Putting the ‘Billy’ in ‘modbilly’

Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters to play PACE April 12

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Most people in Parker know Billy Bob Thornton for his roles in Hollywood blockbusters, but he and his bandmates in The Boxmasters want to change that.

For the past 10 years, they have been writing, recording and touring — and on April 12 they’ll make a stop at Parker’s PACE Center.

They’re billed as Billy Bob Thornton and The Boxmasters, but Thornton said his name is spotlighted only to reach an audience beyond their core following in honky tonks and clubs throughout the Midwest.

“If I had my way it wouldn’t say that,” he said. “But I get it, from a business perspective… We started out with so much against us, we’re just now cracking through.”

Composed of Thornton on drums and vocals, J.D. Andrew on rhythm guitar and Teddy Andreadis on organ, the band has cranked out hundreds of songs and seven albums, with an eighth due out in the fall.

Writers coined the term “modbilly” to describe the band’s sound, a reference to the combination of influences from British bands like The Small Faces and American pop bands like the Beach Boys.

“We’re a distinctly American band,” Andrew said. “I mean, we love the British Invasion bands but we’re essentially Midwestern and southern guys. We go out and play our own songs … There’re no computers or hard drives, or some sinister engineer in the background turning knobs.”

Thornton stops short of describing their sound, presenting his case directly to potential listeners.

“Just listen to it,” he said. “If you like it, you like it and if you don’t, you don’t.”

The core of the band is augmented by bassist Dave Fowler, lead guitarist Kirk McKim and drummer Eric “Meat Sweats” Rhoades for the tour. The additions flesh out the band’s sound and leave Thornton free to interact with the audience and, on occasion, join them.

“Sometimes, people think they’re supposed to just sit there like they’re watching a symphony or something,” Thornton said. “If that happens I might go out into the audience and hang out with them.”

Regardless of how rowdy the crowd gets, Andrew said playing in a band with his best friends is “the perfect situation” and the realization of a lifelong dream.

Thornton, who has played in garage bands since he was a kid, said sharing that dream with an audience makes the experience that much sweeter.

“It gives me the thrill of when I was a teenager playing high school proms,” he said. “It’s that feeling of connecting with the audience and knowing if you’re on the same page. There’s just no feeling like it.”

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