting around, then, figuring out who was doing what, it just happened. Like when we're writing songs, if someone has a particular idea to do something, we just start doing it and so it's a pretty natural process.

C: So it's not a territorial thing! You don't have people fighting over the vocals - NO! It's MY vocal line! Get away!

A: Haha! No, it's very democratic.

Recording

Counterfeit: So did you approach the recording of your latest record, The Repulsion Box and your mini-LP, Love the Cup any differently?

Ailidh: Yeah, it was quite a bit different. I mean, with Love the Cup, we weren't signed or anything. We had got a grant from the Scottish Arts Council to record so we had really limited funds and really limited time and that was in a small studio near Glasgow. So we had like, four days to record and two days to mix it. So we set up everything as quickly as we possibly could and played through everything we could live - and that's why it's so short as well! But when we came to The Repulsion Box, we had more of a budget to spend so we had two weeks to record and maybe ten days to mix it. We actually went to Germany to record in a residential studio in the country and we got to have producers.. I mean, we approached in a similar way because we recorded it mostly live, but we had more time to spend and experiment with techniques and also time to write in the studio as well. It seemed like a total luxury in contrast. I know by a lot of people's standards, two weeks seems kind of short!

C: Yeah! Some bands take YEARS to record a record!

A: But for us it was a total luxury for us to have that sort of time to spend on it.

C: You said the album was recorded mostly live, do you prefer that live process as opposed to the whole digital thing now?

A: Well, a part of the reason that we decided to record the album mostly live was because we felt that Love the Cup was a bit of a restrained record and it didn't really represent how we were live. So we tried to make The Repulsion Box a truer representation of how we are live so that was the reason we tried to make it sound as live as possible.. but maybe it might be a good idea to approach our next record in a different way so we won't produce the same kind of sound. It really just suited what we wanted at the time. But it is good to be open and use proper analog desks and put on digital effects that make it sound like you're playing a big room!

C: Well me and Elle are quite a big fan of the whole analog process anyway! *giggles like nerds*

Performing Live

Counterfeit: Your live shows have been described as being quite intense and extremely energetic, how does the band feed off eachother on stage and produce such a sound?

Ailidh: I think Adele and Scott feed off eachother quite a lot, I've only just started to get a wee more animated on stage! *giggles* But Adele and Scott are really the focal points of the performance and they really interact quite well on stage and everything. I just generally look at Dave *we all laugh*

C: Is that hard? Because before you were talking about how all of you were quite introverted kind of people.

A: Well, at the start, kind of the first six months to a year that we were playing shows just around Glasgow, we were really quite new to it and quite nervous.. but I don't think we're really quite as introverted as people.

C: Well, you're playing Meredith soon, as I mentioned at the start so that brings the question, do prefer to play at festivals more that intimate pub gigs?

A: I think generally I would say no. I mean, there have been some festivals that have been great but it kind of really depends on the festival. Cause in the UK there's a lot of festivals that are just like carbon copies of eachother and they're just being corporate conveyor belts of bands, y'know? There's nothing particularly special about it. But we've played a lot of festivals in Europe and also Glastonbury in the UK which have been quite different sort of festivals with different surroundings. I can kind of imagine that Meredith would be much like that.

C: Ah, well it's out in the middle of the bush and it's in this natural sort of ampitheatre. The festival really prides itself on having very diverse acts so hopefully you'll enjoy it!

A: Well I've been looking at the website and it looks like it'll be one of the ones we'll really enjoy playing. We're really looking forward to it!

C: We hope so. Thanks for talking to us today!

A: Thank you!



Sons and Daughters - Dance Me In

Sons and Daughters - Johnny Cash

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