Take some Jeff Buckley, maybe a little Bill Callahan, and a pinch of Nick Drake’s melancholy lyrics and you have something that might resemble Orange County alternative folk outfit Preacher’s Sons. We spoke with frontman Brandon Pfaff recently in anticipation of the band’s January 29th showcase performance at The Constellation Room in Santa Ana.
With such well-crafted songs, we wanted the scoop on Brandon Pfaff’s writing style and process. “For the most part, I lack discipline when it comes to songwriting. I would hardly consider myself organized. I keep most everything I write down, but, generally that collection consists of scraps of paper stuffed into folders for the sake of holding onto the original copy. At some point everything ends up in a Word document or in various states stored in my head somewhere. The writing process is usually sporadic” he said. The songs on Looks Like a Flood, Feels Like a Drought as well as more recent demos don’t sound sporadic. We think organic is a more accurate descriptor. Pfaff elbarotes: “I take my time processing things and eventually it all sort of spills out when it’s time to turn thoughts into a song. There are times that the lyrics come first, or at least partial lyrics. I’ve been writing songs long enough now that it’s less of an issue what comes first for me, and more an issue of knowing when to run with an idea, whether lyrics or music, or deciding to scrap something and move on, even if that means waiting a while for something meaningful to arrive.”
Songs like”Then It All Went Wrong” from of Looks Like a Flood and the acoustic demo “Disillusionment” are heartfelt, bittersweet, and resonate with the sadness and wonder of the human experience. The songs skate the fine line between being deeply personal and universally relatable: “At the core, I think I’m inspired by personal experiences, and stories of other experiences people endure. Lately, most of the music that I’m producing is some way related to personal struggles in come coming to terms with the death of a close family member and just my own mortality in general. I try not to make my songs so intensely personal that it’s awkward or alienating. I think I learned the hard way when I was younger. You can write lots of intimate personal songs about something, most likely a person you’re in love with when you’re 16 or 17, and then it all ends and it’s too hard to play those songs or they suddenly become worthless.” One thing is for sure: the music isn’t alienating. Preachers’ Sons manage to be mature and earnest at the same time. Pfaff explains how he matured as a songwriters: “Over the years I’ve found it more meaningful try and speak to a more universal audience. I don’t know how conscious of a process it was, but at some point it became interesting to take the truth of my experiences, whether joyful or desperate, and convert them into songs that fit into the larger puzzle of life. There are plenty of personal references in my songs, but they are usually buried a few layers deep, or adjusted in a way that would encourage more audience interpretation. “
The joy and despair of Pfaff’s songs are not only a result of his life experiences. He shared some of his major influences: “I like books, movies, and music that walk the same line. I feel like Flannery O’Connor’s writing speaks directly to my soul. She makes me feels happy, hopeless, convicted, and redeemed all at once. [...] In the last year I’ve been listening to tons of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Blake Mills, and Gillian Welch. Bonnie challenges me to write things that are a little outside of the box, Blake Mills makes me feel like I can hardly play guitar, and Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings set the bar super high for what it means to have some serious chemistry in a musical group. Longtime favorites are Wilco and The Weakerthans. In general, I’m a fan of bands/songwriters who are thoughtful lyrically and fairly straightforward with their musical arrangements.” One can certainly hear the fragility of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s (Will Oldham) voice, the precision of Gillian Welch’s songwriting, and offbeat arranging style of Blake Mills in the music of Preacher’s Sons. All comparisons aside, we can’t wait to hear this group bring their unique brand of folk to the Constellation Room this Tuesday.
You can listen to Preacher’s Sons’ music through their website
Learn more at Preacher’s Sons” Facebook.
The 2013 Showcase Series runs every Tuesday night, January 8th-February 26th with stops at:
Jan 29 – Constellation Room
Feb 5 – Tiki Bar
Feb 12 – Founders Hall
Feb 19 – Yost Theater
Feb 26 – House of Blues-Anaheim
LEARN MORE AT: OCMUSICAWARDS.COM