Mix southern blues rock, a twist of classic rock with a serious dash of fabulous guitar work, driving bass lines, and powerful beats, then add dark, smoky, sex-soaked vocals emotively singing intelligent, warm, sensuous lyrics and you know what you get? Sons of William. This soulful, bluesy trio are the south Louisiana brothers Joe (vocals, guitar) and David Stark (drums) whose father, William, is the biggest inspiration to his two adoring sons. Along with fellow Louisianan Jen Janet (bass) who offers her silky, melodious, feminine tones in harmony to Joe’s rich, passionate drawl.
Sons of William is what rock music should be, full-flavoured, emotive and libidinous. It’s the kind of rock you want to hear when you’re slumming it in a saw-dust-on-the-floor bar, in the deep-south, sitting, feet-up on a table, drinking bourbon. As you watch, the band slowly enthralls the rancorous audience into silence with tempestuous guitar, perfect seamless symbiosis of the bass and drum as they accompany the luscious, ardent vocals and lyrics that are, you can’t help thinking to yourself, intellectually above this bar’s usual crowd.
But now you don’t need to go anywhere, this rich tapestry of music that is in turns bluesy and funky and always horny – and I’m not talking about a horn section – is now on CD. Sons of William have just launched their full-length debut album What Hides Inside. To celebrate the release of their album Joe and David spent some time with me discussing their dad, whiskey – Scottish vs. American – and of course their music.
Where did you get the title of your new album What Hides Inside?
Joe: It’s taken from the lyrics in a song called “Darkest Secret”, which is the second song on the record. It's just about having someone you can trust enough to share something with and how, instead of suppressing whatever your secret is or whatever hides inside. Feeling like what you want to do for that person, your significant other, is to keep it alive. That is the premise of the song and the title has implications all its own, you can imply what you want.
We put our brother on the cover, and that has an implication all its own. Not only his expression, but he had a little bout with cancer a year ago. So it was a little homage to him.
He’s OK now though right?
Joe: He’s doing great now. He’s doing very well. But we felt it was poignant to the people in our family.
And that’s important to you isn’t it? You boys are very family oriented aren’t you? In fact your band name is that. You and David are sons of William right?
Joe: Absolutely. We know we come from the same blood, and we are proud of the way we were raised musically and as people. And more than that we wanted to pay homage to the guy (their father William) and tribute to our brother and include as much of that as possible.
Joe: Yeah, definitely. Our dad played piano and organ in bands and he met my mom when she was singing at a wedding. They put themselves through college and graduate school doing that, doing gigs and performing around south Louisiana.
And it was cool too because, for us, what that allows is for music to always be… Usually it’s something that is suppressed in a household, something that is discouraged in a household.
Yeah because inevitably the kid wants to do it.
Do you mean rock music or all music altogether?
Maybe music altogether too, because even people who are studying classically don’t necessarily make the best living.
Oh I see what you mean. People are discouraged from becoming professional musicians.
Joe: Absolutely. And we were always encouraged to follow our hearts. I guess it’s a little bit inevitable that if there is an opportunity to do it you’re always going to take a stab at it. But for us it was really okay, I was encouraged play music and I was encouraged to be artistic and I was encouraged to write what we were feeling and I was encouraged to feel okay performing in front of people.
So you had a very warm loving upbringing. So where do you find the angst you need to write music?
Joe: All of that aside, you get to this place where, you’re encouraged and then all of the sudden you find this inner struggle and you find this…
David: To become who you….
Joe: Yeah you find this inner struggle to become what you are…
David: To live life.
Joe: and I think those unanswered questions of life are big motivations to writing. Also it is a fucking struggle to be out there on the road and busting your ass, whenever you don’t reap the benefits of what you sow. You’re out there killing yourself, playing these bars and driving these miles and sometimes it hard to see what the hell you’re getting done cause you’re not really seeing the fruits of your labour.
David: The light at the end of the tunnel starts becoming a little smaller in your head sometimes.
Joe: But that said, that struggle for me…
David: That’s what starts your song writing. You kinda got off the question.
Joe: So I would say that the struggle that it takes to become a successful artist is a great source of fear, anxiety and angst. And I would also say that the little bombs that the god lord drops on you or your family, your life, things you have to crawl out of are good sources of that too. That’s it. I think it’s the struggle to find who you are as a young adult, the struggle that society puts on you to be successful. I mean, when you’re young you have dreams of grandeur and then you find yourself making a small, extremely modest living doin’ this. And all of your peers are becoming successful in business or whatever they do, and you feel this certain sense of having to keep up with the Jones’.
And there is all this shit that surrounds you that takes you away from the core of being an artist, in the truest form, and you get caught up in that and all these things fuel the fire of good song writing. Besides trying to be smart, and literate and read good books and listen to good songwriters as well.
Joe: Absolutely, sometimes to a fault. We wear a lot of things on our sleeves especially like, the classic sense of music, The Beatles, Bad Finger, the Stones, all the great stuff. In another sense we try to do our part and listen to the Richard Thompsons and listen to the Bob Dylans and listen to the truly brilliant lyricists and songwriters of the world.
Do you write all the songs Joe?
Joe: I do have something to do with all of them. I don’t necessarily write all of them by myself. When I do co-write it’s with one dear friend of mine who lives in Mississippi or David. And mostly it’s a co-write with David and I.
And what inspires you David?
David: Pretty much the same thing that he said. I just a little younger so…
Joe: David always comes up with great melodies… I don’t mean to cut him off but seems to be typically the case is he’ll show me something that has an amazing melody and chord structure. Not being a guitar player it comes from an entirely different place than I would ever think to come from.
David is the drummer.
Joe: Right, exactly.
David: I started playing the guitar that was my first instrument.
Joe: And mine was drums we kinda just switched.
David: Funny how that worked out.
So you both play the guitar and drums?
Joe: Yes he plays the keys also and I play bass also.
Tell me about the new album, What Hides Inside.
Joe: Well we’re as excited as hell about it. We took about two years to make it, a year and a half…
David: It was about two and a half years actually.
Joe: As a constant, it features David and I writing and playing on every song, there is a slew of guest musicians. We had a long time to think about it, almost too long we feel. So we had a long time to process recording this album. And it was like… It’s fun to look back on cause you hear all the stories about these great records all made in California like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and how long it took to make it. And it was all drug induced cause they could afford to with the big label money but this is our chintzy version of that.
This is your indie Rumors
David: I like that. This is our indie Rumors
Joe: So we are out on the road busting our ass for about two years, behind this EP, and in the last three months of this touring David and I take an honest look at where we’re at. And we just say that touring behind this EP that we only play two songs a night from, after becoming this band, two and a half years after making our first EP that we are still touring behind, we have to have a new record out. We got to the point where we felt like we were really impressing the audiences we were playing in front of but that we might be letting them down by going home with a two and a half year old product. That we felt like didn’t represent where we were at right now. And that will always be available and we will always be proud of it but we just felt like we got fucking better.
If you would like to hear Sons of William’s stirring brand of intelligent southern rock, you can visit their website or take a look at their MySpace space. Or better still, just buy their thrilling new album, What Hides Inside. You won’t be disappointed.