Sons of Bill Talk "Sirens"
Wed, 10 Oct 2012 10:33:42
Music's often better when it's a family affair.
Sons of Bill led by brothers James, Sam, and Abe Wilson make invigorating and infectious rock 'n' roll like only siblings can. The Charlottesville, VA outfit stands locked into a tight groove that's utterly unshakable on their latest effort Sirens. It's hypnotic and heartfelt collection that'll have you singing along immediately.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief, singer and guitarist James Wilson talks Sirens and so much more.
Did you approach Sirens with one vision or vibe in mind?
There are three writers in the band. Any one person can have a vision, but my brothers and I share equal writing. At the same time, we're on the same page. We're fans of an older generation of rock 'n' roll. We're not always up on the current bands coming out. We're all big Replacements and early R.E.M. fans. We're early '90s fans. We wanted to take the sound of rock 'n' roll we love and make it relevant for what our generation is doing. We also pull in the Americana and country influences we grew up with. Sonically, we were all on the same page with the kind of record we wanted to make. We wanted to try and use tape and hit that sound between '88 and '94. You're still tracking everything to analog, but it's really high fidelity. It's not low fidelity. All of those things mix together to create the sound of the record as a whole.
What's the story behind "Virginia Calling?"
That was written in the studio. It's the last song we tracked. People might describe the album as nihilistic or a downer lyrically, but I think it's ultimately a hopeful record. We wanted to make "Virginia Calling" the last track and a homecoming of sorts. It's a shot at making the whole thing make sense and show what we're talking about throughout the rest.
It's a fitting end.
Yeah! I know the form of the twelve song record is becoming increasingly obsolete. Certain types of music fans still think in terms of records. They're sonic units of consumption artistically, not just commercially. It felt right to end the album that way.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
It is, especially because our previous album, One Town Away, was very much an alt country record thematically, sonically, and lyrically. We were trying to push into more of our own sound. It was about leaving behind the lyrical paths of our alt country forbearers like Uncle Tupelo and Whisky Town. You try to be as vivid as possible lyrically. We still take lyrics really seriously. That's our country upbringing coming through. At the same time, we wanted to move into new lyrical territory from what we've done previously as a band.
What other art forms influence the music?
We're all serious readers. My dad is a teacher of theology and southern literature at UVA. We grew up with a map to the library. Our dad is a serious student, and that's all part of our upbringing. The opening line of "Santa Ana Winds" is from William Faulkner's Nobel Prize speech. That kicks off the record. Faulkner is probably my biggest influence and artistic hero—even more than any bands.
Absalom, Absalom! is a classic.
It's amazing! My favorite is probably The Sound and The Fury, but Absalom, Absalom! gets into some weird stuff. It's a great book.
If you were to compare Sirens to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
My brother Sam just said The Raiders of the Lost Ark, Top Gun, and Crocodile Dundee 2—not one [Laughs].
What artists really shaped you?
We were raised on bluegrass, being in Virginia from a very young age. Also there were some guys from the folk movement like Jackson Browne and Bob Dylan. We got really into heavy metal. We're just fans of music. I hope that come across on the record. We're avid listeners and we remain that way. Bruce Springsteen is a big one for me and obviously Tom Petty. Then, there's the '80s R.E.M. I'm a big fan of The Replacements' outlook and attitude. Dawes is probably my favorite new band right now. We're going to hear about him in 20 years.
Check out the video for "Santa Ana Winds":
Have you heard Sirens?