Ever feel like somebody is following you? Then you know the spooky feeling that brought the members of Texas roots group Sons of Fathers together. David Beck and Paul Cauthen had crossed paths many times before, but one day at a park in San Marcos, Texas, the coincidence was too much to ignore.
“I was walking in with my guitar and my writing notebook, and Dave was walking out with his guitar and book,” Cauthen said. After introducing themselves and comparing notes, they discovered they had similar tastes and tried writing a song together. And the ideas kept flowing.
“We knocked out an incredible number of songs in two days,” Cauthen noted.
Featuring a rich harmony that comes naturally to the pair, they’ve been compared to the Avett Brothers, the Byrds and the Everly Brothers. For their self-titled debut album, produced by Lloyd Maines, the singer-songwriters lovingly captured scenes and sounds from their home state. Flatlands give way to rolling hillsides, big cities lure young men from isolated towns and massive wind turbines loom in the distance. Meanwhile, a restrained groove of country-rock rolls on in the background.
However, the band’s course was nearly derailed when alt-rock icon Beck took issue with the band’s original name, Beck & Cauthen, forcing them to scrap it. After some scrambling, Sons of Fathers was chosen and the name became a rallying cry. Both men are grounded in the past yet looking to leave their own mark.
Bassist and vocalist David Beck called in to CMT.com to talk about landing on the other Beck’s radar, why roots are important and the culture shock that goes along with leaving the Lone Star State.
Can you tell me a little bit about your band?
Beck: Me and Paul Cauthen started it, and it’s a collaboration. Our biggest thing is that we sing in two-part harmony. You know, like the Everly Brothers or Simon & Garfunkel and all that stuff. It’s kind of a like a rootsy, indie-country thing.
And what is it about harmony that really speaks to you?
I feel when more than one person is involved in music, it’s a more true, well-rounded and honest thing because you have more minds into the song.
You guys had to change your name recently. What was that all about?
We were originally called Beck & Cauthen, just our last names. And we started rocking and started getting some momentum going, and Beck — the Beck — sent us a little cease-and-desist order. It was pretty wild because it meant everything we had put a bunch of work into and a bunch of hours setting up — our website, our T-shirts, our CDs, our publicity, everything that we had just worked on — now had to be done again. But we did it, and we did things the second time around how we should have done them the first time. So I take it all as a blessing. We had been toying with that name — Sons of Fathers — when we started the group, and I think actually it’s a better name, and it kind of represents what we do better than Beck & Cauthen.
What is it about that phrase, “Sons of Fathers,” that’s really important to you?
Our heritage is very important for good things and bad things. It made us who we are. And it’s just kind of a statement on your roots and trying to do something with your life that’s important and that will last.
Speaking of roots, your dad [Bill Whitbeck] plays bass for Robert Earl Keen?
Yeah, so that obviously was a huge influence on my life. And Paul’s father and grandfather were both very powerful business-driven people that didn’t back down for anything. That plays a huge part in this band and his background.
Which one of you does the high harmony?
I sing high, Paul sings low. It’s fun. Our voices, we don’t have to try. I don’t have to try to sing the high part. I just naturally sing high, and Paul naturally sings low. So when we’re singing together, we can both give it all 100 percent comfortably, and it works. I think that’s the key to it.
I really like the imagery in “Wind Turbines.” What is it about them that inspired you?
Those are amazing machines. Physically it’s a very clean-looking device. Out in Lubbock, if you’ve ever been to West Texas, it’s pretty desolate. There’s a point when you’re driving out to Lubbock on Highway 87, and you come over one hill, and as far as you can see across the whole sky are all these wind turbines, and they’re all turning. It’s really an amazing sight. And also there’s the idea of gathering all the energy from the wind and sending it off to the city.
People describe Texas as its own country. Being from there, do you get that?
I totally feel that. There are people that never leave this state. It’s huge — about the size of Germany. And it’s very diverse, and it’s kind of self-sustaining in a way. There are a lot of artists that are doing really well, and they stay within Texas. It’s cool for us when we go to the East Coast and can travel two hours and we’re in a different state with a whole different type of people. That’s pretty crazy to us. When we go up and down the East Coast, it’s just a culture shock every 100 miles.