Just the name is a statement.
The Black Cadillacs.
You know from the outset you're going to get something a little old-fashioned and funky — something that connects back to the rock 'n' roll and R&B classics and a time when a black Cadillac was the coolest thing a person might own.
Knoxville group The Black Cadillacs wears the members' love of rock roots like a badge.
Hanging out on the "All Over the Road" radio show a little past midnight, Cadillacs members Matthew Hyrka (lead guitar), Will Horton (vocals, harmonica) and John Phillips (rhythm guitar) listen to tracks from the group's upcoming album, "Run."
"This is definitely a step forward," says Phillips. "We're proud to hand it to people."
"We liked our last album, but we didn't feel like we did it quite right," says Hyrka.
For "Run," the group recorded with producer/engineer Scott Minor at his Wild Chorus studio.
"The people doing this album were very knowledgeable and got what we were going for in terms of our energy and sound. So for this album we sat in a room and played the songs. Pretty much all the vocals were done live, except for a couple songs. All the lead guitar solos, except for one, were all done live. It's all basically just us sitting in a room. You get more energy. It's a lot stronger than when you break it all down and chop it up and cut and paste."
"It takes a good-sounding room and a good engineer to make that all make sense," says Phillips.
"One of the most important things we'll take from recording with Scott Minor and company is just getting the right tones and sounds right at the source, rather than doing some computer input later," says Horton. "It just doesn't sound as good."
First cousins Hyrka and Horton came from musical families and had been playing music together for years before starting the Cadillacs in 2009. Horton is the son of Steve Horton of Knoxville's the Lonesome Coyotes and other acts. Hyrka's uncle is Peter Hyrka, who once played with the Memphis band Human Radio.
There was, of course, always a non-musical reason to play music.
"The chicks liked it," says Hyrka.
"Some did," says Horton.
"Well, they showed up!" says Hyrka.
It wasn't until Hyrka and Horton enrolled at the University of Tennessee that the Cadillacs began cranking it up. With Phil Anderson on bass and Adam Bonomo on drums, the group began gathering a local following. The group recently added keyboardist Kevin Hyfantis to the line-up.
"People in Knoxville kept us going," says Horton. "Any time we got down on ourselves, the Knoxville audience absolutely urged us on."
"Because the audience in Knoxville keeps coming out it lets us go out on the road where we make NO money," says Phillips with a chuckle.
The rest of the region could soon follow Knoxville's lead, though. The group is performing at larger and larger venues and no longer relies on crowds that only show up during the school year.
The group recently performed at Thompson-Boling Arena as part of Volapalooza. Originally scheduled outdoors, the event was moved to the arena because of the threat of rain.
"We lucked into that one," says Phillips. "Clearly, we weren't the reason it was held at Thompson-Boling!"
"A few thousand doesn't look great in a 20,000-seat arena, but it was great," says Horton. "The crowd response was awesome ..."
"And I got to turn my amp way the hell up!" says Hyrka.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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