On tour to promote their debut album Portraits, the Wheeler Brothers make a stop back in Austin for a hometown show this Friday at the Mohawk. Indie Sounds caught up with the band and got some insight from each of them into the tour, the album and how they got together.
Indie Sounds: Your tour is bringing you back home, and at The Mohawk this Friday. So what do you have planned for your fans?
Nolan Wheeler: We've been working on some new songs and we're really excited to give our hometown fans a listen to our newest material. Being on the road gives us a lot of new experiences and the chance to meet some really cool people, so we think this tour will help shape a good amount of our upcoming song ideas.
IS: How has the tour been? I saw you in NYC and you packed out The Living Room on your first visit there. How did you do that? Any other highlights along the way?
Patrick Wheeler: The tour has been going really well. Each stop we make is something completely different, whether it be a huge party crowd or an intimate room with a smaller, more personal music scene. Word of mouth from our friends reaching out to their buddies in NYC really helped us out with getting a great crowd. But we we're also really surprised by the amount of support from strangers and the local music scene that had heard about us from radio play and our name and reviews on some NYC music blogs. Really surprised.
Danny Matthews: We also did some busking in the subway and in the front of our friend's clothing store in Manhattan. I guess at this point in the game, you just have to promote with every instrument you have. Make a lot of phone calls, personal ones. Invite people in person. Same story at the other shows where we had good turnouts - Toledo, Denver, Chicago – hands on promotion. We had dinner with 10 people we met in line before the show in Chicago. In short: Busk. Call everyone you know. Have drinks with complete strangers.
IS: To backtrack, when and how did the band get started and decide on the musical direction that you have?
Danny: The band formed around a year and a half before Portraits came out. The brothers Patrick, Tyler and Nolan grew up in Austin where they met A.J. in highschool. I met Patrick the first day of college at LSU and a few drinks later we were jamming. Tyler and Nolan came over the following semester. We started writing and playing on the front porch by our later years. We played a lot of parties, fraternity gigs and dive bars, all covers and free jams. Mostly, we just fell in love with the New Orleans funk scene. Did a lot of listening.
We hooked up with A.J. after college, once we had all quit our jobs and moved to Austin. As far as the musical direction, there was no specific genre we were aiming for. We have pretty eclectic taste in music and certainly didn’t want to inhibit our varying styles by pointing our fingers and compartmentalizing the ideas. Just let them flow. We definitely don’t have a formula down.
This was certainly a developmental album for everyone. Great learning experience. We just spent a lot of time writing together being together. We live together and all know each other’s styles fairly well. I can tell you what kind of beer A.J. drinks, what kind of soap Ty uses, and what their “girlfriend” voices sound like. It’s important to understand everyone.
IS: So tell us about making Portraits, and who was involved?
A.J. Molyneaux: Portraits took about a year to write and record. It was a total collaboration of all of our minds and musical backgrounds. Nolan and Danny take the forefront with most of the lyric writing and arrangements. Nolan has a great ear for melodies while Danny is good with conveying the message of the songs with well written lyrics. He tells good stories. Patrick and Tyler hammer out the rhythms of songs on the drums and bass, I fill in the song with 6 string or steel guitar.
To record the album we shopped around for a couple of studios in Austin but ended up with Mark Hallman and André Moran at the Congress House studio in south Austin. Mark and André were a great choice, we are really happy with the way the album came out and we've gotten back into the studio with them since for a couple projects and we'll be back for a long run soon to start recording our second album.
Download Portraits at iTunes.
IS: And where else have you been playing out in Austin? Any favorite venues - to perform or to watch? Any favorite local performers/bands?
Tyler Wheeler: We had a great show at the Shady Grove's Unplugged at the Grove series. Growing up, we used to go see bands at Shady Grove so it was a really cool experience to get on the stage. When we were first getting started, Momo's was a huge help to us getting our name out in the Austin scene. Through Momo's we met Drew Smith, and we do our best to make it out to all his shows and have gotten to play together several times including our upcoming show in August at the Mohawk. Also, the Parish downtown has treated us really well.
As far as bands we dig, Austin is a really dense scene, way too much talent for one place. It’s really humbling. Drew’s (Smith) various projects all kick major ass, Molaro for Illinois is an excellent rootsy folk group, Little Lo, Sorne, Bob Schneider, the list goes on.
IS: So, what's next on the agenda - shows, recording, videos, other projects?
Nolan: We're spending most of our time promoting Portraits through touring and just getting the word out any way we can. We have a ton of ideas for new songs that just need a little TLC and we're excited to get back into the studio within the next couple months. Until then we're having a great time seeing the country and playing shows for new people. That’s what its all about. That’s what really gets us off.