Experiencing the music of Sons Of An Illustrious Father is like being invited into a trusted triangle of creativity, emotion, spiritual, personal and interpersonal growth. Here, three stories of three songwriters/singers/instrumentalists merge selflessly into one artistic continuum. This February, the New York-based trio releases its most boldly vulnerable and artistically distinct body of work yet; its third album, Revol (Big Picnic Records).
“Everyone has crucibles in life, for us, by singing each other’s songs, and through being present for one another, we all share in the catharsis of moving through suffering,” says Ezra Miller, vocals, drums, percussion, and keyboards.” Josh Aubin, vocals, bass, keyboards, and percussion adds: “These songs are rooted in an honest emotional space. They’re about the relationships we have outside and inside the band.” Lilah Larson, vocals, guitars, drums, percussion, and bass, chimes in: “We can bring songs to each other and never have to explain the context. We’ve been together so long that a lot is unspoken—it’s a sibling, lover, family thing—it’s the most serious and longest relationship I’ve been in.”
Core to the group’s artistry is a discourse of challenging and blurring the lines of identity conventions. Sons Of An Illustrious Father seeks to defy normative standards in genre, in belief, in relationships, in its members’ daily practices, in its members’ relationship to, and perception of, gender identity and sexuality, and, generally, in the way the Sons and interact with themselves, others and the world that surrounds.
When pressed, the three playfully refer to its music as “future folk” or “heavy meadow.” The trio’s free spirited creativity has garnered comparisons to such diverse artists as The Band, Tom Waits, and Nirvana. Sons take a collaborative approach to songwriting, signing separate songs, and creating three-part harmonies.
Highlights in Sons career, thus far, include being spotlighted for their CMJ debut by Jon Pareles of the New York Times, selling out a limited edition version of a previous album, and touring with poet/musician Saul Williams.
The title of the band’s latest album, Revol, brims with the group’s foundational and enigmatic mythos. “The title refers to a number of words, one being ‘revolt,’ and it speaks to the album’s concepts of love, global struggle, and interpersonal revolt against binary oppression,” Lilah explains. Ezra chimes in: “It also references the word ‘reveling’ and speaks to reveling the gift of life.”
Revol manages to showcase maturity and cohesion while boasting three distinctly gifted songwriters. Throughout the album, Sons explores identity politics, humanitarianism, ecological concerns, and relationships through each songwriter’s individual artistic flair.
The album opens gorgeously with “PPM,” a track that beckons mournfully with vocalizing that feels like it’s wafting in from a distant haunting. Urgently, the song comes into sonic focus with Ezra’s weary vocals backed by full drums, rubbery bass, and a hypnotically lyrical keyboard refrain. From there, the song shoots upward with moony harmonies and impressionistic electronic ambience. One of Lilah’s stunning contributions is the mangled art-rock “Conquest,” which evokes a knife fight between Tom Waits and the Pixies. It slithers, it’s abrasive, and it howls with purpose. The track is an emotional and conceptual manifesto for Sons. Here Lilah sings about the intersection of global oppressions, about how misogyny, racism, capitalism, and colonialism intersect. She tackles each facet and issue with sinister sultriness. The song will be released as a single bundled with an arrestingly thoughtful graphic novel.
Josh’s elegant “Post Future” concludes the album. It’s poised and poignant, and its centered beauty is piercing. Other album highlights are the burly theatricality of Lilah’s breakup song “Because,” and Ezra’s “Armageddon” which evokes classical music in its emotional scope, thrusting up from fragile intimate passages to anthemic climaxes.
Revol was recorded in Montreal at Hotel2Tango (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade) by Howard Bilerman who also mixed the album. “I saw this video of Howard where he likened the production process to midwifery. It made us feel like our ethos were aligned, and they were,” Lilah says. Howard’s vast knowledge of effects and production techniques, artistic intuition, and sensitivity to band dynamics enabled him to help Sons Of Illustrious Father create its most lush and visceral album to date.
Sons Of An Illustrious Father, as it’s known today, emerged three years ago one winter night, in the wake of the turmoil and despair of having lost two of its band members. This painfully complex time forged a deeper bond between Josh, Lilah, and Ezra, and they committed themselves to the familial musical spearhead of Sons.
“The journey for us has been about really being present for each other as friends, family, and bandmates,” Ezra says, concluding: “I remember during our first tour one sound engineer we worked with sent us an email with tips for a band on the road. One was ‘remember your friendship is what powers the songs.’ We printed that out, framed it, and hung it up on the mantle of our bus. The nature of our love, and sense of family as a band, is what makes the music so strong and pure.”