Sons and Daughters: Children of the man in black

Sons and Daughters are Scots with a Johnny Cash complex. Sam Ingleby hears dark tales from north of the border
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The Scottish quartet called Sons and Daughters are huddled in the dilapidated dressing room of London's Camden Barfly. They are about to go on stage, and are swigging bottles of lager and avoiding steady drips of water.

The Scottish quartet called Sons and Daughters are huddled in the dilapidated dressing room of London's Camden Barfly. They are about to go on stage, and are swigging bottles of lager and avoiding steady drips of water.

Tonight their mix of blues and post-punk will have an audience of around a hundred, who will throw themselves enthusiastically around the sweaty venue. But, as the supporting act to fellow Glaswegians Franz Ferdinand on a recent American tour, the band are accustomed to playing much bigger venues.

"It's mad over there" says Scott Paterson, the diminutive guitarist, and one of the band's two lead singers. "Every time we go to the States we're really well received. We've had great shows. We played to 2,500 people in LA, 3,000 in Toronto, and, although we were on the Franz ticket, people were really responsive."

The band are not named after the Australian soap opera, but after the line in Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" ("Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command"). They are comprised of two men, Scott Paterson and the drummer David Gow, and two women, the porcelain-skinned co-vocalist Adele Bethel, and the bassist and mandolin player Ailidh Lennon. They released their seven-track mini-album, Love the Cup, in June, and its dark, menacing tracks have been well received as an new but authentic take on a old, rootsy genre.

The band employ a call-and-answer vocal approach, lines clashing and overlapping between Paterson's improbably low drawl and Bethel's breathy delivery. Paterson explains: "The vocal thing is something we wanted to use. It's always been present in the folk tradition, from The Carter Family and Serge Gainsborough through to some of Bob Dylan's stuff. I like the way it allows you to take the songs from a male or female perspective."

For Bethel, duetting gives the music a different texture. "It fits with the band. I like the way the two voices operate as a different instrument. If you have the mid-range of the female voice and the bass of the male it brings a greater depth to the sound."

Paterson says the confrontational, aggressive lyrics that dominate much of Love the Cup, particularly on tracks like "Fight" and "Broken Bones", came as the music developed a dark streak in rehearsal."We started off with quiet, slow songs and they just started getting faster. Then a kind of rockabilly beat started coming through, and the nature of the music seemed to warrant this violent kind of storytelling. A lot of the music I love, like Leonard Cohen for instance, has a violence, almost like a horror movie."

The range and type of Sons and Daughters music has proved difficult to categorise, and Paterson is loath to pigeonhole the band. "I don't really like descriptions of a particular sound. Things get labelled post-rock, punk-pop and so on. It gets you into a rut and you end up conforming.

"There are elements of country and American folk in the sound, which is maybe why we've gone down well over there. Elements of punk too. I heard somebody call it "kill-billy" the other day, which I liked, but generallywe'd prefer to avoid categorisation."

The rumbling, rollicking style is complemented by what the drummer David Gow describes as his "Bo Diddley" rhythm, and the band have the unusual addition of Lennon's mandolin, which creates an undercurrent beneath the bickering vocals. Lennon says this happened by accident. "We were just playing, and it fitted so well with the songs we had at that time. They sounded much more raw with the mandolin, it gave us something extra. We took the bass out and put it in, which made the sound more interesting."

The band, while proud of their roots and the success of Franz Ferdinand, are also keen to avoid being grouped as members of what they see as the dubious notion of a coherent Glasgow scene.

"It's not as if all the bands sound the same, like they did when there was a big punk scene," says Paterson. "For instance, there's no one else who sounds like Franz Ferdinand." But they do accept the idea of a shared attitude of Glasgow bands, partially from the Franz-inspired "Chateau", a loose conflation of artists and musicians in a disused industrial building in the city's West End.

"There is a shared attitude, or a similar outlook, with the same kind of reference points, but people do their art in different ways. It's not really a scene, more a community" says Paterson.

"The Chateau has kind of died down a bit now. Franz have a new thing called The Prison where they gig, and The Chateau is used more as a place for artists to put on exhibitions. But it was a great place to play, if slightly scary. The building itself is derelict, it's on the sixth or seventh storey, you have to walk up a rickety staircase, the walls are falling down and there's no electricity. It sounds romantic, but you'd be getting an electric shock off your mic. It was really dangerous."

"Having said all that, it was great that people were saying: 'Sod it, I'm not going to pay a fortune to someone to put a gig or exhibition on. I'm going to find a place and do it for free and enter- tain people.'

"All the artists live there because there's no rent. This one guy, Rob, has a big tent in the middle of this freezing big room, and just stays in there, with all these bloody big rats running round. It's mad."

They shrug off questions about their ambitions for the band, but all agree on one thing: "We want our song to be on the new film about Johnny Cash," says Gow. "Joaquin Phoenix is playing Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon is going to be June Carter. It would be great if we had a track on it. The guy is really important to us." Their upcoming single is named in Cash's honour, and, if the man in black could hear one of the edgy, downright violent numbers from Sons and Daughters, you feel sure he would give them his blessing.

'Love the Cup' is out on Domino Records. The single 'Johnny Cash' is released on 2 October