Sofia Albam ~ vocals, accordion, banjo, acoustic guitar, viola
Josh Aubin ~ electric bass
Jake Generalli ~ vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, banjo, upright bass, piano, organ, harmonica
Lilah Larson ~ vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo
Ezra Miller ~ vocals, drums, percussion, piano, organ
Sons of an Illustrious Father is a five-piece band from the Hudson Valley. Combining traditional folk, blues, country, and early gospel forms and aesthetics with punk's raw drive, Sons has a sound at once both ancient and modern, both eclectic and distinctly American.
“Sons of an Illustrious Father,” according to DirtyHippieRadio.com, “are extremely good at what they do…No matter whether the Sons are rocking it hard, tearing the joint down and stomping fear into the floor beneath their feet, or maintaining that melancholy…they preserve the highest caliber of masterful artistry.”
Sons have played their combination of distinct originals and modern takes on the traditionals extensively in their home state of New York, and have toured throughout the Northeast, South, and Midwest U.S. They also, by invitation, played the 2010 North by Northeast Festival in Toronto, ON.
Sons' eponymous debut, their recent EP, We Are Dead and Reborn, and their second full-length album, One Body, are all available now on Bandcamp, CDBaby, and iTunes.
Kindred artists: The Band, The Felice Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Two Gallants, Deer Tick, Laura Marling, The Avett Brothers, The Low Anthem
Sons may or may not at a given time consist of - quadrophonic vocals; gently plucked guitars; decisively strummed guitars; silence; drums; harmonies; accordion; howling guitars; mandolin; banjo; shouting; air organ; etc.
"Sons of an Illustrious Father" [LP] (2009)
"We Are Dead And Reborn" [EP] (2011)
"One Body" [LP] (2011)
Your New Favorite Band: Sons of an Illustrious Father
[+ Show ]
Here is what I know for sure: there is no better place for music than the dirty south, youth will al...Here is what I know for sure: there is no better place for music than the dirty south, youth will always be king, and punk rock will save the world. Every once in awhile, though, a band comes along to challenge my trifecta and shift my perception ever so slightly. Today, that band is Sons of an Illustrious Father.
They're young, certainly, and there's no denying the punk influence in their music, but this five piece hails from New York's Hudson Valley, which is about as far away from Dixie as you can get in the colonies - in terms of cultural influence, anyway. The thing is, the first time I heard their music, I was sure that I was listening to a seasoned band straight out of the south, so maybe there's something to the whole nature vs nurture, environmental vs elemental thing. Either way, Sons of an Illustrious father seem to possess a primal command of emotion that not only belies their experience as a band, but also their tender ages; these are old souls.
They are talented multi-instrumentalists, wielding guitars, accordion, banjo, mandolin, and drums with obvious mastery and passion. Pair that with achingly gorgeous harmonies that brilliantly underscore clever and often intense lyrics, and the result is nothing less than breathtaking. I'm sure it's patently easy to tell that I'm a more than a little bit in love here, but once you've heard their music, it's also easy to see why.
Sons released a self-titled debut album in 2009, and they are currently working on a highly anticipated sophomore effort. The new record doesn't have a release date at the moment, but I shamelessly charmed them into giving us some of the rough cuts to share with you as Ruckus exclusives. Have a listen to "Mercy," and "We Will Do Great Things," and while you're listening, forge ahead and read our interview with the delightful Sofia Albam and Lilah Larson about how they came up with their name (they're not going to tell us), who's who in Rugrats, and the evolution of Heavy Meadow.
Tell us about the band - who are you guys, what are your backgrounds, and how did you get together initially?
LL: For the first year it was just me and Sofia. She played banjo and sang, I played acoustic guitar and sang backup vocals — all early blues, gospel, and folk covers, a lot of Blind Willie McTell, Leadbelly, and Bob Dylan. Our friend Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez joined us on cello, but left for college around the time that Ezra wheedled his way in. Ezra was a friend of mine from middle school and Sofia’s from adolescent street-urchinhood. Shortly after, Jake G saw us at a show, came back to my mother’s afterwards to hang out, and announced the next morning that he was joining the band. We’ve since become an incredibly close, totally dysfunctional family.
SA: We’re still not sure who Josh is. But he’s wonderful.
How did you come up with the name Sons of an Illustrious Father?
Where it came from is really pretentious. We’d rather not tell you. When we named ourselves that, it was the two of us girls and we found it amusing.
Today, we’ve come to understand it in a number of ways: it can connote a relationship to God, to the nation, or to one’s actual father or patriarchal figure. It should remain open to interpretation, but for us has to do with family, expectation, inherited baggage, and all those lovely things.
Bands typically hate this question, but we always ask it anyway. How would you describe your sound? (I get a definite folk-punk vibe with Americana tendencies when I listen to your music, which is a massively good thing - the Ruckus kids really dig it.)
Heavy meadow! (Say it out loud.)
LL: The less evasive answer would be bluesy, punk-infused, occasionally twangy folk-rock.
SA: But that sounds terrible.
Tell us about your new album, and how it differs from your self titled debut.
LL: We’ve yet to finish the mixing and mastering process, so we’re not sure what the final product will sound like, but overall, I think the album is harder and fuller, a little trippier, and a lot more ambitious than our first album.
SA: I like it more.
Since you guys are all over the place, what has the songwriting process been like for you?
SA: We all write song frameworks pretty independently of each other, but flesh them out together.
LL: We also frequently write songs about each other, so I guess much of the collaboration occurs just in our lives together.
What's on your play list right now?
LL: The James Blake album. A month ago, much to Sofia’s irritation, it was only the Beach Boys, mostly the Smile sessions. But while we write this, we’re listening to The Band.
SA: The Knife’s opera, Tomorrow in a Year. A lot of Otis Redding.
What is your favorite song to perform live, and why?
SA: I like playing “240 Miles” because it affords me the freedom of singing without playing an instrument. And also, “We Are” because it affords me the freedom of playing accordion without singing.
LL: “We Will Do Great Things” because I love trying to follow and compliment Sofia vocally.
What music do you listen to when you're on the road?
This tour was mostly Mumford & Sons’ Sigh No More, Motel Motel’s New Denver, and Edward Sharpe. The rest depended on who was driving. Josh’s shit was really weird.
Who would you consider a musical genius, and why?
SA: Jeff Buckley.
LL: Jeff Buckley because of his obvious virtuosity, but also because I admire the way he freely and creatively transgressed false barriers of gender and race.
What's the worst/most challenging thing about what you do? The best?
LL: I love how close we are. On the other hand, we’re way too close.
SA: Yes, what she said.
Okay, time for a super amazing bonus scenario:
Your band are the main characters in a mid-1980s to early 1990s television show. Is it a drama, a sitcom or a cartoon, and what's the plot?
LL: I don’t know, but if we were the Rugrats, Sofia would be both Phil and Lil, Ezra would be Tommy, Josh would be Chucky, Jake would be the grandfather or Spike, and I, unfortunately, would be Angelica.
SA: I think it would unquestionably be a cooking show in which Jake fails to show you how to make Bloody Marys, and the rest of us criticize and micro-manage each other’s attempts to cook each other dinner. Conversely, it could be a heartwarming sitcom about the power of friendship as it relates to a bunch of people in a mental health institution. Or not.
Sons of an Illustrious Father are Sofia Albam (vocals, accordion, banjo, acoustic guitar, viola), Josh Aubin (bass, vocals), Jake Generalli (vocals, guitar, organ, mandolin, banjo), Lilah Larson (vocals, guitar), and Ezra Miller (vocals, drums). Follow them on Facebook and MySpace.
Exclusive: Sons of an Illustrious Father - Mr. Nobody
[+ Show ]
On Friday, we introduced you to your new favorite band, Sons of an Illustrious Father (if you haven'...On Friday, we introduced you to your new favorite band, Sons of an Illustrious Father (if you haven't yet, head over, listen to some songs and read their interview - it's a great one). Today, we have a Ruckus Exclusive in the way of a rough track from their upcoming (as yet unnamed) album, called "Mr. Nobody".
This is a big song; dark and edgy, with layers of mournful wailing and almost perfectly classic axe grinding. As with everything we've heard from Sons, the song is replete with gorgeous harmonies. The drums own this track, though; Ezra Miller attacks the kit with precision, creating a low-rumble thunder that sounds as though it belongs in a funeral dirge - phenomenal.
[+ Show ]
It’s a bit rough, but thats it’s charm. Free Sons by Sons of an Illustrious Father is everything I’...It’s a bit rough, but thats it’s charm. Free Sons by Sons of an Illustrious Father is everything I’ve been craving in an album for a long, long time. Brutally written and inexcusable, it begins in a twisted fashion with ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime’. (Something screams old CocoRosie) But doesn’t peak until the demo of ‘Love & a 40 oz.’
Sons of an Illustrious Father
[+ Show ]
Dirty Hippie Radio can recognize that this fantastic group from New York has something really specia...Dirty Hippie Radio can recognize that this fantastic group from New York has something really special going on. Sons of an Illustrious Father are extremely good at what they do. They possess the pure, innate elements of artistry that convey clearly the raw extension and manifestation of what’s naturally contained within themselves, awaiting expression. One man can take a guitar, learn some chords, and mimmic learned sounds. Another man can take a guitar and channel himself through it, expressing his essence through the strings of his instrument and creating art. One woman can take singing lessons, sing a tune, and produce vocalized sounds that may sound appealing. Another woman can expel through her breathe a specter of her very heart and soul, which will break you down to your knees in reverent weakness. I have thus begun to describe what sets apart the Sons of an Illustrious Father.
Her words aren’t learned or forced, or rehearsed; they’re felt. The Sons of an Illustrious Father boast stunning vocals from both male and female lead singers. (I’m sorry sweetie, I hope it’s a compliment and not offensive to say that you may remind one of Norah Jones.) Both lead vocalists twist, turn, and guide the listener through the course of their music, often crooning you into submission, while at other moments rocking your face off. Their emotive alchemy is blown into fantastic episodes of life through the compliments and guidance of banjo, violin, stand up bass, harmonica, shredding acoustic guitars, (occasional melting electric guitar solos), and good ol’ super charged folk music. Supercharged, because no matter whether the Sons are rocking it hard, tearing the joint down and stomping fear into the floor beneath their feet, or maintaining that melancholy tempo that is so often an ode to life and the belly of human experience, they preserve the highest caliber of masterful artistry. In other words, they’re really good at what they do.
Let Sons of an Illustrious Father into your life and be grateful to them. Perhaps for now they are not flooding the airwaves or filling the tv networks, but mark my words: they very well could, and might. Don’t miss the raw forefront.
Discover Sons of an Illustrious Father
[+ Show ]
Sons of an Illustrious Father is outstanding! They’re one of those groups I feel like everyone shou...Sons of an Illustrious Father is outstanding! They’re one of those groups I feel like everyone should already know. If you haven’t heard of this stunning group yet, give ‘em a good long listen on Dirty Hippie Radio. Sometimes you have to hang tight for their songs to open up and get moving, so keep patience and you’ll find it’s quiet worth the journey. (I hate to compare original artists to other well known artists, but I hope it’s a compliment to suggest that the female lead vocalist of Sons has an amazing voice the likes Norah Jones.)
“…banjo, violin, stand up bass, harmonica, shredding acoustic guitars, (occasional melting electric guitar solos), and good ol’ super charged folk music. Supercharged, because no matter whether the Sons are rocking it hard, tearing the joint down and stomping fear into the floor beneath their feet, or maintaining that melancholy tempo that is so often an ode to life and the belly of human experience, they preserve the highest caliber of masterful artistry. In other words, they’re really good at what they do (Sons of an Illustrious Father Band Page, Dirty Hippie Blog).”
Can Ya Dig Folk, Folks?
[+ Show ]
Well can ya? Folk is one of those roots forms of music that taps into the nitty gritty essence of ma...Well can ya? Folk is one of those roots forms of music that taps into the nitty gritty essence of mankind. If ya can’t dig folk, check with your psychologist, you might be one of those scared types who fears the vulnerability of feeling raw human emotion – the same types who preserve that smiling is uncool and taboo.
If ya can dig folk, then God bless ya, and by all means sink your jolly heal clickin’, boot stompin’ asses into these fine old boys and gals: Luke Philbert, Hangdog Expression, Brook & River, The Brothers Comatose, Pete Kershaw, Sons of an Illustrious Father.
Artist To Watch
Best Songs of 2009
#21 out of 50
Play for Me by Candlelight
[+ Show ]
The setting was a log cabin with chickens, an owl and a bamboo forest out back. The occasion was a h...The setting was a log cabin with chickens, an owl and a bamboo forest out back. The occasion was a house show on the front screened-in porch, lit only by seven tiny white lights and about as many bucket candles. The catalyst for the show was Sons of an Illustrious Father, a NY band passing through RVA (but unable to find a venue in which to play) from Charm City to NC. The good fortune was all of ours.
The invited audience of 35 or so was divided evenly between the porch and the front yard. When asked when the music was going to start, our host Jonathan had given us a heads-up that he'd created a back row of wicker-comfy seating for "the cool kids." The power couple and I immediately anointed ourselves cool and took those seats for a magical evening of music.
The party had started at 6:30 but it was dusk when the music began and fireflies were everywhere. Josh Small, newly shorn and looking quite handsome, played first. As usual, he made tuning jokes during his tuning bursts, but, as always, his banjo and guitar-based songs impressed.
Sons of an Illustrious Father was a five-piece (drums, bass, guitar, mandolin and accordion) and on certain songs, every member sang, a truly impressive thing. Their folky Americana sound made beautiful use of the range of voices and I learned later from member Jake that they all write for the band and purposely trade off lead vocals. After the first song, drummer Ezra said, "That was devastatingly depressing." In words, perhaps, but not in sound.
After an inattentive audience in Baltimore last night, the band was thrilled with both our silence and our enthusiasm after each song; they were obviously enjoying themselves as much as we were. A joke was made about the bass player Josh having no chance of getting laid on this tour; another crack was about Lila not knowing how to play the mandolin (Sofia: "Yes, that's a chord."). Favorite lyric: "My heart is not made of glass or stone." Ain't it the truth?
Last up was out host Jonathan, who played a lot of his early material to the delight of the Jonathan groupies in the audience. It was fitting how the show ended. Originally the music was to have been performed on the back porch, like it was last summer. But with an 80% chance of rain, our host had moved it to the sheltered front porch. And of course, it didn't rain a drop during any of the music.
But when Jonathan finished his last song, the audience shouted for one more. As if in answer, the skies opened up and the rain came pouring down through the trees surrounding the log cabin. The outside audience quickly made their way onto the screened-in porch, effectively ending the evening, but in the best possible way.
Tomorrow the brightly-painted school bus that brought Sons of an Illustrious Father to RVA will depart for Wilson, NC. It would be tough for their memories of Richmond to be any more impressive than ours of them.
Here's hoping that next time they come through our fair city, there's a venue savvy enough to book them here. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't mind mind being one of the select few to experience them at an intimate house show, but honestly, more people deserve to hear them, even without the owl and the bamboo.
And just maybe by then the bass player will have gotten lucky. Who knows what effect that could have on the entire rythm section?
[+ Show ]
We can't really blame you for being oblivious. But while you've been curled up on the couch, riveted...We can't really blame you for being oblivious. But while you've been curled up on the couch, riveted by American Idol hopefuls crooning pop covers from distant towns, you've been missing the real show. Don't look now, but the name embroidered on the Con Edison jumpsuit of the meter reader in your basement is about to become the next big name in rock. And the two teenage girls you saw this afternoon in downtown Nyack, sipping tea and waxing ironic at Didier Dumas on Main Street, will blow your heart to bits with a banjo and an acoustic guitar.
While lots of Rockland's so-called emo bands put out bloodless, yet insistent songs about breakups and "their feelings," Sons of an Illustrious Father have fashioned a stripped-down sound built around covers of bluesy gospel tunes. How can you define their style? Check out their guitars. Lilah Larson's red, fiberglass resonator-guitar doesn't have any of the rich tones of the Martins and Washburns that acoustic performers usually worship. Actually, the 17-year-old's six-string sounds kind of flat. And the high strings on the banjo that Sofia Albam (also 17) plays always seem to go out of tune. But that's the charm of the Nyack-based trio (Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez on cello). Both Larson and Albam strum their instruments like they're trying to trim a hedge, and during their inaugural show at Riverspace last November, Albam actually cut her hand on a string and ended up bleeding all over her banjo. The audience waited patiently while someone passed her a literal and metaphorical Band-Aid. Larson had played with Albam before forming Sons, but their current manifestation finds inspiration in the country blues embodied by Leadbelly and Blind Willie McTell. Covering songs like the old spiritual "Go Down Moses," the pair often shares the singing, with Albam's throaty, emotional voice taking the lead.
Anywhere between one song to 2 hours. Original material, with a few traditional covers sprinkled in for good measure.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.