Last year, all eyes in Hollywood were on Ezra Miller and with good reason. What many people often forget though is that the actor has been heavily involved in the music scene for the past decade in the indie rock band Sons of an Illustrious Father. Alongside longtime friends Lilah Larson and Josh Aubin, the mighty “genre queer” trio has been blessing the world with prolific political anthems for all the humans that refuse to conform to the status quo. Today, we’re premiering their new, self-titled single which sees them reflecting on their evolution as a band.
Highsnobiety recently spoke to Sons of an Illustrious Father to learn more about the origins of the song and see what else they have in the works this year. While you stream “Sons of an Illustrious Father,” scroll down for the full interview and prepare to activate new dimensions of your psyche as soon as the string arrangements kick in.
To start off, what have you all been up to since your last album, Deus Sex Machina: Or, Moving Slowly Beyond Nikola Tesla came out in 2018?
Lilah Larson: That’s a lot to think about…
Ezra Miller: We’ve definitely done a lot of writing, there’s now a whole bunch of stuff that we have to release.
LL: We’ve done writing, recording…
EM: We’ve done touring, a bunch of recording, we have this new track coming out that we’re very excited about.
LL: Filmed videos…
EM: Made videos for some of the things we recorded.
LL: Our goats gave birth.
EM: Our goats all gave birth.
Congrats to the goats!
EM: Josh released a video, didn’t he?
LL: I read a couple books.
EM: Yeah, I also read some books.
LL: Was it good?
EM: Yeah! It’s been a long year.
2018 felt like it was never ending for me, but then at the same time it went by really, really quickly. I can’t believe it’s already April of 2019 right now.
LL: I also feel that way, and also feel like I feel that way every year.
EM: And about all time in general.
LL: Yeah, the expansion and contraction.
I’m about to turn 26 at the end of the month and I don’t know, there’s just something about hitting the mid-twenties and everything’s like a blur.
EM: Savor it, savor that blur.
So let’s talk about this new self-titled single. What was going on when you all wrote this song?
LL: I wrote this song when we were on tour in what year?
LL: It’s very much about that tour and us in that time. All the names in the song are people we actually encountered on tour. It was sort of way of processing all of the things that were happening. We’ve been playing it, pretty much just in living rooms since then. For years it existed as a song on acoustic guitar that we sang together.
Is there a specific message to the song, or is it almost an origins type of story?
Josh Aubin: It started as more of an active reflection. It feels like a moment of seeing us from a far, but also being very much ingrained into the experience which was in our lives, and was particularity for this tour.
EM: When we sing it, it feels like an open inspiration of intent as well an almost a strange physic manifesto.
LL: Each of the chords is sort of an affirmation and a pyhsic manifesto.
I’m assuming you have probably been working on new material. Is this going to be a part of an album or an EP?
LL: It’s a series of singles.
JA: After the last album, we very quickly realized we had another record that we have a very ambitious plan for. Then on top of that, we realized there were other songs that wouldn’t really function in the context of that record that we released sooner. Those songs are now immediately worked on.
LL: We’re coming with the implication that it’s very intricate.
JA: Exactly. This is the beginning of them.
You’ve been in band together for over a decade. How would you say that you’ve evolved individually, as a unit, and as artists since starting Sons?
EM: Mentally, in so many ways. It’s such a long history or progression to track. It feels like more than anything, the history of the band is also the history of the three of us, really confusing as human beings in many aspects of our lives…come to live together and really form this very particular covalence bond, the three of us make up. Obviously, we’ve all grown a lot from little saplings from at least the half grown trees that we are.
I think our music continues to, like our beings, open up more and more spaces for each others. More and more it feels like we are able to write through each other, for each other, with each other. When we started the band it was very much different song writers bringing their songs forward and then the band playing them; and it’s really now become a wide variety of processes, by which we can write music. Lots, lots has changed. I grew a dorsal fin.
LL: And I cut it off.
EM: Lilah cut it off in my sleep, it was extraordinarily painful night of sleep. I got buzzed behind my ear, Lila once again, just took it from me; this happened just now. So you see the changes just keep coming.
Something else that I really wanted to talk to you guys about is the term “genre queer.” I think that that’s exactly what we need in this industry as we push more toward genre fluidity. There are still so many gate keepers in this industry…
EM: Something that interests me in reference to what you’re asking about is that there is a huge distance between the point at which there an be general consensus that certain lines and limits are superfluous and don’t matter, and the place where people actually regard them or they seem to hold such an important functional place. With genre, it’s very much like that. So much of the music that’s popular transcends or defies genre boundaries, but still there are systems of tracking the progress of music in these boxes. It’s one of those things where there’s discrepancy between what we understand to be true and how we operate, and I think that’s also true of gender and sexuality.
LL: I would also say that throughout the history of music, a lot of the general groundbreaking work that was genre bending and that’s what’s been so important. Also a lot of great artists in the history of rock and roll and other music have been queer. People who occupy this ambiguous identity spaces making art that reflects their life experience and being minimal is the history of art.
EM: Yeah, and it’s almost the history of expression itself. There’s a struggle between the voice that says something that’s coming from a place of inspiration, and then all of the voices that try to understand whatever has been said. That seems to be the on-going cycle.
LL: Hopefully the gatekeepers will continue to be picked apart.
EM: (laughs) And overtaken!
LL: And overtaken and get out of the way.
Why is it important to you all to foster a sense of community within your fanbase?
LL: Honestly in terms of fostering, we’re really just following their lead. Kids come to our shows and reflect back with a sense of community that they feel and given that we feel a responsibility to uphold our end and continue to co-create this thing with them.
JA: I think for us it’s delightful to hold that space and try to honor that space wherever we can in the world. It’s something we all really need. These times in which it’s not necessarily the only way that human beings communicate with each other, we still really feel the desire to have physical community. That space has been filled with a lot of other means of relating to each other.