By Michele Stevens Bernard, TSB Lifestyle Editor
Why does a nationally known, critically acclaimed indie/rock band on the fast-track to fame kick off their national tour at Spoons Café in McKinney, Texas? As the lucky girl who gets to cover arts and entertainment for this part of Texas on behalf of TownSquareBuzz.com, this was one of the most asked questions I received this week in reference to Sons of Fathers who did just that.
The answer is simple enough: Because Spoon’s Cafe owner Karen Klassen asked, and they said yes.
The Spoons Café owner knew that her hard-working manager, Vickie, was a big Sons of Fathers fan. Long story short, Klassen wanted to do something nice for Vickie.
“I like to pay it forward,” said Klassen.
And pay it forward she did. On Wednesday, April 17, Vickie, along with family, friends and fans, not to mention any lucky duck who thought Spoons for dinner sounded like a good idea, were treated to a free, (YES FREE) concert when Sons of Fathers unloaded their full catalogue of harmony-infused greatness on the packed café.
As I witnessed the show from the back of the house, I had the same exact feeling I got the time I saw Los Angeles Dodger’s ace pitcher, Clayton Kershaw pitch as a high school kid. As I listened, I found my feet tapping and hands clapping more often than not. I’m pretty sure I had the same goose-bumps I got the time I heard Reba McIntyre bring down a college rodeo arena many moons ago when I was a student at Texas Tech. And I couldn’t help but feel that maybe, just maybe, I was being redeemed by all that is musical for the time I gave away a handful of show tickets to a co-worker because I wasn’t about to drive all the way to Dallas in the middle of the week to go see someone named Garth Brooks sing.
Situated at the end of a row of tables marked reserved for the band’s families, more than once during the show I found myself waving my arms over my head, bouncing to the beat, head-bobbing along with every other person in attendance. The enthusiasm generated by Sons of Fathers was contagious. The band was having fun. Family members were beaming. Fans were jamming, Klassen was dancing. And Vickie was beaming ear to ear.
This is the part of the story where I tell you that Sons of Fathers left all they had on the stage — and then some. Except they weren’t on a stage. They were in the windowed corner of Spoons Café. Yet, they played their hearts out, sang their faces off and jammed with the same enthusiasm one experiences when in attendance at big arena affairs. Which is why I walked away knowing that I had just experienced one of those once in a lifetime moments, like seeing future hall of fame pitchers doing their thing on a high school diamond.
I will forever be able to tell people that I got to see Sons of Fathers play an intimate small venue. In McKinney. In the middle of a week. For free.
Which is why I will end my commentary with this final thought: If you live in or near McKinney and you decided to do something elsethis past Wednesday night…man, did you ever mess up. Just ask me about the time I almost got to see Garth.
Sons of Fathers, with the release of their second album, “Burning Days” and the kick-off of a new national tour, are spot-on with their searing harmonies. If they found and teased us with their unique sound on their self-titled debut offering, they own it and romance us with their sophomore project. But good luck defining it, as SOF embodies all that is holy about indie singer/songwriter, folk, rock, country, southern gospel and R&B. Even they were hard-pressed to define genre when I asked during our pre-concert interview.
A few hours before the show, while the band set up in the restaurant’s store-front, I joined Sons of Fathers lead singers Paul Cauthen and David Beck on the Spoons patio to learn more about the band’s musical journey.
MICHELE: I’ve heard your music described in every genre imagined, and I’ve even tried to describe it to others. So what do you say? If I were at the Grammy’s and you were nominees, what category do you think you guys would be nominated in?
PAUL: It’s just a song to song basis with this band. If we feel like writing a country song, it’s a country song. If we feel like writing a more poppy/rock ballad, we can do a poppy/rock ballad. The first record was more roots and folky, and us really getting to know how to sing together, you know? The second record is alternative and we were like, we want to bend the rules with our tones. We want to change [our tones], we want to see what we can mess up, see what sounds we can mess with. We just kind of got real mad scientist in the studio, whereas the first record is just a thorough tone throughout the whole thing. Genre is the hardest question we have.
DAVID: Yeah, it is. And, I think it means less and less. I don’t think it means as much as it used to because you needed the categories in the record stores to put the records in. Now, there’s no record stores. It doesn’t really matter. It’s all just music now. There’s just more that is crossover, and I think that is great.
MICHELE: That’s a really good point. I think you’re spot on with that. So, I did read that you say your fathers and grandfathers are your musical inspirations. Do you want to speak to that a little bit?
PAUL: My granddad taught me how to sing. He was a church gospel singer, and a preacher, kind of a minister in the Church of Christ in East Texas. And, I grew up learning harmony and music through that. I feel like that’s instilled the whole musical taste in singing [in me] and in trying to be powerful when I sing. Because you don’t have any instruments in the Church of Christ, you have to belt it out. That’s how I learned and Dave, he has a musical background.
DAVID: I learned from Papa. He plays bass [for Robert Earl Keen]. The earliest I remember, we didn’t watch TV growing up. We just played records all day long. Like before I even went to kindergarten, we would just like hang out at the house and it was just record, record, record, record when he was home. He was either on the road working or home off, with nothing to do, so he would just hang out with my little sister and I and we would listen to old Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan records. He was always just playing around the house.
At the shows, a lot of the times [on the tour bus] my little sister and me would try to play, you know that game Hot Lava where the ground is hot lava? We would go from the very back of the bus to the front climbing. And, there was unlimited Dr. Pepper and candy! It’s pretty much still the same way today on tour…
PAUL: But with beer and other things.
DAVID: It’s still a lot of playing hot lava though!
MICHELE: When you look to the tour in front of you…
PAUL: [Gestures toward the van being unloaded] We could be in a bus right now, but we want to put some extra change in everybody’s pockets at the end of the tour. We’re all broke musicians. We’re touring around, having a good time, but still, at the end of the day, it’s a struggle.
DAVID: It takes a lot to take care of seven guys.
PAUL: It takes a lot of gas money to go 7,000 miles, so like, when you have a tour bus, you’re doubling your expense. When we reach a level when it becomes night and day to where we are like, why are we even in this van, and why don’t we do this to be more comfortable, then, we will be in a tour bus. But, until then, that’s not us. It not like, man, the minute we got that extra dollar to get that tour bus, we’re like, that’s what it takes to be successful, no. We go road doggin’ in this van.
DAVID: [laughs] And, even when we do get a tour bus, we’re going to cut the roof off like a safari hunting vehicle!
PAUL: [laughing] Yeah, we’ve already had to archive a lot of video because there’s just some things that need to be seen when we are gone!
PAUL: We’ve got expensive memories. I mean, the things we’ve done, you can’t replace it. The things we get to do, the meals we get to eat, the service people want to give just because you’re an artist. I mean, everybody is so nice. It’s such a blessing.
DAVID: We’ve stayed at some amazing hotels. A lot of people save up for a whole year to get to go on a vacation.
PAUL: We got to go to New York like three times last year.
DAVID: Yeah, it’s pretty wild. It’s really one of the coolest parts about what we get to do. And meeting people all over the country, I have friends all over the country now, all different.
MICHELE: Well, I hope you make some friends here in McKinney, and just keep coming back.
PAUL: Oh yeah, we will be back for sure in McKinney.
SOF On playing New York
PAUL: You go to New York, you get your ass kicked a couple of times. Big time. [Laughs] New York, it doesn’t matter if you’re Elvis walking in, you are going to get your ass kicked. Then, you’re going to come back and get your ass kicked again. And then, you’re going to come back the third time, and you’re kind of going to understand. Now, we’re about on what, the fourth time, so now, [snap] we can rock into New York City.
MICHELE: [laughs]You’ve got attitude now.
PAUL: [laughing] Yeah. We can get around now.
MICHELE: Other than your family influence, who else would you say are your musical influences?
PAUL: Elvis, Michael Jackson, Tupac
DAVID: Merle Haggard, the Everly Brothers.
MICHELE: I love the Everly Brothers. So, you’ve been compared to the Everly Brothers on multiple occasions.
DAVID: They are our idols, our kings [laughs]
PAUL: I’ve never heard anyone say that we are better, and I don’t think we are even close, but the day, if that ever happens, that will be the day I will think I’m a freaking king. The Everly Brothers, I mean, it’s just the things they do vocally.
DAVID: It’s just that they are just so far above the rest. Like, there’s all these duos [down here] and the Everly Brothers are way, way up here.
MICHELE: Talk to me about how you guys got together. I read that you were going after the same gigs?
DAVID: Yeah, we were in San Marcus. My folks live down there and I was living with them. Paul had just moved there. We were both just like hustling for gigs. We had our own bands and we just kept running into each other. We had a mutual friend, Marshall Anderson, who is an amazing songwriter, had us producing his record for him.
PAUL: In the studio, we were producing another guy’s record, and what’s funny is the guy who was the drummer in the studio was Dees, who is now our drummer. And, like, all these things just started happening. We were put in front of each others’ paths at the right time.
DAVID: There were a lot of things even before we were a band. All of these people were already in our lives. The biggest thing, was our friend HalleyAnna Finlay, another great songwriter booked a string of seven shows. She wanted to do like a song swap with three songwriters so she got Paul and me. We played the seven shows. Then, she kind of ran off in New York, so here we were just hanging out alone in New York.
PAUL: We kind of knew each other, but here we were alone in New York.
DAVID: [laughs] You really get to know someone in New York, because like we said, it kicks your ass! You have to learn how to get around in the subways. You have to learn how to get money to stay somewhere. There’s all these objectives you have to accomplish. So, we started working together, forced to figure thing out and we discovered we were really good at working together. So one of the last night there, the bars stay open till four there and we were drinking at like 3:50, and we both realized we had the exact same goals. So we decided that when we got back to Austin to really drop everything else we were doing and just concentrate on work. We started the band in New York, then we haven’t’ not worked since Christmas of 2010.
PAUL: It’s just super easy to sing with each other. His vocal is a higher register. Mine is a lower register.
DAVID: And so we’re both comfortable. We’re not trying. Like, I don’t have to try to sing high and he doesn’t try to sing low.
PAUL: So, we can just sing naturally. And, we’re lucky enough to have good enough ears to be able to sing together and we’ve trained it. Our first record it’s pretty simple, just solid good harmonies. Our next record we’re pulling more Everly Brothers. We’re doing it all tonight.
DAVID: You’ll hear we’re going to play our repertoire for all the good people of McKinney, Texas.
MICHELE: What’s the one thing you want McKinney, Texas to know about Sons of Fathers?
PAUL: We’re real people. We work hard. We wake up, we have a job just like anyone else. We’re always wanting to gain more fans and always looking to be on a one on one basis with every fan. You know? We feel like its easier now with Facebook, and social networking and stuff like that so we just want to be true to our fans. You know. We want to come back and see y’all and play for y’all. That our job as musicians.
DAVID: We play all over the country now, but playing in Texas for Texans is awesome.
PAUL: We don’t really say no to gigs in Texas.
To learn more about Sons of Fathers click here.