The United Sons Of Toil

by Mike Huberty
May 2008

Russell Hall of the United Sons of Toil from Madison

Russell Hall of the United Sons of Toil from Madison

Describing themselves as “noisy Midwestern math-rock delivered by populist theoreticians,” THE UNITED SONS OF TOIL blend hyper-literate lyrics with pounding instrumentation on their upcoming record. A veritable Madison super-group (even though they’d most definitely hate that appellation), their lineup consists of guitarist/singer, Russell Hall (of POUND WI and P’ELVIS), bassist Bill Borowski (from THE ARGE, ATALANTA, and gorilla-suit wearing surf-rock masters, KNUCKELDRAGER) and drummer Chad Burnett (who doubles in guitar for COLONY OF WATTS.)

According to Hall, it started because he “was a huge fan of Colony of Watts and would go to all the shows”, he says. “With their guitarist, I found a shared love of mid-to-late 90’s Touch and Go, AmRep, and Dischord bands.” He describes their influences as “Stripped-down, aggressive, indie-rock post-punk Chicago sound. Like a Big Black, Jesus Lizard and Tar vibe. Chad and I became friends because we shared similar aesthetics. I asked him if he was interested in playing in a noisy, math-rock band”.

It’s that vibe and the lineup that Hall is most excited about. “I’ve played in a lot of bands and this band feels a lot less like work than any other band I’ve been in,” he says. Indeed, he almost gave up rock music in 2003 and went to sample-based electronica for nearly two full years. “We’ve never raised our voices at each other about writing songs or what gigs we’re going to play. It’s a joy to play with people who are not only competent but imaginative. Those two things don’t always go hand in hand.”

Their first gig was at the Firecracker Studio opening in 2006. The next week they recorded their first record, Songs of the Great Patriotic War: Hope is not a strategy. And it’s on that record that Hall says new fans can find a great introduction to the band.  “Revolutionary Panic Attacks encapsulates all the different kinds of things that we do, that sums it up pretty well.”

The name of the new record is Until Lions Have Their Historians, Tales of the Hunt Shall Always Glorify The Hunter and it was recorded at Science of Sound Studios with Ricky Riemer from Madison act, Transformer Lootbag, engineering. The record release will be an all-ages performance May 24th at The Project Lodge on East Johnson Street in Madison. “I really like playing in non-traditional venues,” Hall states, “The week before that we’ll be at Mickey’s Tavern. It’s still a bar but it’s a non-traditional venue.”

As far as their unique moniker, it came from “a labor union of primarily poor Irish immigrants that worked on a railroad in Australia in the 1890’s. We were casting about for names for this band and I was looking at a journal that I kept when I was traveling in Australia and written inside the front cover was The United Sons of Toil.” The album title comes from the same kind of inspiration. According to Hall, “It’s an ancient African proverb. It’s pretty powerful; most of our lyrics are pretty left-leaning, socialist rants about injustice, more or less.” And with Noam Chomsky and Socialism listed as some of their political influences on their Myspace page, you can see what he’s going for. “It’s a pretty powerful statement if they’re taking it apart. The people that are getting exploited aren’t going to get their tales told unless somebody stands up for them. In general, it’s the strong or the elite or the exploiters that get remembered because they have the power to hire people who will tell their story. Lyrically, most of the lyrics of the songs on this new record are about the exploitation of indigenous people. Half of the songs are about Native Americans, forced marches, and genocide, and that sort of thing.  This is just me kind of looking around and seeing injustice. I’ve stopped drinking, so I don’t have the same inner battles, now I have to look outward to see what pisses me off.”

As for what people can look forward to at their May shows at Mickey’s and the Project Lodge, Hall laughs, “I’m a spaz onstage, you’re going to see a good show.”

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