With its current tour, the Charlottesville-based rockers from Sons of Bill want to thank their fans, and celebrate the milestone their listeners have helped the band achieve.
The six back-to-back dates across their home state that make up the band’s Virginia Calling tour will be put on free of charge. The tour is a way to give back to the fans who, with their faith and financing, helped them record what singer/guitarist James Wilson is calling a definitive album for the band.
Through Kickstarter, a website that lets supporters help fund creative causes, the band solicited donations and sold pre-sale copies of its then yet-to-be-recorded third album last April, hoping to net $20,000 to put the record together. Within less than 24 hours, the goal was met, and donations kept coming in.
“They were amazingly generous,” Wilson said. The project ended up bringing in more than double what the band set out to collect, giving the group the studio time and resources “to take the time and do it right,” Wilson said.
The album, Sirens, was produced by David Lowery, singer and guitarist for Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, and recorded in Richmond at Sound of Music Studios, with some additional recording done in New York. Grammy award winner Jim Scott, of Wilco and Tom Petty recording fame, did sound mixing on the album.
Audiences will be treated to songs from the new album, as well as some old favorites from previous albums, during the stops on the Virginia Calling tour, which kicked off Tuesday in Staunton and will wrap up in Roanoke on Sunday. Among the stops is a show Thursday at Charlotte’s Paramount Theater for hometown fans and a show Friday at Iota Club and Café, a venue Wilson says helped the band get its start.
The group formed in 2005, bringing together brothers James, Sam and Abe Wilson and fellow musicians Seth Green and Todd Wellons.
Two gigs later, the band was already in the recording studio, having won some time at Crystalphonic Studios in a battle of the bands contest to lay down tracks for its debut release, A Far Cry From Freedom. One Town Away followed in 2009.
Wilson, looking back at the band’s latest addition to their catalog, sees it – though the theme was not intended at the outset – as a coming of age record.
“It’s chronicling this moment in our lives, the hopeful struggle and dream of being in music,” Wilson said, “and that is what it ended up being about – facing life’s realities, and the consequences of your actions.”
The album also marks growth for the band, Wilson says, which he feels has found its place with the new record. He said the band tries to do what its musical icons, bands like REM, have done – stay together and change through the years, growing in finding the right sound.
“When you’re a band like that, it takes you some time to figure it out, and to grow and change into the band you know you’re capable of,” Wilson said. “So we wanted to do that with this album – grow into our own sound, and we really feel like we did.”
Its home state helped in finding that sound, too, as Wilson explains that the group borrows from the regional music its members grew up listening to, like bluegrass and country, and updates it to make something new for audiences.
“Like the kinds of bands that we really admire, those great American rock bands … you always are taking from traditional American music and trying to make it modern and relevant for your current moment,” Wilson said. “I think that’s what every band strives to do. You’re always working off of a tradition.”
With the close of the Virginia Calling tour, the band will embark upon a national tour to introduce audiences across the U.S. to the new album.
“It’s just a lot of heart, and a lot of time, and a lot of thought,” Wilson said, “and we just made something that we love, and we thought it’s great, and that’s all you can do.”
• For more information about Sons of Bill, visit sonsofbill.com.