Trends and styles may change in music, but there are just some things that are timeless…like songwriting from the heart with ear-catching melodies and rich harmony vocals. The team of David Beck (a stage name as his real name is David Whitbeck) and Paul Cauthen has created Sons of Fathers, a band with a soaring, original sound that belies their young age. They have been compared to the Avett Brothers, The Byrds, and The Everly Brothers, albeit with an infusion of Texas grease.
Beck and Cauthen came together when each was working on a solo project in San Marcos, Texas. Though the two had met casually, a chance encounter at Thompson’s Island in a park on the Blanco River led them to join forces. Paul remembers, “I was walking in with my guitar and my writing notebook and Dave was walking out with his guitar and book.” As soon as the Texans starting writing and singing together, they realized that they had found something special. “We knocked out an incredible number of songs in two days,” says Paul.
Singing together came just as easily. “It’s the weirdest thing. The harmony is the last thing we worry about. We just fall into sockets of harmony naturally,” says Paul.
Originally called Beck & Cauthen, the group received a letter from representatives of Beck (the artist who performed ‘Odelay’ and ‘Mellow Gold’). “We had used the phrase ‘Sons of Fathers’ long before we wrote the song and we have changed the band name. It was a sign for us to change the name to something that included the whole band, not just a duo. We are all in this together and we all play a role.” Augmented with Regan Schmidt on guitar and lap steel and Dees Stribling on drums, the band functions as an organic unit.
Sons of Fathers is an especially appropriate name as Beck and Cauthen’s heritage has helped make them who they are. Cauthen, a native of Tyler, Texas, began singing in the church at the age of seven and learning guitar from his grandfather, a preacher. He says, “Granddad was a hell of a musician. He chose the Church of Christ instead of the church of rock and roll. I remember learning to sing harmonies in the bathtub at six years old in Tyler, Texas.” Paul now has a tattoo of his grandfather’s signature on his arm and says that his grandfather influences his sense of spirituality to this day.
Beck was raised in San Marcos, Texas, the son of Bill Whitbeck, a respected and renowned touring musician. “It was a different lifestyle for a young son. Dad was always on the road for business. We’ve learned from what our fathers and grandfathers have done and put those lessons into our lives,” he reflects.
The band also has tremendous respect for their matriarchs, having written the poignant song “Mother Dear.” David says, “We have really similar mothers, working hard every day, sacrificing for her kids.” Paul is also grateful, saying, “We both had solid rocks for moms. They were always there.”
The album has numerous other keepers. The rolling “Wind Turbines” is another album highlight. “It’s about finding who you are, finding your place in that. There are a bunch of turbines working and you’re just one of them,” says David. He came up with the idea for this song and the rocking, slide guitar-driven “Flatland” driving to a gig in west Texas. It captures the rhythm of the road and the wind-swept vistas only Texas can deliver.
“Adam & Eve” is a song of commonality and romance. Paul simply says, “Everything rolls around on itself.” The song may be among the most original metaphors for what it’s like to find the kind of true love that is strong enough to beget a dynasty. Cauthen adds, “Written in Brooklyn, New York just before Christmas. Three heathens from Texas singing loud at a friend’s house in Williamsburg, harmonizing late into the night. Space Heater humming along, sirens slipping through the glass. Words from home, flown by doves came through the chimney onto the table, covered in magazines and cans. Sunday morning and Saturday night spinning in and out.”
“The Country” is a narrative about an interrupted rural existence, of a man forced to take a job in the city and his discomfort as he sits in his “ten by twenty room,” missing his former life.
The catalog they have written displays elements of all their most righteous influences. Be it a country shuffle reminiscent of Robert Earl Keen, an Americana folk song steeped in the lyrical weight of Bob Dylan, or a genre-bending tune recalling the Beatles, Sons of Fathers possess something unique. “Our favorite songwriters are the most timeless ones Dylan, Paul Simon, McCartney, Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. We also love the Texas writers: Robert Earl Keen, Willis Alan Ramsey, Roger Miller,” says Paul.
As they worked up their original compositions, they began to include finely tuned elements from their live show, incorporating tight Everly-esque harmonies and high energy live arrangements. In the spring of 2011, the band ventured into the studio in the hill country town of Doss, Texas. David says, “Being up there focused us and cleared our minds.”
Legendary producer Lloyd Maines joined them to co-produce their debut album. “Lloyd put the old soul way of doing things on our record, made sure everything was flowing,” says David.
For a new band, they have accomplished much in a short period of time. Most notably, they made their live radio debut on WXPN’s Free at Noon series in August, 2011, a rare event for a new band without a record out. WXPN’s Bruce Warren said, “Their rich vocal harmonies are nothing short of moving.” They have also played at the legendary Gruene Hall.
Radio programmer and media consultant Jessie Scott of Music Fog, who has spent her career bringing great music to audiences around the country; and Marty Schwartz, who knows something about harmonies having begun his career working with the Eagles and Elektra during the recording of ‘Hotel California,’ became involved after they heard startlingly amazing demos. Schwartz also works with McVay Media, a radio consultancy and currently with Gold Mountain Entertainment. Schwartz heard one song, Sons of Fathers’ “Adam & Eve,” and got on the next plane to Austin to see the band in person.
Soon, the music of Sons of Fathers will not only be timeless, but a timely reminder of how great music can be.