Sons and Daughters have recently returned to action with their best album, ‘This Gift’. Recorded over a six month period, with nine weeks spent in the studio with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, it retains the raucous energy that characterised their earlier work but adds a glossier sheen and vastly superior melodies.

This Scottish band first came to many people’s attention when they supported Idlewild several years ago. They were quickly marked out as one of the most promising bands on the Domino label. That promise is fulfilled on their new album, the songs from which I predict will make them one of the biggest hits on this year’s festival circuit.

Pennyblackmusic squeezed into the band’s busy interview schedule on their recently completed UK tour, and sat down for a chat with the guitarist Scott Paterson, as he was completing the night’s setlist for a gig at the London ULU.

PB : Your new album has been out for about two weeks now. How have people been responding to it, do you think?

SP : I think it’s been pretty mixed, to be honest. On the whole, people have been fairly positive towards it, but there have been a few that have been negative. I suppose anyone gets that, though. It’s good to provoke a reaction at least. The really good ones are great, but the negative ones have at least been interesting.

PB : I wouldn’t say this album is a radical, radical change of direction. But it is a different kind of album compared to your previous two albums, 'Love the Cup' and 'The Repulsion Box' and it is perhaps inevitable that some people will respond differently to that?

SP : Yeah, I think I would say that it is quite a radical shift, actually. Our last two albums were a lot rawer, and this one is very much a studio album that has had a lot of time spent on it.

That’s what we wanted to do on this record, we wanted to make something that was very much a pop album. When we started, we always said that we wanted every record to be completely different. I think that perhaps what some people haven’t liked is that we haven’t stayed in our little niche.

PB : What do you think the reaction of the fans and the people at the shows has been?

SP : Great! The shows had been really great, even when we went on tour last year, before the record had even been out. We played loads and loads of the new songs, and they were going down really well - almost better than the old stuff that people knew really well, so we’re encouraged by that.

PB : I saw you play at the Luminaire last year.

SP : Ah, did you? That was a really early show, just after we’d finished the album.

PB : It was a very good gig, I have to say. But I found, even then, that the new songs were a cut above, and that I enjoyed them even more than the songs I knew, even my favourite ones like ‘Johnny Cash’. I got the impression that people were much more enjoying the new songs.

SP : We’d literally just finished the record about two days before, so we’d never played the songs live at that point.

PB : Did you begin the new album instantly expecting a different kind of record, or did the more upbeat style emerge gradually.

SP : We initially started writing songs that were really similar to the last record. We found ourselves getting really bored by that, because it was just the same old thing, and a bit depressed by these dark and dour songs. We weren’t keen on the idea of recording these songs for six months and then touring them for a year. We were wondering how depressed we’d have been playing that stuff every night.

At that point, we had ‘Guilt Complex’ and ‘The Nest’, which were a bit more pop structured. We had so much more fun playing them that we decided to write an album more in that kind of style - songs that were a bit more up, and that had a better nature to them.

The lyrics didn’t change too much. Adele (Bethel, vocalist and lyricist-Ed) still had her melancholy themes, but we felt that without making it too morose we could use pop structures. Then when Bernard got involved, he really helped with the pop structures, because that’s what he’s good at.

PB : Was he a pro-active producer, was he looking for you to change quite a lot?

SP : Very much. He came up to rehearsals with us, and had his opinions about what we needed to change. It wouldn’t have sounded the way that it did if it wasn’t for him. It wasn’t just about the sounds on the record, it was about the songwriting.

At first, it was a total shock to have someone want to take verses out, or telling us they were too long. We’d never had anyone do that. Initially, we were taken aback, but we allowed ourselves to go with it, and it worked out for the best.

PB : Do you think that the recording experience was more enjoyable than in previous times?

SP : Yes and no. It was enjoyable because he pushed us out of what we were comfortable with. On previous records, we had just recorded live to tape and that was the record. He wanted a lot more out of us, a lot more overdubs and more thought into the sounds.

He helped us to learn a lot about studio craft, and there were more positives than negatives. But there was also a lot of fighting. He’s very opinionated, and so are we, and he was not shy of really having a go at us. This was uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t say it was a laugh a minute - though we did have some fun!

Overall, it was worth it, and I would have done it again.

PB : It might be too early to be really thinking about this, but do you think you’d want to work him again, or try something new?

SP : I don’t know. I think we’ve always said that a good thing to do is to try a different producer. We loved Victor Van Vugt's production on 'The Repulsion Box', and a lot of bands would have gone with someone that they really enjoyed working with, but we wanted to try a different thing. So I think we’d like to try something else, and that’s no slight on him.

Whether he’d like to work with us, I don’t know. He’s probably got similar feelings about us.

PB : When the record was finished, did he like it?

SP : Yeah, I think so. You can’t knock his passion. He really cared about it. That’s why we both got so angry and irate about it at certain times. We were both really passionate about what we were doing, and we really wanted a result. If he had just sat back and said, you do what you want, that would have shown that he didn’t really care.

PB : You’ve been playing these songs on stage for quite a few months now, even though the studio recordings have only just been released. Do you think that they’ve changed ?

SP : I think they are totally different, on stage. That goes for the old songs as well. But especially with the new songs, there are so many layers on the record, that live the songs are a lot rawer. You can’t replicate it completely without a backing tape, which we’d never do, so you get a scuzzier version of the record.

But I love that, and I like going to see bands like that. An example is the Queens of the Stone Age. Their records are crafted perfectly in the studio, but they are amazing live and it’s a very different thing.

PB : Do you think you all enjoy touring, or does it become a bit of a chore?

SP : I don’t think any of us think it is a chore. I suppose I can only really speak for myself, but I love touring. It’s the best bit. I like the writing, and the recording but touring allows you to see all these parts of the world. If I had a regular job, I wouldn’t get to see all these places even if I was taking a holiday every single break I had.

It’s a privilege, really. You get to go out to places like Australia, and it’s the best feeling in the world to go out and find a crowd of people that have heard your music, and really like you, and want to come out and see you.

When you start a band, that is why you do it in the first place. You go and play in your local pub.

PB : Do you feel that you have particular ambitions, things that you especially want to achieve whilst you are in the band that maybe you haven’t yet.

SP : I’d love to make an absolute classic record that sits alongside my favourite ones, like the Velvet Underground, the Smiths or ‘Lust For Life’ by Iggy Pop. I think every band should have an ambition like that.

A lot of my initial ambitions for the band have been achieved, though. We’ve got to play with a lot of people that I really like, people like Morrissey, the Stooges, Nick Cave, the White Stripes. Another ambition had been to tour the world, and we’ve done that. So I guess once you’ve achieved things like that, you start thinking of more ambitions.

PB : What are the venues like that you are playing in now, as compared with your last tours.

SP : Well, the tour we did before Christmas was a bit smaller. It was just a comeback tour, but I suppose these venues are about the same as we played on ‘The Repulsion Box’ tour. Hopefully, we’ll tour the UK again later in the year, and more people will have heard the album, and they’ll have given them to their friends, and we’ll play bigger venues.

But I love the size of venues that we play in now. We’ve played in some bigger places, with other bands that have had us on support. They are really fun, but there is nothing quite like smaller and more intimate shows.

PB : You’re on probably "the" indie label for the UK, both in terms of the quality of bands that it has had and how well known it has become. What kind of relationship do you have with Domino ?

SP : Great. From the off, it was always the label that we wanted to sign with. Before they had Franz Ferdinand or the Arctic Monkeys, or anything like that, they had people like Smog, Bonnie Prince Billy and Clinic. That was my favourite music, so it was the best label in the country at that point, anyway.

But from talking to other bands, it doesn’t seem like any other label in the country. It sounds cheesy, but it is like a little family. The people that work there are really cool, and they are real music lovers, not just people that want to work in the music industry.

Laurence Bell, who runs it, cares very passionately about all the bands. It doesn’t matter if they are really small, and don’t make the label any money, or if they are the Arctic Monkeys and make them loads. Everyone is treated with the same level of respect, so we’re really lucky.

PB : To go for a really obvious, somewhat lame, question next! What sort of music were you all listening to which inspired you in this album?

SP : Records we do are always inspired by what we were listening a lot to at the time. For this one, I think you can hear in her voice that Adele was listening to a lot of Blondie. The Smiths were a lyrical and guitar based inspiration. Also lots of Motown, lots of soul, lots of garage rock for me.

PB : Do you feel that the longer you’ve been in the band, the standards of the songs have improved ? Notwithstanding the standards of the songs, do you think they way you interact with one another has improved or changed ?

SP : Oh yeah, we’ve been playing together for seven years now. It is so comfortable that you are able to second guess what each other will do. I notice that when I go and play with other people, my friends, just for a laugh and you notice that you don’t have that same special thing that comes when you have spent a lot of time with people.

You can also read people really well. If I’m having a really bad gig, they can tell really easily, even though I might be smiling. There is something really cool about having this kind of bond, I think.

PB : Do you play a lot with people in other bands, and friends ?

SP : I would like to. This band takes up so much of our time, but in the future, I’d like to play music with anybody! I did play some gigs with Franz when Paul Thomson was having his baby, and that was really great.

PB : Do you see Sons and Daughters going on for a long time? Do you have a vision of it being something that you do for years, and make a lot more albums?

SP : I hope so. Who can tell in this day and age ? It is such a weird time for music. There have got to be people that want to hear you. At the moment, people do, and hopefully that will continue. I’d love this to be a band that had loads of albums, and to make a different one every time, so that when you get a Sons and Daughters album it is a surprise. I think if you have a longer go at it you will achieve that easier.

PB : Finally, what are your immediate plans for this year?

SP : Pretty much just touring! There is no recording on the horizon. We have the British tour, then America, then Europe, then the Festivals, then there will be America again, and Australia. I hope that we will write a bit on the road, so there won’t be quite as long a gap between albums as there was for this one. But that is all in the far future, just now.

PB : Thank you.

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