Interview with SONS OF LIBERTY
Interviewed by Paul Hutchings
Sons of Liberty is a Southern rock band from the West Country. They’ve been around as Sons of Liberty for nearly a decade and have a high pedigree, with appearances across Europe as well as several high-profile festivals in the UK. A couple of warm up shows for their forthcoming UK tour (more of that later) saw them return to the excellent Patriot – Home of Rock in Crumlin just outside Newport, Wales. Paul headed down to catch the show, with support from Blackwater Redemption, and took the opportunity for a quick chat with four of the band, Fred Hale (guitar), Rob Walker (vocals), Mark Thomas (bass) and Steve Byrne (drums).
We began by exploring the band’s history. Sons of Liberty formed in 2014. “Yeah, nine years” confirms Fred.
How did the band get together?
Fred: We started out as a kind of southern rock covers band apart from Rob. The rest of us, have been in bands, around Bristol and the South Wales area so we knew each other anyway.
Rob: Yeah, we’re very old. But I’ve never dirtied myself with the Bristol thing! (He’s a Brummie).
Fred: We had the idea of setting the band up. We knew who we wanted to ask to be in the band, but unfortunately none of them wanted to be in it, so we ended up this motley crew! (cue laughter from around the room) And then Rob joined last year. Back in 2016/17 we decided to have a go out right in our own stuff and it was it was really timely. Bands like Blackstone Cherry, Whiskey Myers, Blackberry Smoke, The Cadillac Three were starting that whole thing, so we just sort of decided it was a good thing to do. We went into basically demo for the first EP. It went down as well as the other stuff we were doing so we just got the bug again. We’d all been in original bands. When we were young, you know, in the scene. Then the music scene moved away from guitar & bass music. It completely died and then it’s massively picked up with the new wave of classic rock stuff.
It’s worth interjecting here because whilst the NWOCR is certainly a movement that seems to continue to gain momentum, does a Southern Rock band necessarily fit?
Fred: I think the thing is, you know, we were around the first time. Yeah, Back then Reading wasn’t a metal festival. You had Blackfoot, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Susie Quattro all on the same bill as Black Sabbath, it was just music back then. I think the press of created the distinctions but it’s just rock music, guitar-based rock music… and that’s back.
It’s certainly a valid point. When you are writing about music, the range and breadth of genres that are described in the EPKs can be overwhelming.
Rob: As the boys say, at the end of the day, music is music. And if you like it, you like it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s, southern, whether it’s metal, or whether it’s rock, it’s music at the end of the day, it makes us all get up in the morning and it makes my heart burst every single day. Playing with these guys, it’s been so much fun, because it’s so far away from all the other styles, you know, the death metal and the black metal that everybody’s captioning these days. It’s just fun and that’s the way that music that moves you should be.
And you should be able to listen to southern rock and then put on the Darkthrone album and then put on a Bolt Thrower album, then put on Iron Maiden. God, if you shoot my playlist on Spotify you’d be absolutely mortified. Everything from, you know, Tamela Motown through to Lamb of God. How could you pocket that into one thing?20 labels.
The change in the way music happens and is created is obviously very different to when Sons (and I!) were first listening to rock. I suggest that bands like Mason Hill and Those Damn Crows would have been hitting the top of the UK album charts in the 80s.
Yeah, of course. Yeah. It seems different, you know, it’s a lot more on independence now. And bands, you can self-release your music. We’re not tied to a label. We do it ourselves because unless you’re really on a massive major label, it’s not much point. But the scene is really healthy because it’s very easy to get music out. You can do it yourself.
Yeah, and we’ve got so much good music. Great platforms as well that you’re able to get that music out on, you know, and obviously the social medias and the, the Internet sort of things now, has made it so much easier for you to get that music out there and the fans will then appreciate that and then that’s down to them, you know?
Rob: I think that’s one of the things that I really liked about joining these guys was because people just like what they do. And then I became encapsulated in that. Oh my god. People like what we do. And it’s infectious and I think that’s the thing with the music that we do, and you know the new album that’s coming out is infectious. Yeah. And it will continue to be there.
At this point we backtrack a little to the band’s debut release in 2019. It was released just in time for the pandemic to strike.
Steve: Yeah, we were going to tour it and then Covid hit, Yeah, 2019. We started to tour it and we had loads lined up in 2020.
Fred: It started well, the album came out in September, or October. And so, we had the tail end of the year which was great and then 2020 was, well, we had 50 or 60 gigs booked … we were going to be here, there, and everywhere. And we got to March, and we think this is, you know just starting to kick off, everything’s looking good. Then we had well, not just us but the world.
(During the time off the road, the band were creative in that they wrote the next album “Aces & Eight”, utilising the bizarre difference in regional tiers to get together to work on the music). When our area was in tier four, Plymouth was in tier two, so we were able to go down and record it.
Was the band able to do anything differently because of the time available?
Fred: Yeah. When we were able to get into a rehearsal studio, you know, we did use the time really well. I think we did a few online performances; we did a lot during that period, and that meant that we really hit the ground running when we came out of it.
Rob: I’d not joined you boys before that point, but I watched so many bands fold over the whole period because they couldn’t get together or they couldn’t find what they were supposed to do, and they’d got no direction. To see you guys come out on the ball was amazing.
Returning to the return to live shows, we share some experiences about seated shows.
We did a couple of of the seated ones which was weird but people were so like pleased to get out again and do it. Yeah, 80 capacity and a 500-person venue. We played 200 cap venue in Chesterfield, and we got there, and there was just all these tables laid out and there here wasn’t a lot of tables. We were saying, What’s going on here? And then when people turned up and nobody was allowed to stand up or do anything and it was table service. Yeah, it was like playing to a room full of corpses. It was really weird, it was really good when you were on stage, and these people sat there head banging in their seats. For a lot of people we were one of the first bands that people saw after lockdown and it hasn’t stopped. Last year was just crazy.
One of the things that many bands have commented on is the changes in the audience post lockdown, some fans being cautious, others just glad to get back to what they loved. Have the band noticed any definitive changes in their crowd?
Some people were going back and saying we really got to go for it because we’ve got to embrace what we might have lost. But there was a lot of the audience I feel that were still scared to come out. It took a while before people decided. We decided we’d go out and play but there was the fact of going out and mixing again. I think everyone still wants to go out. I think it’s coming back now though. And I think this year people have started to say, well, you know we’re going out now. We can’t stay in for the rest of our lives. We’ve got the cost of living rises as well. A lot of people are more selective about what gigs they’re going to because the money’s not there as it used to be. There’s a show of confidence that’s come back within the scene and, you know, the crowds that we’ve seen at the gigs that we’ve played, they’ve been really good.
This naturally progresses to a conversation about ticket prices, arena shows etc. You’ll be unsurprised to know that Sons have an opinion about their preferences.
I think there are a lot of people who are having a look at the ticket prices and the booking fees and thinking, hang on a minute. I’m going to 20 local gigs, or I can go and see so and so. You know, 50, maybe even 60 bands with those gigs. The grassroots are where it’s at, you know?
It’s good to hear that Sons are getting good experiences and it seems that their view is reciprocated by the fans.
The scene as far as we’re concerned is as good as it ever been you. We played the O2 in Leicester a couple of weeks back and the response from the guys in there was just absolutely phenomenal. To be able to then make us accessible to go out to the merch stand, to then go and meet these guys, and you know it was in a day, with people coming up and buying merch and photos. And this you just don’t get that with the bigger bands. I went to Download to see Lamb of God and wanted nothing more than to go and just have a little chat with these guys, but they’re untouchable and unreachable. This is the benefit of grassroots.
It’s a point well made, and as Rob says, the people they meet aren’t fans, they are friends. The band then tell the story of being in France and having people come up to them, and saying “you, tomorrow” because they couldn’t believe that the band were out in the crowd the day before they played. It’s this kind of down to earth relationship that makes both Sons of Liberty and The Patriot so vital to the rock world. You want to be able to have a pint with people who’ve just entertained you and this can happen here.
Being accessible. That’s the key that these days. The fans want to feel involved. There’s a community. In the crowd, seeing you on the stage, they want that extra connection. And if you’re willing to give them the time that they deserve, because they’ve given us the time, to come and see us.
As support band Blackwater Redemption fire up their intro music in the main room above us, we move on to the final topic – the forthcoming tour with the legendary Preacher Stone that starts toward the end of March.
Yeah, we’re starting in the Thekla in Bristol [for those that don’t know, Thekla is a boat]. Yeah, come and help us load in if you want. It’s not the best load in!
The band test themselves with a list of dates, which include Bannerman’s in Edinburgh, Trillians in Newcastle, and Nightrain in Bradford. It’s a good looking tour with some great venues.
Yeah, we are really pleased and it’s a pinch yourself moment that we’re supporting a band we used to cover.
As the talk turns to what day they have on the tour to do their washing, and the fact that they are taking Preacher Stone to Liverpool for some sightseeing, it’s time to wrap it up and get upstairs. As you’ll have seen from my review, Sons of Liberty were on fire later on in the evening. If you can get to one of the shows with Preacher Stone [who featured on the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack] then I recommend you do. They take no prisoners and do it with more smiles than a Cheshire cat convention.
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Paul Hutchings and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.