Oyster #98: Sons of an Illustrious Father
"We derive our power from bear meat."
Ezra Miller is very elusive, despite the success of his much talked about film We Need to Talk About Kevin. Luckily for us, we discovered that he is in a band — a pretty good one at that — and that one of our contributors went to school with one of his bandmates. Meet Sons of an Illustrious Father: Lilah Larson, Sofia Albam, Jake Generalli, Josh Aubin and Ezra Miller.
Steff Yotka: Lilah, we went to high school together…
Lilah Larson: This is true.
What memories of our high school experience would you say were… positive?
Larson: I don't know that I have an answer to that. Oh, no — my favourite memory is when our Art History professor showed us Grecian porn.
I don't remember that!
Larson: It definitely happened. It was ridiculous.
I've known Lilah for a long time, but I did some internet searching to get the scoop on the rest of you.
Ezra Miller: Uh-oh.
I noticed that there are a tonne of teen-girl fansites about you, Ezra.
Miller: I don't want to talk about it.
Because it makes you feel weird?
Miller: I feel very uncomfortable [laughs]. I'm scared.
Larson: A fun note, though, is that most of our fans — as a band — are pre-teen girls. A lot of them tell us very interesting things.
What kind of "interesting things"?
Larson: Someone asked us to send her samples of our pubic hair to attach to a giant sculpture of an unfolded skull.
Did you do it?
Miller: No! No way! You don't want somebody being able to, you know, clone you.
That would be 'Sons of Sons of an Illustrious Father'.
Miller: Brilliant, but terrifying [laughs]. We don't want anybody cloning our pubes. No pubic cloning! No! No! No!
How did you land on the band name?
Sofia Albam: I was reading a really bad translation of Plato's Republic, and someone was mentioned as a "son of an illustrious father". It was born out of a poorly translated philosophical text. It's pretty apt.
If you could trade places with any band, which would it be?
Larson: The Band.
Miller: They are literally the band.
Larson: There's already a The Band cover band called The 'The Band' Band, so we'd have to be something else.
'The Band Band' Band?
Miller: The 'The The Band Band' Band would be better.
Larson: Ezra would be Levon Helm, Jake's Robbie Robertson, and I'm Rick Danko, because he died young and fat. No, wait — he was old, but still fat [laughs].
If you were given the opportunity to have a superhuman power but you had to give up your musical ability, would you do it?
Miller: Whoa! I don't know.
Larson: For flying, maybe. I'm not sure. That's too difficult.
Miller: Could I learn how to play drums again, or would I be completely tone-deaf and musically incompetent?
I guess you could teach yourself how to play drums, but you'd have to start from the absolute beginning.
Miller: Then maybe.
Larson: No. It's not worth it.
Miller: But flying… I don't know. Next question.
You just recorded your second album, One Body, in pretty unusual conditions, right?
Miller: It was suicidal and perilous.
Why do you say that?
Larson: We wanted to record an album with this guy Oliver Ignatius.
Miller: I met him on a trampoline on Halloween, and he was like, "Hey, man. Are you in a band? I have a studio." I said, "I think you're going to record us." Then Jake showed up.
Jake Generalli: And then we were like, "We're all on acid!"
Larson: But his studio was filled with talking birds, so Ezra's mother graciously let us record at her dance studio during the winter.
Miller: It's a small house and a massive uninsulated barn on a mountain in Vermont.
Did you ever think that recording in an uninsulated barn in the winter was not such a good idea?
Larson: Well, there was one day when the handyman called us to say, "You can't go outside today or your eyeballs will freeze."
Miller: Essentially we put ourselves in this survival scenario. To an outer ear it might sound like a bad idea, but there was something in the struggle of fighting the cold that gave us drive. We gave birth to the necessity that then mothered our invention.
Larson: Which then was sort of a Rosemary's Baby–type situation [laughs].
Miller: Yeah, but a baby nonetheless.
I noticed that alcoholism, love and sorrow are major themes in your lyrics. Is your songwriting based on your personal experience?
Miller: Ugh, she's totally onto us. We pretty much entirely draw from personal sorrows. It's interesting to write from an emotional perspective on a chapter of your life, and then be playing it in later chapters.
Larson: We also spend so much time together that a lot of our songs are about each other.
Does it ever feel too much like a family?
Josh Aubin: No.
Larson: I thought we talked about you not talking during this, Josh? [Laughs]
When you're together do you live together?
Miller: Yes. In the periods of time when we're together, we are really, epically together: living on a bus, living in Lilah's house, living in Vermont on a mountain.
Larson: Living off of bear meat [laughs].
You ate bear meat?
Larson: We were on the mountain recording, and we had run out of food. Marta [Miller's mom] said we could eat anything except the unmarked meat because it was bear meat. So, we ate the bear meat.
Miller: We owe it all to that bear.
Generalli: We derive our power from bear meat.
All of you are really involved with Occupy Wall Street. What makes you want to be a part of that movement?
Miller: The world is moving in a terrifying direction, following the one steering factor of profit. It's not even a matter of politics anymore — it's a human safety issue. If we don't start seriously re-addressing the factors that control our relations to the Earth and to one another, then it's looking like a pretty bad scene. Occupy granted us something that we've all been searching for a long time.
Lilah, you were even arrested during a protest, right?
Larson: Yeah, during the eviction night I just happened to be in the wrong line of people. It was really sudden. The police were in full riot-gear and they started hitting us with the shields. Then, completely out of nowhere, they pepper-sprayed everyone. I was trying to talk to the cops, and I just said the wrong thing and pissed off the commanding officer. He pointed me out of the group, so then two cops grabbed me and I was thrown onto the sidewalk with four grown men pinning me down.
Oh my God!
Larson: I was the first person to be booked in jail, but I was the last person to leave.
Miller: Right, and just to bring up some basic constitutional facts…
Larson: I was never read my rights.
Larson: I was never told what I was being charged with.
Larson: I couldn't make a call outside of the five boroughs [of New York City], so I couldn't call my family. It was around 30 hours in total without ever being told why I was there or when I would get out. I was finally charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest because I resisted being beaten. It actually said on the sheet with my charges that I was blocking an entire sidewalk, which… I'm five feet two inches tall!
Miller: Yes, but Lilah — you're seven feet wide! [Laughs] That's why you're so useful to the movement.
Where do you hope to see the Occupy movement going in the future?
Generalli: There are laws in America that have to change. People go into government for profit, not to ethically and morally govern our country. Miller: In the interim what is essential is that we start learning how to take care of one another — just as fellow human beings. It really does come down to that. That's what makes us different from octopi, or whatever sea creature we've evolved from.
That would be 'Octopi Wall Street', I think.
Miller: Yes! [Laughs] Octopi Wall Street — we'll work on starting that.
Interview and Sittings Editor: Steff Yotka
Photography: Stef Mitchell
Production: Georgina Koren
Sons of an Illustrious Father wear all vintage from Amarcord, Fabulous Fanny's, Resurrection, Screaming Mimi's and Stella Dallas, except where otherwise noted.