Sons of Bill Take Stage at First Friday
BY KATHERINE SMITH
Special to The Pilot
The Earth began with sound. Whether it's believed to be a voice, a bang or "om," man has since held something of a reverence for the timelessness of sound, of music.
The throes of rock 'n' roll are our- -generation's music family. Within it are songs old enough to be called classic and be reborn. There are songs new enough for us to initiate; songs sensual to rock's name, gritty as its beginnings and platinum as its lifestyle.
"Rock and roll can feel like a siren - a creature that compelled sailors to jump off their boats to their deaths," says James Wilson, of the band Sons of Bill. "It's about being called. I find that we have no choice but to pursue what we love so much, even though it can make life difficult."
On First Friday, July 6, Sons of Bill will be playing from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on the grassy lot next the Sunrise Theater in downtown Southern Pines.
The event is sponsored by the Sunrise Theater, and Rue 32 plans to be on-site with food available for purchase.
The "Sons" are James (vocals, guitar), Sam (vocals, guitar) and Abe Wilson (vocals, guitar, organ), all offspring of Bill Wilson, a Virginia father of six, expert on the Southern agrarian movement, philosophical theology and Southern literature professor at UUA, and a generational songwriter.
They grew up with Seth Green (bass) and Todd Wellons (drums), and after years of jam sessions together throughout high school and college, the five "decided to give it a go," James Wilson says. "We all write in the band - always have. That's pretty dynamic, because each of our messages is different."
Wilson says that they all were nurtured by country and bluegrass but always listened to rock on the radio.
"Seth was in a heavy metal band and into jazz," he says. "And we're always pulling from vast musicians."
Their music has been compared to Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Drive-By Truckers. Wilson says that they respect and try to emulate R.E.M., the alternative rock band from Athens, Ga., that authored "Losing my Religion" and "Man on the Moon."
"They were a real band," he says. "They had the same members, and each of them created a cool part."
The five are also influenced by Hank Williams, George Jones and Iron Maiden, proof of their diversity.
"Hank Williams used the same three chords and wrote about the same thing, but people recognized that he was good," Wilson says. "People can tell when you're faking it. It's recognition of what you've got, and that confidence - that's what makes a writer or a musician."
The band's confidence comes from a curiously wide range of followers, as musically, there's something for everyone. But they both bait with and break from traditional rock and country to explore denizen subjects of the genre.
The opening song of their CD, "Sirens," "Santa Ana Winds," has an accompanying vintage-toned music video of an man pondering in the desert, in his truck, on the road, and at a jumping Sons of Bill concert. Although the video shows the band as obviously thrilled to perform, the lyrics snarl at the sameness and shortness of life.
"The Tree" makes the listener want to shy away with its mournful relevance.
"My mind's out wandering/You say 'trying to talk to you/ is like talking to a tree.'/'Cause it don't do much good/It don't do a thing./You say 'open up your heart,/Open up your mind.'/Careful what you wish for/Who knows what you'll find/Boxes next to boxes/There's plenty here to do/But the walls ain't got no windows/There isn't much getting through."
"Life in Shambles" sounds like a "painting the town red" song, but the lyrics brawl about the difficulty and pretense of finding fulfillment in the rock lifestyle. "Last Call at the Eschaton" tactfully and absently shrugs away the damnation of religion, futility of fight, and hypocrisy of government.
"Virginia Calling," their final song, is about the paradox of love and ambition: "Ain't it funny how you pray for rain, then you bitch about the rust. You go reaching through the sands of time, wind up with a handful of rust."
But it is also what Wilson calls their "best shot at a happy ending," for its note of a safe place; their state; their home. "I hear Virginia calling out to me,/Tonight I'll sleep,/Tonight I'll be all right."
James Wilson refers to William Faulkner's quote - "The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself."
"It's all cataloging an experience," he says. "It's not going to relate to everybody, but really, people aren't all that different. More than anything you try to be honest and true to yourself."
That's why they've been praised by -multiple music reviewers as more than an ordinary alternative rock or indie band. The five have also been invited to play at -multiple music venues, including South By South West. They have toured extensively throughout the U.S., and will be touring in Europe in November and December.
"We made this record hoping to make people feel 14 again," James Wilson says. "When I was 14, I loved rock so much, was always making mixed tapes, listening to it on FM radio, and spending all my money on records. We consciously wanted a throw-back to that era."
He says that though the lyrics are about "that essential thing," the human spirit, the Sons want people to consider, but more than that, remember the ecstasy of rock when it was "absorbed every little bit."
For more information about the group, visit sonsofbill.com.
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