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Published: Thursday, 3/28/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Wheeler Brothers hope to strike ‘Yukon’ ‘Gold’

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The evolution of a band begins when musically minded friends or family members conclude it’s better to work together than apart. They form a group, hustle for gigs in clubs to small audiences, and release music — lots of music — in hopes of developing a dedicated fan base.

It hasn’t been much different for Austin-based Wheeler Brothers. Delivering a fusion of indie rock guitar and Americana-folk, the band with Toledo roots popped on the music scene less than three years ago, with a second album, “Gold Boots Glitter,” due Tuesday.

For the three brothers — from oldest to youngest, Patrick on drums, Tyler on bass guitar, and Nolan on lead vocals and guitar — and their two friends — A.J. Molyneaux, lap steel guitar, and Nathan Rigney, electric guitar and vocals — the journey has taken them from shows where they outnumbered their audience to increasingly better venues and bigger crowds.

“It’s kind of been a slow and steady grassroots build,” said Nolan Wheeler, in a recent phone interview the day after a show in Washington as part of the band’s national tour that brings them to Mickey Finn’s on Friday.

“Our first couple of tours, they were pretty tough. We’d be driving for hours and hours and then we’d be playing at a restaurant.”

A similar performance was commemorated as the song title “Yukon,” one of the 11 tracks from the upcoming album.

Wheeler Brothers were playing a show in Yukon, Okla., and with only five fans in the small bar, the band told the dedicated few they would name a song after their town if they got up, danced, and had a great time.

“Some of those shows are the best ones,” Wheeler said. “You get to hang out with the five people in the audience.”

Those kinds of nights, though, are fewer and fewer. The band will be playing Chicago’s Lollapalooza festival in early August, along with a few other festival dates this summer.

The show at Mickey Finn’s Pub, 602 Lagrange St., will be crowded with the band’s local connections. Their parents, Jack and Lisa, were born and raised in Toledo, but moved to Austin where their dad opened a road construction business similar to Jennite Co., where he used to work.

The siblings still have nearly a dozen aunts and uncles living in the area — including farmer Duke Wheeler of Wheeler Farms in Whitehouse.

“It’s always a family reunion when we come back in town,” he said. “We get to see all the family members we haven’t seen in a while.”

Expect a performance heavy on originals — including the band’s first album, “Portraits,” and “Gold Boots Glitter.”

Produced by Austin singer-songwriter Drew Smith, “Gold Boots Glitter” was initially meant only as the working title of the record.

The name stuck, said Wheeler, because it captured the band’s methods of recording: a patchwork of in-studio, on the road, and onstage sessions to write and develop songs.

“ ‘Portraits’ is our first record and is the first time any of us had written music on our own or together. … After ‘Portraits’ and being on the road for one and a half years and touring, we became tighter as a band. We kind of found our identity a little bit more and that came through with ‘Gold Boots Glitter.’

“Gold Boots Glitter,” in essence, is a musical snapshot that captures a group as work in progress.

“It’s definitely a little bit more rock and roll and a little less folk and singer-songwriter narrative,” he said. “I think it’s a better portrayal of where we are right now … and finding a more cohesive sound.

“It’s a little bit more electrified or amplified. But at the same time there’s string parts in it and it gets soft. There’s ukulele; the instrumentation in it is similar to ‘Portraits’ in that we tried to have some interesting sounds going on at the same time.”

Wheeler Brothers plays at Mickey Finn’s Pub, 602 Lagrange St. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10. For more information, call 419-246-3466 or visit mickeyfinnspub.com.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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