In March, at the altruistic Bed-Stuy venue C’mon Everybody, the band Sons of an Illustrious Father delivered a blistering set for a rapt audience. It was the smallest venue I’d seen them in, after three shows at 2016’s SXSW and another last summer at the Knitting Factory. Their sets swerve enjoyably between savage and tender, and this intimate look stood out as a milestone. Their multi-instrumentalism was on display and working better than ever, the band’s affable personalities and unique chemistry shone through.The fans seemed steadfast and loyal—and not just because of the inevitable fanboys/girls who stick around after the show hoping to meet Ezra Miller, also an actor best known for his turn as Flash in Justice League.
Their new record, Deus Sex Machina, or, Moving Slowly Beyond Nikola Tesla, dropped June 1, along with new videos and a cross-country tour to promote it, including a 16-and-up show at Elsewhere on Tuesday. The slew of new interviews prompted me to continue our backstage-at-Stubb’s conversation by asking them what THEY wanted to talk about. Josh Aubin said it was “something we’ve never been asked in an interview”; Lilah Larson quipped, “Nobody cares what we want to talk about”; Ezra Miller said, “It’s honestly overwhelming,” and asked for some parameters. The following 45 minutes included a lot of laughter and encouraged Miller to say, “I can’t wait for whatever the piece [is] that comes out of this, where you’re like—I had an entire conversation with [the band] that is off the record, that I can’t tell you anything that they said—but it was all mildly amusing.” Here are some excerpts we can print; the debate about the most famous Star Wars line has been redacted for common decency.
[on Ezra hanging out in Hell’s Kitchen.]
Josh: That’s where Daredevil is. Have you seen him?
Ezra: It’s hilarious to come here and try to find the parts of Hell’s Kitchen that Daredevil plots take place in.. They don’t exist.
Lilah: We just finished binging this show the 3%. It’s a Brazilian show about a dystopian future in which a meritocracy has taken this very sinister turn. People are ghettoized and given one chance to make it into the highly modern paradise world, when they turn 20, and otherwise live in poverty and chaos. It’s so good.
Ezra: It’s a badass show.
Ezra: We have been writing stuff. Whenever we have enough time that we set aside with the intention of rehearsing stuff that we’ve already written, we always end up writing a bunch of songs. And this last time was definitely no exception. We’ve definitely got at least another album in the cooker. It’s the three-body problem, the three-songwriter problem. You just have too many songs.
Josh: It’s more just us keeping a couple steps ahead of the game.
Ezra: Josh has become the band’s official life coach. He does pep talks, he looks after our nutrition.
Josh: Lilah, did you get enough iron today?
Lilah: Have you seen me? Have you seen how pale I am? Never enough iron.
Josh: C’mon Everybody is the shit. That place rules.
Lilah: Wow, Josh.
Ezra: Part of Josh’s life coaching technique, he calls it echoing. It just reinforces—
Lilah: It’s supposed to be affirming.
Josh: It’s just to make sure everybody understands the energy people are really putting into the atmosphere. If you’re not really aware of what you’re putting out there, you’re not really gonna take it in the right way. That’s number 47 on the life coach book.
Ezra: I see that now in the pamphlet. (laughs)
[about playing under-21 shows]
Lilah: We’re trying to do more of those, we’ve got the one in Cleveland [coming up]. We want to create a sustainable model, for that, where we can target youth, who are the most avid music listeners. And really create an accessible space for them that is fruitful both as “fun listening to bands” and also can be a fortifying community space that they have autonomy over.
Ezra: We constantly hear from fans who are honestly rightfully bummed or angry that they can’t come to our show in their area because it’s over 21. And I remember that frustration so vividly—
Lilah: Yeah, it was heartbreaking.
Ezra: And feeling angry at everyone involved. So I think we want to try and find new models for us and hopefully experiment with templates that everyone can refer to, we can all make an effort to make music accessible to the people it often means the most to.
Lilah: For all of us, music was quite literally life-saving. It seems imperative to try to return on that positive impact.
Lilah: I feel if anything it made them apprehensive—“I don’t know about [that]…”
Ezra: It definitely can hinder people’s interest as much as it can potentially help it. If not more so. We did literally have that conversation with everyone who signed up to be on the team, being like, “Actor band? I don’t know.”
Lilah: It essentially came down to, like, “Would you die for this band?” And we were like, yes! (laughter). They had to know we were serious.
Ezra: Whatever foot of any person [that] first steps into the fame matrix is, like, you’re defined as that foot. Or they attempt to define you as that foot forever, no matter what it is. And that’s true even of people who only work in one medium but who want to do that in a varied and interesting and dynamic way. And we as a mass population tend to be like, “but what about the way your foot was doing it when it first showed up?”
[doing “two things” derails into a sidebar about George W. Bush being a painter, with much laughter]
Ezra: He was a mass murderer.
Lilah: A lot of mass murderers are great artists.
Ezra: I know, but people don’t want to hear that shit. Get out of here with that. You know why, it’s really hard to shake when your first foot into the fame matrix is the mass murderer foot. That’s the worst one. No one wants to see those Bundy paintings.
Lilah: Mostly because they’re on human skin.
Ezra: How are you feeling about the decision to ask us what we want to talk about?
[after a conversation about how Ezra’s demeanor in a new video is slightly different than his onstage demeanor during said song]
Ezra: We should tell them we’re all actually actors. Oh, gosh, this is the new thing, guys, when people ask us questions about me being an actor. We should tell them we’re all actors, and that this band is actually just us playing the roles of people in a band.
Lilah: Ooh, I like that.
Ezra: This is our performance. This is one of Ezra’s film franchises that he’s a part of.
Lilah: Or, alternatively, we’re all Ezra Miller. We take turns. We’re such good actors that you could never tell.
Ezra: That’s how we can start explaining why we play the different instruments too —you don’t understand what acting can mean and look like. Which is like real shapeshifting shit.
Josh: Which just means we never play different instruments.
Lilah: It just looks like we’re playing different ones.
Lilah: Guys, I want you to know during the course of this conversation, I painted my nails grey, and they look amazing.