Knoxville up-and-comers The Black Cadillacs have been circulating their special brand of bluesy rock 'n' roll around the country for five years, and music fans have begun to take notice.
Paste Magazine labeled them one of the "10 Great New Bands" at the CMJ Music Marathon last year, and last month they drew a huge crowd at their Bonnaroo debut, pulling fans who were passing by between sets of Lionel Richie and Jack White.
Despite the band's rising popularity, lead singer Will Horton maintains that the group is still "a bunch of goobers that drink a lot and get to play rock 'n' roll music."
The Black Cadillacs are bringing their high-energy sound to Savannah on July 23 for a co-headlining show with Southern rockers Thomas Wynn & The Believers.
Both acts played at Savannah Stopover in March on their way to Austin for SXSW.
Since then, The Black Cadillacs have been working to expand their regional fame by at playing high-profile festivals this summer, including Hangout, Bonnaroo, Bunbury and Wakarusa.
In addition to Horton, the band comprises Matthew Hyrka (lead guitar), Philip Anderson (bass), John Phillips (rhythm guitar), and Adam Bonomo (drums).
Lowcountry Current caught up with Horton and talked about the origin of the band's name, the group's festival fashion choices (no black leather here) and how the guys entertain themselves on the road (they're big Kurt Vonnegut readers).
Question. Where does the name The Black Cadillacs come from?
Horton. My cousin Matthew (Hyrka) founded the band with our bass player Philip (Anderson) when they were about 16. I always like to think (the name) was a nod to Lightnin' Hopkins and the song "Black Cadillacs." People always like to ask if it's from the Modest Mouse song, but really, in all honesty, it comes from Matt thinking it sounded like a cool rock 'n' roll band name when he was 16.
Q. What is the band dynamic like?
Horton. We're just a little family unit. We've been doing this on the road for a few years now. The year 2013 was our first year with over 100 concert dates on the road and this year we'll have even more. We travel around in an eight-passenger van with the five of us and all our gear. Even off the road we're hanging out with each other. I think we've all sort of grown up and become immature adults together.
Q. How do you guys entertain yourselves traveling on the road?
Horton. We listen to a lot of music. We're always trying to find new bands and turn each other on to new music. We spend a lot of time reading and telling terrible jokes, too.
Kurt Vonnegut is one of our collective favorite authors. I'm reading "Cat's Cradle" right now. Matthew just finished "Breakfast of Champions." Philip had never read "Slaughterhouse-Five," which to me seems like a right of passage. Adam loves reading really enormous Stephen King novels. He goes from Stephen King saga to Stephen King saga. Poor John can't read in the car. For one, he's usually driving, and he gets carsick. But we try to keep each other up to date on important books to have read.
Q. You guys have been playing plenty of festivals this summer, including Bonnaroo for the first time. What was that like?
Horton. It blew away all of our expectations really. By that point in the summer we had played several festivals and had been on the road for three to four months, so I can't say it wasn't on our radar, but we hadn't really been putting it up on a pedestal until the day of. We weren't considering how big of a deal it was, then all of a sudden, it was like, 'Oh geez, we're playing the slot between Lionel Richie and Jack White on Saturday night at Bonnaroo.' We all had to take a step back and realize what a big occasion it was for us. And it didn't disappoint. We had 700 to 1,000 people in our tent. It was ridiculous. We had a great time.
Q. Do you guys get into festival fashion at all? It seems like there's an unspoken contest at outdoor music events to see who can look the most hipsterish.
Horton. I've noticed that. We go pretty functional when it comes to festival attire. We're not trying to, like, outdo anyone. But I did notice when we were hanging out in the artist area that we were the only artists who weren't dressed like artists the whole time. There were a lot of black skinny jeans, high boots, jean jackets and black shirts. I was like, 'You have to be so damn hot right now!'
We were there the whole weekend and I think I wore the same thing every day: A pair of swim trunks, backpack with camelbak, a bandana for walking past the porta potties, a hat to keep the sun off my head and hiking boots.
I worked the brew fest tent for several years at Bonnaroo and you have to dress like that because you're hauling kegs all day. So I've gotten used to that functional garb.
We dress like a band when we have to, but there's no reason to get all hot and dusty in your city clothes out there.
Q. What's your favorite lyric you've ever written?
Horton. That's a terrible question to ask the guy who wrote it! I don't know, the one I haven't written yet? That's pompous. No, there's a few songs we haven't recorded yet that I particularly like and am proud of. Off our last album, I had "Classic Fool" in my back pocket for a while before we recorded it, and I was proud of the way we pulled it off on the album. If I had to pick just one song for lyrics, I'd go with "Goodbye Fate." I was able to extract whatever emotional garbage I was going through at the time and actually say it accurately without too much overflow.
Q. Where do you see the band in the future?
Horton. If we get to keep making the music we want to make and the bills get paid, then we're good. We just want to make music.
Follow reporter Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.