This time last year I was handed an advance copy of Sons and Daughters latest album ‘This Gift.’ From the very first listen I loved everything about the album and last week when I was putting together my top 20 albums for Hot Press this was at number two. Inspired by the strength of the record, we decided to make Sons and Daughters the AU cover stars for the Christmas issue 07 and below is the original transcript.
Sons and Daughters
“I feel like we’re on the brink of something monumental.”
As Glaswegian glamour-pusses Sons And Daughters prepare to unleash new album ‘This Gift’ in January, AU sits down with lead singer and all-round uber-vixen Adele Bethel to find out where they’ve been and why everyone’s favourite cult band may just be 2008’s biggest success story.
Two years ago Scottish tunesmiths Sons And Daughters were the toast of the town. They were lauded by Morrissey, loved by Franz Ferdinand and the critics couldn’t get enough of their dark and salacious tales of lust and despair. In fact it looked like the four-piece were all set to take over from the likes of Blondie and become the achingly hip band you’ve always dreamed of. But it didn’t quite work out that way. In fact, once tour commitments for second record ‘The Repulsion Box’ finished last year, they seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth, leaving their loyal fans a bit confused as to what was happening. But good things come to those who wait as they old saying goes, and Sons And Daughters’ lead singer Adele Bethel assures us that 2008 will be their year.
“When I think about the next few months, I can only see great things on the horizon for us,” she boldly states. “Our new album [‘This Gift’] will be out in the shops and it really is the definitive Sons And Daughters record. We’re stepping up our game and we want to make sure it gets heard by as many people as possible. For whatever reason our previous albums haven’t clicked with people the way we hoped but I know for sure this one will.”
Before anyone reading switches off assuming Adele is falling into the rock ‘n’ roll cliché of talking up her new album, let’s remind ourselves of a few things. Throughout the band’s career, the singer has often dodged questions about her songs and often avoided interviews altogether preferring to let people make their own minds up. So when she tells AU that ‘This Gift’ is truly something special, we’re inclined to believe her.
“It’s a more considered album this time around,” she offers. “We got Bernard Butler in to produce it and he was a joy to work with. I was a big fan of the songs he did as McAlmont and Butler and to be honest as soon as Bernard came onboard he shook everything up for us. He’s not backwards in coming forwards with his opinions. I remember playing him the 30 songs we had written for the record and he would openly tell us if something was shite, which was a bit of a shock to our systems at first. We had spent so much time as this little insular gang and when you have someone new come in and tell you what they think it can be hard to take but we ended up getting on really well together and bonded over out mutual love of The Smiths.”
The Smiths play a huge part in the story of Sons And Daughters. Adele actually looks like she could be a character from one of Morrissey’s tawdry tales and her own songs practically drip with the same suffocating 1960s-style kitchen-sink drama of the much-loved Manchester band. So it comes as no surprise when she tells us that ‘The Queen Is Dead’ pretty much changed her life when she was 13.
“When I was younger I really didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do with my life,” recalls Adele. “But when a friend of mine’s older sister gave me her copy of that record, well, that was it for me. I immediately thought to myself that I wanted to spend the next two years in my room only listening to Morrissey. Like a lot of people-I can safely say I wouldn’t be in a band without him.”
Much to the singer’s surprise, it turned out that the Moz-Father was a fan of Sons And Daughters as well and he personally invited them on tour with him early last year. Needless to say it was a moment.
“Morrissey is an absolute gentleman,” she says of the much-maligned crooner. “As you might expect he’s quite a shy man but he was really welcoming to us and he’s surprisingly humble for someone who’s achieved so much. To find out that he liked our music was such a boost for us and really encouraging.”
Since their inception in 2001, Sons And Daughters were never shy about playing tribute to their influences though. Their band-name comes from a line in a Bob Dylan song and their breakthrough single was called ‘Johnny Cash’. But these days, Adele gets her inspiration from the silver screen instead of her stereo.
“I know it sounds a bit weird but films have inspired most of our new songs. It’s just gotten to the point where I’m surrounded by music every day and I watch movies to get a break from all of that. It’s the old 60s dramas that I love the best, like Billy Liar. There’s so much amazing imagery that can be interpreted into music. I also think I was a bit burned out by everything once we finished touring ‘The Repulsion Box’ so it’s good to have a bit of a break.”
Once ‘This Gift’ finally sees the light of day in early 2008, it’ll have been three years since fans heard new material from the four-piece. In today’s world, unless you’re a band like Guns ‘N Roses, three years can seem like a lifetime and can often cripple a band’s career. But after a particularly gruelling tour schedule, Adele and the rest of the group (drummer and co-founder David Gow, multi-instrumentalist Ailidh Lennon and guitarist Scott Paterson) needed some time off to recharge.
“To be honest we were completely burnt out once we finished touring,” she confesses. “We were all just totally wiped out. We released ‘Love The Cup’ through Domino in 2004, then the next year ‘The Repulsion Box’ came out and we just never stopped. I think if we hadn’t taken time off I would’ve gone insane. It can be hard sometimes on your mind as well as your body and I don’t think people realise that. For example, at the moment we’ve been on the road for four and a half weeks and I’ve had three days off.”
But it wasn’t just the rigours of touring and living in each others pockets that wore Adele out, it was the constant spectre of ‘The Repulsion Box’ looming in the background whenever they tried to write some new music.
“It took us a while to get away from that album. We spent two years living it out every night onstage and it was hard to escape in a way. We don’t write songs when we’re on the road so we were starting with a blank sheet and because we were all so determined to change how we made music, it took us a while to break away from what we did in the past. The previous record was a lot louder and nosier than anything we’ve ever done so we needed to rethink what we were doing and it’s all worked out well in the end.”
In many ways it’s probably a blessing in disguise that Sons And Daughters took a self-imposed sabbatical for a short while. Although they have a huge cult following and gained glowing reviews along the way, they never seemed to quite click with the average music fan in the same way as fellow Scots such as Idlewild or Franz Ferdinand have. People were confused as to what kind of band they were and that resulted in their first two albums being criminally over-looked.
“We’re one of those bands that are hard to pin down,” says the singer. “In the past I’ve read reviews of our gigs that compare us to bands that are a million miles removed from us. I think that confuses a lot of people and they expected to hear a different band than they were getting. This time around people will finally get what we’re all about.”
As the front-woman in Sons And Daughters, Adele obviously attracts most of the attention, but it’s not something that she consciously seeks out. Onstage she’s as provocative and fiery as they come, but in private she’s much quieter than her public persona would suggest.
“I hate getting my photo taken and making videos. I don’t enjoy it one bit. I even get nervous doing interviews and I don’t like putting myself out there like that. I know that when I’m performing onstage you would probably think differently of me but that’s not who I am. I see it as acting in many ways. When I put on my stage clothes and I’ve a microphone in my hand I’m someone else.”
From our chat with Adele, it becomes clear that Sons And Daughters are a band in every sense of the word. They’re fiercely protective of each other, seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company (so much so that Adele and Scott live together) and they look out for one another when things go wrong.
“We have an ‘us against the world’ vibe,” says Adele. “We really are like a wee gang. I’ve known David since we were in Arab Strap together, I live with Scott and I’ve known Ailidh for years. I think this feeling of loyalty and friendship is what has kept us together through everything and I hope we continue this band for as long as possible.”
As AU finishes up our interview to let Adele nurse a hangover and tackle the rather unglamorous task of washing her clothes, talk turns to what she hopes the future may hold for her and her three friends. There’s no doubting that she’s extremely proud of her band and rightly so. Sons And Daughters make the kind of music that is as raw as an open wound and as subtle as a hammer in the face. Their captivating male/female vocals and knack for telling the best murder ballads this side of Nick Cave has attracted them quite a bit of attention in the past and their effortless yet iconic sense of style is as eye-catching as they come. So with album number three under the belts and a new-found confidence in their abilities, our money is on Sons And Daughters to finally make the strides they’ve long been threatening to in the forthcoming twelve months.
“I feel like we’re on the brink of something monumental,” she concludes. “I don’t know how to explain it but I think next year everything is going to change for us in a big way. I think that the time is right for a band like us. You know that feeling you get on New Year’s Eve where you know that nothing will be the same again in 12 months time? Well I have that at the moment and I can’t wait to see what happens. I’ve got nothing but excited thoughts and high hopes in my head. Our next tour in February can’t come fast enough.”
She’s in Fashion
When it comes to sartorial elegance and sheer cool as ice star power, Sons and Daughters have it all in spades. But it’s not just Adele Bethel’s band who know how to cut a dash and have fans imitating their look-there are other artists out there whose iconic sense of style has helped make them blur the boundaries between music and fashion and here are just a few of them.
Even at the grand old age of 62, Debbie still manages to remain as hip as ever by wearing exactly what she likes, when she likes. The Blondie singer broke hearts across the globe with inspirational and visionary videos for songs like ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ and the utterly iconic ‘Heart of Glass’ and has remained a true one-off ever since.
Although she would probably smack us in the mouth for saying it, Siouxsie Sioux more or less single-handedly invented the goth look. To say that the former Banshees frontwoman created her own specific niche is something of an understatement and it’s still a look that most people copy today.
Who else could make a bin-bag look like high fashion other than Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O? Some people might think she dresses like a mental patient, but they’d be wrong. The half Korean half-Polish singer and muse for her designer friend Christian Joy has put the fun back into fashion and we never know what she’s going to wear next.
Although these days the Gossip’s singer Beth Ditto finds it hard to actually keep on her stage outfits whenever she’s performing, when she does actually wear them, they are unquestionably hers. Not many people can wear neon lycra and get away with it but Beth can.
2007’s biggest success story is also arguably the most copied singer out there right now. Her modern look consisting of floral patterned dresses and granny pearls have made her a darling of the tabloids and unfathomably she’s also made having ginger hair and freckles look really cool too. Somewhere off in the distance we can almost hear Chris Evans whooping with glee…
This Gift-the AU Verdict
If Sons and Daughters’ previous two blood-thirsty albums were perfect for those dark and fore-boding cold, winter nights, then their third effort ‘This Gift’ is tailor made for good times and Thursday, Friday AND Saturday nights. This time around everything has been pared back to guitar, bass and drums leaving co-singers Adele and Scott free to come up with the catchiest batch of pure pop tunes in an aeon and they sound all the better for it.
Album opener and recent single ‘Gilt Complex’ gives us a taster of what to expect from the new Sons and Daughters and it goes down well. Things really kick off on the utterly perfect and future Indie disco classic ‘Chains’ though, which is chock-full of “woah-oh-oh’s” and old school doo-wop call-outs. In many ways it’s reminiscent of Rocket from the Crypt at their most tender or early Billy Joel as his most vital in a weird kind of way and has to be heard to be believed. New single ‘Darling’ raises the bar even more though, with a life-affirming chorus that’ll lodge itself into your brain and refuse to leave and the same can be said for album closer ‘Goodbye Service.’
Throughout 12 tracks, ‘This Gift’ doesn’t take its foot off the gas once. It’s lean, neat, gloriously up-beat and guaranteed to lift even the sulkiest listener. Credit in some part must go to producer and former Suede song-writer Bernard Butler who has helped pare away some of the more self-indulgent tendencies in the four-piece and left behind the pop band you’ve always dreamed of. Equal parts Shangri-las and Ronettes mixed with a little bit of Ramones and T-Rex, Sons and Daughters circa now are ultimately 100per cent distinctive and there’s no-one out there who is making music quite like this.
Although it seems a little odd to say it, ‘This Gift’ is well on its way to being 2008’s best album and the year hasn’t even begun yet. Every single song bar none has the makings of a hit single and when Adele predicted that her band is on the verge of something monumental, we believe every word she says. ‘This Gift’ is a record that will appeal to anyone who wants to hear iconoclastic pop rock songs that are not only carefully crafted but catchier than a Christmas time cold. Simply put-‘This Gift’ is the album that Sons and Daughters were born to make. Buy it, steal it, sell your arse on the street for it if you need too-but trust us, it’ll be worth it.