Life has been on a fast track for the Black Cadillacs since the June 2012 release of their second record, Run. They’ve acquired a legal and management team, met with potential producers, played a host of prestigious rock festivals, and evolved from a hot-topic local band to a legitimate touring act.
But with plans for a third record gathering steam, the band says it’s time to slow things down. “We’re taking our time on this one,” says lead singer Will Horton. “In the past, we’ve put deadlines on ourselves. We did our last record in five days—and we loved what we came out with—but we want to be more deliberate this time.”
Still, the last year’s surge has been fun and gratifying for this four-year-old Knoxville outfit. They’ve played shows at the New Orleans Voodoo Fest and Austin’s SXSW. This October marked the second year running the Cadillacs have played CMJ in New York; their latest stand resulted in two sold-out shows and a write-up in Paste magazine.
“The festival stuff is cool,” says guitarist John Phillips. “But when you actually see a market grow, that’s what’s exciting. You look at a place like Charlott—we had nothing there at one time. Now we have a big following. It’s all about stick-to-itiveness, and networking your ass off.”
“Sometimes you go to a town and play a little dive bar with just a few people there,” says guitarist Matthew Hyrka. “And it’s like, how is this supposed to work? But people really do pay attention if they like you.”
The Cadillacs—Horton, Hyrka, Phillips, bassist Philip Anderson, keyboardist Kevin Hyfantis, and drummer Adam Bonomo—are Southern rockers in the same sense that like-minded outfits such as My Morning Jacket, Kings of Leon, and even the Black Crowes play Southern rock. There’s a strong rural inclination to the band’s arrangements; there are also healthy doses of blues, British rock, and contemporary college radio.
After a year of constant touring—around four dates per week, in and out of town—the guys feel there are new wrinkles yet to come.
“There have been some influences we didn’t necessarily realize were there come out in our songwriting the last six to eight months,” Horton says. “Elements from surf to doo-wop to ’90s grunge are finding their way into the songs we’re doing now.”
“We met with one producer who had heard our previous records,” Hyrka says. “We played him some new stuff, and he was excited. He said, these are actual songs. It’s more than just get in a room and jam.”
Fans who attend the Cadillacs upcoming show at the Bijou Theatre can get a taste of the band’s latest forays in the form of an exclusive 7-inch available only at the show. The single “Truth” (b/w “Radio Silence”) has already been previewed on the University of Tennessee’s WUTK.
The band worked with Nashville’s Mitch Dane on the new single—the first time the band has worked with a producer—and they’re considering a number of others to helm their upcoming full-length. They’re also testing the waters of label interest, after working with tiny Pittsburgh indie Young Giant on the release of Run.
Of course, this is the same band that once said no to Alive Records, the label that signed the Black Keys. Says Phillips, “We don’t shy away from the traditional-minded approach, as long as we get to make the music we want to make. We’re not afraid to bring in partners, members of the team to help put the pieces together.”
Because the next steps for the Cadillacs are big ones—they want national distribution for the forthcoming record. They’ve also got a couple of weeks in Europe slated in the spring—their first tour abroad.
“The stuff we’re doing costs money, and it’s got to come from somewhere,” Phillips says. “But we’ll figure out how to make it work, whether there’s a label involved or not. These other people can help us, but ultimately the only ones who can make our career move forward is us.”