Return to Sons of Sylvia

Playing change-up
Sons of Sylvia try to avoid categorization
By Blake Hannon

Friday, October 15, 2010 at midnight

Plenty of bands get asked what type of music they play, and Sons of Sylvia is no different.

The problem is, the group has a hard time coming up with a concrete answer.

“We get that one all the time. I’m not even sure what to say,” says dobro and pedal steel player Austin Clark. “I don’t even know what genre it is, but that’s half the fun for me.”

It is plenty of fun for Sons of Sylvia as the band of brothers — Austin, Adam (mandolin, acoustic guitar, vocals) and Ashley (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, fiddle) — gets to explore a sound that’s gaining popularity on pop and country radio.

But it’s not the first time the brothers Clark have tasted musical success. The Virginia natives originally got the attention of country music listeners with brothers Andrew, Alan and Aaron as The Clark Family Experience, even charting a Top 20 country hit with the single “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch” in 2002.

But the band disbanded and Austin and Adam went on to gig with other artists while Ashley toured as part of Carrie Underwood’s back-up band, leaving any dreams of making it as an original band on the back burner.

But the brothers were presented with an opportunity they couldn’t pass up when FOX held auditions for its new musical talent competition “The Next Great American Band.”

“Ashley calls me and says, ‘Dude, we could be a band. Let’s go for it,” Austin says.

The guys sent in an audition tape under the name The Clark Brothers and qualified for the show. They went on to win the whole competition.

The group landed a record deal and later changed its name to Sons of Sylvia in 2009. The band’s good luck continued when the group was asked to perform on country superstar Carrie Underwood’s song “What Can I Say” off her third album, “Play On.”

But when Sons of Sylvia focused on recording and releasing its debut release, “Revelation,” in 2010, the band didn’t just have country in mind. Over the album’s 10 tracks, the boys try on plenty of sounds, whether it’s rock power balladry (“I’ll Know You”), super-sized arena anthems (“Love Left To Lose”), country-tinged sweetness (“Songs of Solomon”) or driving hard rock (“50 Ways”).

And Austin says the album’s varying genre and mood swings were absolutely intentional.

“Honestly, from day one, one of our objectives was to be original and be different and not make the same record that’s been recorded 100 times,” he says. “We approached every song differently. You can listen to every track and not get bored.”

Now, Sons of Sylvia is getting plenty of exposure on tour with Carrie Underwood. Her current tour comes to Kansas City with special guest Billy Currington at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Sprint Center, and Austin thinks of Underwood as much more than a fellow performer.

“She’s done it all. She’s our biggest fan. She’s been an artist we’ve done a duet with on her record,” he says. “What I think we deserve is being the janitors cleaning up the place after the show’s over, but she asked to us to open up.”

As Sons of Sylvia gains new fans at each tour stop, they are doing it in a way that lets listeners know everything they are capable of and everything that’s inside of them.

“All you can do is play what you feel, and if fans like it, they like it,” Austin says. “There’s a few people out there that like it, I guess.”