Sons and Daughters blend gothic country and pulsing dance music, like bold groove-craving cowpokes installing a disco ball in a rustic ranch. Rhythmic stampedes interrupt high-lonesome guitar lines; boot-heel clicks provide stark percussion during almost a cappella harmonies; and whistles, handclaps, and finger snaps create a campfire symphony. The alternating male/female vocals and intertwined urban and rural sensibilities recall X, while the incongruous relationship between the often-bleak lyrics and the irrepressible hooks echoes the Smiths and the Velvet Underground.
Nothing the band does musically resembles traditional Celtic music, but that description pops up in album reviews because Scott Paterson and Adele Bethel sing in a thick Scottish brogue. Those accents give the Glasgow-based group's eclectic full-length debut, The Repulsion Box, an exotic feel, as if the melodies originated in rowdy pubs hundreds of years ago and Sons and Daughters are just now bringing them overseas.
Instead, Paterson says, the band draws from an amalgam of influences, including Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music (which Paterson received as a Christmas gift), the films of David Lynch ("the way he juxtaposes dry humor with terrifying visuals"), Sonic Youth (feedback squeals introduce the song "Hunt"), and Johnny Cash (whose name doubles as the title of a stirring tune from their debut EP).
"We don't listen to much Scottish traditional music or Irish music, so that's definitely not something we purposely put in there," Paterson says. "But at the end of the day, I suppose a lot of it came from Irish and Scottish folk music that emigrated over."
Delivering 10 tracks in 30 minutes, The Repulsion Box leaves little time for geographical parsing. The frill-free product reflects the group's studio approach, which substitutes a frenzied single session for months of fussy overdubs.
The group's stage show is equally lean and even more intense, with Bethel dramatically inhabiting a series of sneering, unsavory characters. She's "castrating everyone" and "smashing heads." During the Western romp "Rama Lama" she appears during the chorus like a vengeful ghost. On the haunting closer, "Gone," the title of which she repeats like a scornful spell, she twists a metaphorical threat into real violence. The scream she unleashes at the end of the phrase "I'll cut you out of every photograph, within an inch of your life" reveals that she has bigger plans for those scissors.
Sons and Daughters played 30-minute sets as the opening act for the Decemberists earlier this fall, and they don't plan to expand much as headliners.
"Even with my favorite bands, if they play for more than an hour, I find that my attention is wavering," Paterson says. "We try to save up energy all day to put on a really good, sweaty show, because we don't want to shortchange anybody. But giving that effort for more than an hour, it's a hell of a workout."
Bethel and drummer David Gow conceived Sons and Daughters while on tour with the considerably slower-paced Scottish band Arab Strap. They recruited Paterson, then a solo performer, and Ailidh Lennon, a bassist and mandolin player. After several high-profile support shows in Glasgow, the band petitioned the Scottish Arts Council for a share of the 30,000 pounds the organization awards annually. It received 1,500 pounds.
"It was just enough to record," Paterson says. "It was intrinsic, really, to the history of the band."
Sons and Daughters' first show outside of the United Kingdom took place in Austin, Texas, last March as part of South by Southwest. The quartet became one of the festival's immediate success stories, signing on the spot with the Domino label.
The band's favorite "friendly rowdy" crowds remain in Glasgow, but Sons and Daughters have "cut their teeth" on the road since April. "We're not taking it too crazy," Paterson assures. "You go drinking every single night, you're not going to survive."
Audience members practiced less restraint at a wild recent New York gig. "It was an after-show party for Franz Ferdinand for about 300 people around 1:00 a.m.," Paterson says. "Everyone was really drunk and flinging themselves around."
Demure Decemberists fans didn't do too much flinging when the bands shared a bill, even during Sons and Daughters' sinewy single "Dance Me In." But their own following figures to be more choreographically inclined, though the moves on display might range from line dancing to techno twitches to Lord of the Dance firstname.lastname@example.org