After listening to Daughters and Sons' four blistering slabs of joyous Funk/Rock on their MySpace page, it's hard to imagine Willy Morren as depressed, on the verge of abandoning music. Not long ago, that seemed a distinct option for the affable guitarist.
"I quit playing because I couldn't get people together," Morren says from the band's Northside rehearsal space. "Every time something good happened, it would break down."
One of Morren's gigs was the Hendrix-tinged power trio Nitty Irving's Family, "Nitty" being Morren's longstanding nickname ("I'm trying to kill that name, but it just won't die ..."). After recording a CD and playing out consistently, Morren felt a creeping sense of dissatisfaction.
"It was fun and it was easy but it wasn't my thing," Morren says. "We did some good things."
With the idea of quitting music a definite possibility, Morren was talked into a friendly jam session last year by a previous drummer and the spark returned. Morren then serendipitously met bassist James Cooney, who joined for a lark.
As a new band coalesced in Morren's mind, the drummer suddenly quit, potentially ending the project. Ryan Mitchell's arrival kept things moving forward, although his introduction was underwhelming.
"I failed the audition," Mitchell says with a laugh. "I don't know why they invited me back."
"He was a completely different person when he came back," Morren jokes. "He went to the Shaolin Temple of drums for a week and intensively studied."
Mitchell quickly got up to speed and the trio envisioned possibilities looming on the horizon, specifically adding keyboards and horns to create the brand of Funk and Rock that had defined Sly and the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield and the Royal Crescent Mob.
"I sweated in a Mob audience many times," Morren says.
A piece at a time, Daughters and Sons fell into place. Keyboardist Kevin Cooper signed on (his hectic schedule keeps him from attending every gig, so he platoons with keyboardist Tom Eliopulos), followed in short order by trumpeter Alan Bothe (introduced to the band by his banker father, who works with Mitchell) and tenor saxophonist Greg Hurd (who found the band on Cincymusic.com and maneuvered his schedule with the Rusty Van Band). With the addition of tight horns, the raucous Funk sound that Morren had imagined came to glorious fruition.
"I think we all had big ideas," Mitchell says. "We wanted keys and female vocalists in order to make the name work — we haven't found that yet."
"When I thought about this, I said, 'I want to make what I want to make,' and the decision to play again wasn't anything more than hearing the next song I might write," Morren says. "If I can give that to myself, I'll keep writing music I wanted to do in the first place."
So far, Daughters and Sons has entertained talk from some local labels on the basis of the four song demo, but they've written a wealth of material that they hope to record later this year. With everyone working a day job — and some moonlighting in other bands — they recognize the need for someone with strong management skills to sort out the band's business aspects.
Semi-regular shows at Stanley's, the Blue Rock Cafe and Baba Budan's have attracted wide ranging audiences and generated an impressive positive response — Funk, Jam and Punk fans have all found something to enjoy. But like all bands at their level, Daughters and Sons has done its share of dodgy gigs.
"A couple of gigs it's been like, 'I know I'm in a band and playing, but what am I doing here? How did I get here?," Bothe says with a laugh.
"We've been trying to talk Ryan out of the phrase, 'No gig's a bad gig," Hurd deadpans. "Some of them are."
Although Daughters and Sons might mean different things to each individual member, Morren has an underlying philosophy for this band that provides him personal motivation.
"It's the answer to the question, 'What the hell is wrong with people?' It's the unifier," Morren says. "I joke onstage sometimes, 'We are Daughters and Sons, and so are you.' Every living thing came from some kind of mother. So, this is my little answer for how to quit letting people make other people frown. Everybody gets hungry, everybody gets tired, everybody feels bad and everybody needs help. Whatever else you want to think about, that's the universal truth. Telling them that they are a daughter or son and that they had a mother and so do you is a way to point that out."
DAUGHTERS AND SONS (myspace.com/nittyirving) perform Saturday at Baba Budan's in Clifton.