Music – much like any form of creativity – is made to endure. Every so often you can come across a song that feels like it’s speaking directly to you. Sometimes it’s a melody or rhythm that connects more than words ever could. Other times, it’s an earworm that you can’t shake no matter how badly you might want to. Whatever the method, music has a habit of sticking with you. Spread across a sofa on a dreary day in London, Ezra Miller, Lilah Larson, and Josh Aubin are prepared to go wherever the music takes them.
“I like to lube it, lube it, so I can move it move it,” Lilah sings. “C’mon! That’s obviously what it should have been,” she laughs. Talking before the group play their first show on their European tour, the energy is understandably high. “It’s amazing. We feel very fortunate and very blessed,” Lilah enthuses.
“Also very tired – and confused.” “I’m mostly just confused,” Josh agrees. “I mean, that’s my normal level of where I am, but then it gets amplified.”
The trio might be feeling some confusion, but as the dates on their first European headline tour sold out ahead of them, it’s clear that their audience hold the group in enough conviction for all of them combined. Listening to their music, it’s easy to hear why they continue to be met with such devotion.
“If I don’t die tonight, I’m gonna dance until I do, and if you’re not too afraid I wanna dance with you.” So begins ‘U.S. Gay’, the opening track on Sons Of An Illustrious Father’s second album ‘Deus Sex Machina: Or, Moving Slowly Beyond Nikola Tesla’. Written in response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, the song – like much of ‘Deus Sex Machina…’ – is at once as hopeful as it is hopeless.
“Both as people who are terrified for ourselves, but also as people who are acutely aware – especially in becoming increasingly terrified for ourselves – that we have the relative privilege of relative safety in many ways in this world and in society,” Lilah details, “we feel that it is our duty as turncoats to amplify liberatory messages.”
A genre-spanning culture-clash of a record, ‘Deus Sex Machina…’ really feels to bare its hopes, fears, history, beliefs, and very identity on its sleeve. “When you are connected with your spiritual self, it’s hard to remove that aspect from anything you do. Especially when you’re in the process of creation,” Josh portrays. And creation is what the trio do best: melding an array of styles and sounds, singing of doubts and resolute faiths and so much more besides, theirs is music both of mourning and of renewal – whichever it is you seek to hear.
“Music is easily comparable to language in the way that the symbol can remain the same symbol, but the association of it can and does shift over time,” Ezra describes. “I think the negative experience of that is becoming disassociated from the meaning or the emotional experience that lay at the root of the songwriting process.”
“The positive experience that we can have – and have had in a really special way with this album’s content,” he continues, “is that it feels like a process that is enriching and deepening to our connection to the song and where it came from.” In this ever-changing and ever-tumultuous world in which we live in, it seems like that sense of connection has never felt more important.
The more time you spend with the collective – be that with their music, or at their shows – it quickly becomes apparent that Sons Of An Illustrious Father aren’t your average band. There’s no frontperson: the trio swap instruments and vocal duties like trading cards, playing to each other’s strengths in a way that could only come from profound familiarity.
“Often we’ll come together and hit a wall and then decide to all switch instruments. That sort of keeps the machine moving,” Lilah describes of their writing process. “We lube the machine.”
“We move to move it,” Ezra affirms, before quickly amending his response. “We like to move it, move it,” he deadpans. “We like to…” he pauses, and the three chime in with a rallying cry of “move it!”
“With lubricant,” Lilah adds.
“There’s no other way,” Ezra agrees.
What started out as a school-age friendship between Lilah and Ezra has developed into a soulmate-like bond completed by the addition of touring-bassist-turned-fully-fledged-kindred-spirit, Josh. “This band actually started as an acoustic duo that did pretty much exclusively folk, blues, country, and gospel covers for a few years,” Lilah recalls.
“So, if we observe the pattern,” Ezra continues, “we’re only a matter of years out from a heavy metal trio and a pop group that does dance routines.”
“We have done a couple of dance routines,” Ezra adds.
“It’s something we talk a lot about incorporating more,” Lilah expresses.
“We’re a lot of talk at this point,” Josh states.
Finishing each other’s sentences and spiralling off on each other’s trains of thoughts, the close-knit trios bond is unmissable. “There were a few previous incarnations, and the people we were working with are amazing artists, but we frankly just didn’t get along as well as we do with just the three of us,” Lilah describes. “The three of us, in the past five years, have cultivated a culture of respect and care and safe, open exploration with one another that I think is unique.”
Her bandmates are quick to agree. “All the iterations of the band were, in my mind, very cool, but this is the first one that has that,” Ezra portrays.
“Which I think probably informs the music we make as well,” Lilah continues, “or at least opens up the possibilities of the kinds of music that we can make and the kinds of dance routines we will engage in.”
“Have engaged in, are engaging in now, and will engage in so many more of,” Ezra corrects.
And it’s not just dance routines the trio are planning. Looking towards the future, their vision is clear. “Have you seen Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey?” Ezra asks. “It looks a bit like that in broad scope,” he portrays. “In microscope, and in rotoscope, and in zoetrope it would be a circus.”
There’s no real way of knowing what the future holds, whether it’ll be bright or bleak. But right now, with their music Sons Of An Illustrious Father offer a soundtrack of rejuvenation within the chaos. Caught at the juncture between tearing it all down or building something new, the future is whatever they choose to make of it. As they sing on ‘U.S. Gay’, “if you wanna fuck shit up I’ll fuck with you, and if you want to fix it up we can do that too.”
Taken from the February issue of Dork. Sons Of An Illustrious Father’s new album ‘Deus Sex Machina: Or, Moving Slowly Beyond Nikola Tesla’ is out now.
Words: Jessica Goodman