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Tales from the Road 

Austin country rock band the Wheeler Brothers are all about adventures

"I can whistle in five languages. I'm smarter than a circus dog and I'm on Facebook," claimed the crusty male voice in a message left for Austin country rock band the Wheeler Brothers. Oh, the stranger also called them morons.

Crazy stalker? Not necessarily.

The Wheeler Brothers actually invited fans and strangers—like this man—to call them when they posted a phone number online allowing direct access to their tour van; an experiment that didn't last very long, but did result in the band uploading that memorable voicemail to YouTube.

"It was so hard to keep the phone charged and we kept losing the phone between the five people in the band," explained Wheeler Brothers guitarist and vocalist Nolan Wheeler over the phone during a tour pit stop in Deadwood, South Dakota. "It was a good idea and we did get phone calls from people who supported the band and that was really nice."

That's just one of the comical stories the Wheeler Brothers can tell—another is about accidentally bothering Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys for some ice—all the result of their adventurous nature.

But that's the Wheeler Brothers; a quintet of three brothers and two friends who relish every goofy minute of the band's success by engaging their fans and documenting the ride with photos and blog posts.

Whether it's the semi-regular photo-shopping of their heads onto various bodies for their Tumblr page—their faces have adorned the 1957 Celtics team, Batman and Robin and the cast of Anchorman—mustached drummer Patrick Wheeler dressing up like Captain America, finding any number of hiking trails or fishing spots or a 12-hour game of dominos overlooking the Delaware River, the quintet's aim is to have fun wherever the road takes them.

"We stopped at Mount Rushmore recently," said Nolan. "We wanted to put our faces on that, too, but there are only four and there's five of us."

And when it comes to their music, it's clear; the road shenanigans are really just an extension of the band's good-hearted approach to country rock. Their songs are not leathery, blue collar odes, but rather the kind of whimsical open-road ditties one would expect from a group that regularly searches out swimming holes while on tour. Ukulele, glockenspiel and vocal harmonies drift through their music like a lazy river on a humid summer day while kick drum and guitar match the march of wide-eyed boys on the hunt to catch frogs.

What started out as a result of the three brothers—there's also bass player Tyler—winning a guitar while back-to-school shopping when they were kids, has now, years later, turned into two records, their very own studio secluded in Texas hill country, shows at Lalapalooza, the Newport Folk Festival, opening sets for The Avett Brothers and The Lumineers, and a handful of high production value music videos.

Their polished brand of roots Americana and country rock materialized from early practice sessions covering Phish songs, eventually morphing into a band built on fanciful melodic sing-a-longs once the brothers all returned home from college. And though nuances of Phish's influence can still be found in buzzing guitar solos on tracks like "Heather" from Wheeler Brothers' sophomore album Gold Boots Glitter, most of their music wears a smile as big as the band's adventurous spirit.

"It's a fun-loving crew," said Nolan. "We're all really great friends. When we're not in the studio we are out on the road trying to enjoy ourselves."

Wheeler Brothers

Wed., April 16

7 pm.

McMenamins Old St. Francis School,

700 NW Bond St.


About The Author

Ethan Maffey

Both a writer and a fan of vinyl records since age 5, it wasn't until nearly three decades later that Oregon Native Ethan Maffey derived a plan to marry the two passions by writing about music. From blogging on MySpace in 2007 and then Blogspot, to launching his own website, 83Music, and eventually freelancing...
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