Roots and Vines: An Interview with Sons of Fathers

Juli Thanki | March 8th, 2013

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Paul Cauthen and David Whitbeck, the inseparable duo better known as Sons of Fathers, might be two of the hardest-working musicians in Austin. If they’re not onstage, they’re in the studio, which is how they ended up with nearly three dozen songs while working on material for their sophomore release, Burning Days (due out April 2), a collection of songs teeming with sharp writing and aching harmonies. The roots rock pair, formerly known as Beck & Cauthen (until a lawsuit with the other, more famous Beck, led them to change their band name), took a few minutes out of their workday to talk about their partnership, Burning Days, and their boozy, inspirational trip through California wine country.

How did the two of you meet and then begin performing together?

Paul: David and I met doing solo projects in Texas in 2010. We started working together doing little songwriter things around here and decided to go to New York City. The two of us kept on playing music together in New York City and started singing harmonies together there. One evening, we got drunk at a bar and decided that when we got back to Texas, we’d put it in full throttle and start making music together. So our writing continued, we decided to get into the studio, and met with Lloyd Maines. We got a band together and cut our first record, and we’ve been working ever since.

David and I have been exploring sounds in Fast Horse Studios here in Austin. We’ve been working in different studios around the South–we actually worked with Vance Powell up in Nashville; he’s worked with Jack White and that crew. He got us some sounds that are on the songs “Hurt Someone” and “O.G.C.T.A.W. (Only God Can Take a Woman)” from the new record. It’s been just about hitting it head-on every day. We’re either on the road or we’re waking up early and getting into the studio when we’re off. I think we’ve spent about three days away from each other since we started this whole thing. We’re like brothers now, which is funny because we’re also opposites. But we balance each other out.

This is your second album with Lloyd Maines. What’s it like working with him in the studio?

David: It’s really cool because he’s a third force in the studio; he can see things Paul and I can’t see. We had recorded 32 tracks for this record, so we had this big bucketful of songs, and Lloyd helped us put together the record as far as song choices. We cut a few tracks with him to finish up the record, too. He made it a piece of work as opposed to a bucketful.

How did you all narrow those 32 songs down to ten? Was there a common theme you were looking for?

David: We were changing our minds every five minutes. But then we’d put two ballads together, for example, and Lloyd would go, “Out of these two songs, which one is more interesting?” It was easy to make that call, and when you make it fifteen different times, what’s left over is the record.

What’s the inspiration behind “Roots and Vine”?

Paul: We did a wine tour in Sonoma Valley, and that’s where that riff came from.

David: We were at all these vineyards and saw all the grapes growing, and we said, “Oh, the roots and vines are kind of like a relationship. How cute.” Paul and I wrote words to the melody and it was born.

Paul: It’s really about getting drunk and drinking wine.

David: That too. Somebody’s got to be the roots of the relationship and hold somebody down, because one person is always a bit wilder.

I heard “The Mansion” is about a DC landmark?

David: We wrote it about The Mansion on O Street, which is this hotel that’s a bunch of houses connected with secret passages. The owners are big music lovers, so when artists come through, they let them stay there. They cook food, and there’s wine and guitars all over; we played a show there last year. We had the riff for a long time with no words and didn’t know what to do with it. We just ended up writing about that place. It’s a semi-haunted, really cool place.

What’s next for Sons of Fathers?

Paul: We’re doing a ton of stuff for SXSW since that’s right in our backyard, and right after that, we’re hitting the road for…ever. We’re just going all over.

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