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In the clubs: Frank Smith

Patrick Caldwell
Counterintuitively, Frank Smith is a quintet: clockwise from top, Tim Regan, Kevin Bybee, Aaron Sinclair, Kyle Robarge and Gary Newcomb.

In early 2007, Boston resident Aaron Sinclair fronted an increasingly prominent, musically diverse indie rock band straightforwardly dubbed Frank Smith - which, just to get this out of the way, included no members named Frank Smith.

As for the other aspects of Sinclair's life … well, he fronted an increasingly prominent, musically diverse indie rock band dubbed Frank Smith.

Sinclair had just emerged out the business end of a five-year relationship, and the popular, riotous noise punk band he played drums for, Lot Six, similarly fell to pieces.

'Everything I had in Boston outside of Frank Smith had sort of fallen apart, and I knew I wanted to be in Austin at some point,' recalls Sinclair, now 33. 'And my sister lived here and had just had children, and I wanted to be an uncle to my nephews. I wanted to be able to hang out with them and I didn't want to see them at Christmas every two years and have them be like 'Who the (expletive) are you?'"

Sinclair trekked to Austin in spring 2007 . Through a series of band changes that would be best illustrated via flow chart, he eventually settled on a lineup for Frank Smith that included bass player Kyle Robarge, sometimes of the Calm Blue Sea, drummer Kevin Bybee and keys player Tim Regan, also a full-time member of quartet Oh No Oh My.

Throw in a rotating pedal steel player - most recently Gary Newcomb of Li'l Cap'n Travis - and you have Frank Smith at present, a reliable band to look to for country-tinged folk-rock that oscillates between rollicking and reflective. Last year's 'Big Strike In Silver City,' the band's first since the relocation to Austin, attracted waves of local praise.

For Sinclair, moving to Austin was the fulfillment of an ambition held since adolescence. He grew up in Houston and first dabbled in the guitar in childhood. One of his first inklings that he was improving came when he was able to play the intro to Metallica's '… And Justice For All.' The city to the northwest seemed like a shining beacon on a hill.

'Houston when I was in high school was pretty miserable as far as the music scene goes,' says Sinclair. 'Of course, I was also 17, so what did I know? ... And Austin had a sort of glory to it. If you grew up in Texas and played music in high school, it was the kind of place you wanted to move to when you got older.'

Instead, he journeyed to Boston to study music business and guitar at Berklee College of Music. Sinclair proved a prolific artist, with six releases in five years - a schedule he hopes to return to; he has another album already in the can.

Where 'Big Strike In Silver City' kept things purposefully stripped-down, the new effort is sonically expansive, 'all over the place with instrumentation,' in Sinclair's words. One thing that won't change: the tone of his songwriting.

'I don't write a lot of happy songs. I'm not very inspired to write music when I'm feeling really happy about life,' says Sinclair.

But far from being a drag, the sadness that permeates Frank Smith songs, says bassist Kyle Robarge, is what makes them sing.

'I think there's a lot of darkness. It doesn't necessarily sound dark musically, but lyrically, if you get into that angle, there's definitely a weight to it,' says Robarge. 'That's what's great about the music. There is substance to it.'

Frank Smith

When: 10 Thursday, May 20.

Where: The Mohawk, 912 Red River St.

Info:www.mohawkaustin.com