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Abilene's Homer Hiccolm and the Rocketboys embark on journey



Battle-of-the-bands competitions can springboard young musicians, helping them get a jump on credibility. Abilene, Texas' atmospheric pop act Homer Hiccolm and the Rocketboys got a boost when they won last year's "The Sound and the Jury" contest to earn a spot in one of the region's biggest spotlights, the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Hiccolm's sound is rife with shimmering ambience, reverberating piano, pinging guitars and lead singer Brandon Kinder's smooth yet soaring vocals, bringing a sound resembling other bittersweet and earnest acts such as Keane.

The band took its name from the 1999 movie "October Sky," which is about real-life NASA engineer Homer Hickam Jr. The band boasts no direct ties to Hickam, nor a particular fascination with his life. Keyboardist Justin Wiseman said it was an unusual name used " albeit misspelled " during the band's formative time that just stuck.

Homer Hiccolm's appearance at Austin City Limits has served as a résumé builder to boost its standing amidst the indie rock scene.

"It's definitely been an amazing thing for our band and it opened doors everywhere," Wiseman said. "It gave us a little bit of credibility so when we contacted places to book shows, we had some clout."

It took nearly a year to capitalize on the win, however. The members were all attending Abilene Christian University and had vowed to hold off touring until everyone wrapped up their degrees. Now, education under their belts, the members of Homer Hiccolm are in the midst of their first major tour since releasing the live album/DVD "Live at Antone's," which was recorded at the venue where the band won the Dell-sponsored "Jury" competition.

Now that the Rocketboys are no longer tethered by academia, Wiseman said the group is looking forward to recording and life on the road. The group's gestation in Abilene, where few opportunities exist for a young act, has helped develop its reliance on touring to get its music out.

"It was good for us because it gave us the desire to drive to other places " to Austin and Dallas and Oklahoma City " that weren't really that far away," Wiseman said. "It's something you have to learn to do if you are going to make music your career." "Charles Martin

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