Sons are dead pleased about big support slot

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WITH enormous hangovers, Tom Rowley and Mathew Byrne are very much the Dead Sons they profess to be.

But not for long.

Slumped over two huge cups of black coffee in a Sheffield cafe, these scribes of sinister alt indie soon join the world of the living. Post coffee, Rowley and Byrne are on top, chatty form.

This isn’t the first hangover Dead Sons have endured. “We’re used to this – we’ve been doing it for about ten years,” says Byrne.

But recently the band had a break from their bacchanalian pursuits: “We decided to have a drinking hiatus after Christmas and gave it up for a month,” says Byrne. “It wasn’t a group decision – just something all of us realised might do us good.”

It was a good job – Dead Sons are a busy band. And this year will be crucial to the band’s musical career. Only one year after forming, Dead Sons have set up a permanent base at which to rehearse (complete with elaborate lighting and a gramophone), they’re releasing a single and are already plotting a UK tour.

But that’s not all.

There’s another, rather special addition to Dead Son’s hectic 2011 schedule – one of which most bands can only dream.

The Sheffield group have been invited to support the Arctic Monkeys for the group’s giant homecoming show at the Don Valley Bowl.

This news inevitably broke the boozing hiatus: “We got the call from (Arctic Monkeys manager) Geoff Barradale and couldn’t believe it – we had to have a few drinks to celebrate. That was the end of our month off. It didn’t last long,” says Byrne.

But Dead Sons are keeping their cool, despite securing the support slot for one of the most successful bands in the world. “We’re not that nervous but not in an arrogant way – we’ve decided to treat it like any other gig and there’s not a great lot of pressure on us at the moment, it’s more about the exposure.”

They will certainly have that. The Arctic Monkeys’ Don Valley Bowl show sold out in seven minutes. In the time taken to read up to this point, the Sheffield Arena box ofice had flogged more than 20,000 tickets for the June show.

Dead Sons have definitely landed on their feet.

And, like many of their musical contemporaries in Sheffield, they are going about their music in true DIY fashion – they have their own HQ and are releasing material themselves on a white label. The band’s base is at Crystal Ship, a musical complex established by Bromheads frontman Tim Hamptom.

“Lots of bands are just doing it themselves now. That’s what’s good about Crystal Ship, where we have our studio. It’s a place where lots of bands rent studio space and get together to make the music they want to make,” says Byrne.

And next month Dead Sons release their own double-A side single I Am the Lords and City Nights. The latter is the West Coast-style, light-hearted antidote to the dark, gritty and moody I Am the Lord (described by one fan as a ‘snakebite’ of a song).

The single marks a shift in Dead Sons’ songwriting – chiefly the efforts of Rowley. “I was writing a lot of darker material and wanted to write something that wasn’t ‘I want to kill myself’ – I’ve been listening to a lot of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen so I’ve been influenced by them.

“When you’re writing songs it’s a perpetual cycle of moods feeding into songs and songs feeding into moods. It’s easy to get stuck in that cycle”

And, like Tom Waits, many of Rowley’s lyrics are character-centred: “There is one song that’s based on a character in Sheffield who moved away from Sheffield. They loved Sheffield but don’t come here much any more.

“It’s about the relationship with them and how you no longer know what’s going off in their lives because they’re not around.”

Rowley records many of the songs on his own and then takes his ideas to the group, who will add instrumentation and harmonies.

“It’s great being in a band where the players are multi-instrumentalists, we have an organ and strings, which means when you’re writing the songs you can use a wider range of sounds.

“It’s very liberating not to be trapped within the confines of bass, guitar and drums.”

One of the key inspirations to Dead Sons’ harmony-led numbers is the Fleet Foxes: “I just love that Mykonos song – the harmonies are amazing.”

Other influences include Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra: “They did an album together and it’s so good,” says Rowley.

“I haven’t been listening to much new music lately – apart from the Fleet Foxes – just old stuff.”

Except their own music, of course, which they will have to become very familiar with between now and the Don Valley show in June.

By the time that date comes round, Dead Sons will have been together only 18 months yet they will be playing a show for which most bands will wait a lifetime in front of a 10,000 crowd.

Dead Sons play at DQ in Fitzwilliam Street on March 4. Their single is out at the start of next month.