- August 2013 -
HAVE A BEER WITH WHEELER BROTHERS
Making music is a family affair for Austin, Texas-based band Wheeler Brothers. This five-time Austin Music Award-winning quintet traces a personal lineage of rock, folk, roots, Americana and blues on its second full-length album, Gold Boots Glitter, released this past April through Bismeaux Records. After their 2011's critically acclaimed Portraits, the group—Nolan Wheeler [vocals, guitar], Patrick Wheeler [drums], Tyler Wheeler [bass], A.J. Molyneaux [guitar, lap steel, back up vocals], and Nathan Rigney [guitar, backup vocals]— has continued to tour and play festivals across the United States, including Chicago’s very own Lollapalooza.
We sat down with the guys at Haymarket Pub on August 1 to talk about their Lollapalooza aftershow with The Lumineers at The Vic, their must-see bands at the festival, a run-in with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and what not to do on tour.
The Show: Lollapalooza
Drinks of Choice: Nathan Rigney (vodka sodas); AJ Molyneaux (IPAs); Nolan Wheeler (a good red cab); Patrick Wheeler (Makers on the rocks, gin & tonics)
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: Where does the band’s story start?
Nolan from Wheeler Brothers: It starts in a garage in Austin, Texas, when the the brothers won a guitar back-to-school shopping and they started playing music together and really just playing bad cover songs. We went to middle school and high school with A.J., jammed together every weekend, didn't really get serious until we all moved back from college and started playing music together. That's when we ran into Nathan. Nathan was touring with another band at the time. Long story short, we started putting songs together.
Kristen: Did you guys have a band when you were in 8th grade?
A.J. from Wheeler Brothers: Absolutely. It was called Turtle Wax.
Kristen: Have you ever considered changing your name back to get closer to your 8th grade roots?
A.J.: Well, that was my solo project.
Kristen: What other bad band names did you guys have growing up?
Patrick from Wheeler Brothers: Mine was Indica [pot]. Obviously a great high school band name. We were like, "Let's do something sneaky that we all know what it is." We were so smart.
Kristen: So, did you all grow up in Austin?
Nathan from Wheeler Brothers: Everybody but me. I grew up in Houston.
Kristen: I've never been to Texas before. I'm dying to go. What's the greatest thing about your city?
A.J.: That's a really tough call, but right now it's got a lot of mom & pop restaurants that have great food. Cheap, too. It's a cheap city. Just in terms of rent and going and grabbing a beer or a meal...you notice a big difference from being in a big city.
Patrick: And no snow, either. I like snow a little bit, but I don't think I could live in the snow.
Nolan: I'd say the parks are the best thing. There's Barton Springs, natural 71 degrees swimming hole all year round. There are hike and bike trails.
Kristen: Do you have a go-to bar or venue down there?
A.J.:Mohawk is cool. The Parish is also a really awesome venue on 6th street that helped us get our start in the Austin music scene. But even so, it's a great place to go see a show. It's a 450 or 550 capacity.
Kristen: You're here in Chicago for your Lollapalooza debut. What are you most excited about?
Patrick: It's so cool to be a part of something that is so legendary. I love the festival scene. We love the vibe.
A.J.: You get to meet the other bands. It's a party. Everyone's partying. It makes a difference when you're on the "cool" side and you get the VIP treatment. You get free drinks, food. You're not getting sun burnt. This past year has definitely spoiled us all. I think if I went back next year to the festivals and I weren't in a band I'd be like, "Remember when you were in a band and you got to drink for free?"
Kristen: Can I join the band?
Patrick: You can. That's actually what this is all about. This is an interview for us to see if you're cool enough for the band.
Nolan: I'm pretty stoked because tomorrow we're opening up for The Lumineers at The Vic Theatre. It's supposed to be a great, old theatre.
Kristen: It is. You’re gonna love it. What bands are you excited to see while you're here?
A.J.: I've been trying to see Father John Misty for like a year, and we were always on the road. Or if we met up at a festival with him our schedules never met up. I think this is the festival to see him.
Nolan: I like Vampire Weekend. I like their new album a lot. They're gonna kill it.
Patrick: I'd have to second Father John Misty. Obviously I like him because he's a drummer. I like to see a drummer out there starting his own band and getting a win. We've been running into him, but not able to see him.
Kristen: Do you get a day off?
A.J.: Yeah, tomorrow [Friday] we're going to be hanging out. We have to go load-in at The Vic Theatre sometime, probably later, so we'll have all day to hang out. Saturday we play at the Lake Shore stage, have a couple of interviews and after the show, we're just gonna be hanging out. Sunday we've gotta get out of town...I'm bummed because I really wanted to see The Cure, but they'll be at Austin at ACL [Austin City Limits]. We're also excited to see Houndmouth.
Kristen: I love Houndmouth. I saw them play Evanston SPACE’s 5th Anniversary Party earlier this year.
A.J.: We met them two years ago at SXSW and have crossed paths a couple of times since.
Kristen: Tell me a little bit about your album Gold Boots Glitter, which you released April 1.
Nolan: We were on the road, splitting our time touring for our last record Portraits and coming home, whether it be a day or two or a week at a time, and recording songs that we were bouncing around on the road. We got holed up in a hotel in Wichita, Kansas; nothing was going on. It was cold, miserable. It looked like the town left ten years ago. Nothing was around us. We bought a case of beer and holed up in the hotel and wrote three or four of the songs that are now on the album. After that short tour, we'd go back to the studio, record a couple of songs and then go back on the road. We did that for about a year until we recorded the entire album.
A.J.: On this album we were working with a producer named Drew Smith out of Austin who is a guy we used to go see at shows; he played around town. We were just fans of his, became friends with him and starting playing shows with him around town. When it became time to record the new album, we wanted an objective ear and a third party. He's a great songwriter. He's got such an ear for melody and chord structure and he's a great composer, so he had a huge hand in refining the sound of the album and even helping to write a handful of the songs.
Kristen: Where did you record the album?
Patrick: We have a studio at a ranch down in Harper, Texas. It's about two hours away from Austin in hill country. Our dad had some land and he pretty much lives down there now and has been really psyched about the band and was like, "We should build a little studio out here." That's what we did. It took a while and that's where we did our second album. It was great.
Kristen: It's kind of nice to record in a space or place that's out of your element.
Patrick: It's so out in the country that there are no distractions. There's really nothing to do there except work.
Kristen: You guys have played Chicago before, right?
Patrick: We played Martyrs' last time we were here. We did The Abbey Pub. One of them was really tiny...The Tonic Room in Lincoln Park. It was fun.
Nolan: We've been slowly stepping up every time we come back to Chicago and getting a little bit better.
Kristen: Well, The Vic is pretty awesome. You're gonna kill it.
Patrick: I like Chicago. Chicago's one of my favorite big cities. It's got the big city feel but it's easy to get around. I like any city that has a good public transportation system.
Nathan: I just feel like we have a good time every time we come to Chicago.
Kristen: What's the most un-rock-'n'-roll thing you've done in the past year?
Patrick: We went and acted like children at the City Museum in St. Louis. It was like a big playground for kids.
A.J.: We had a great time.
Nolan: I wouldn't take it back.
A.J.: I think it's only been two times, but anytime we play a gig that has a jumbotron on the side of the stage, I can't stop staring at it.
A.J.: Every time it pans over I'm just staring at it and I look super lame.
Nolan: My most un-rock-'n'-roll moment was when we opened up for Houndmouth in Louisville-- their hometown. We were on a riverboat and I was like, "What's up, St. Louis!" I turn around and Patrick is like "Fuuuuuuck."
Nathan: I actually saw a guy in the audience go, "What the fuck?" and get mad. That same night, A.J. walked into the greenroom and there was a guy there with his backed turned and A.J. said, "Hey man, is there any ice in here?" And Dan Auerbach [The Black Keys] turned around.
A.J.: I wish I said something way cooler to Dan Auerbach, but I didn't. I just asked him if he had any ice. I got out of there and told everyone, "I just saw Dan Auerbach and I totally blew it!"
Kristen: You're allowed to get nervous and blow it with The Black Keys. What is the best advice you've ever received?
Nolan: That's a good question. That it doesn't come easy. That being on the road, getting record deals or anything like that doesn't come easy and nobody's gonna give you a handout. Everything that you do, you do because people like your music and what you create. That's the only way. Nobody is going to help you out just for the hell of it.
Patrick: True...and if they do, they're probably getting some sort of benefit out of it. For me, someone once came up to me and told me something really deep...If you're going to be out late drinking, force yourself to drink a bottle of water before you go to sleep. It dramatically improves your hangover the next day.
A.J.: Another piece of advice. Don't open bar tabs at bars when you're on the road. If you leave your card at the bar, you're gone the next day. You have to cancel your card and bum money from other band members.
Patrick: Everyone will hate you. Especially if you do it at the beginning of the tour.
A.J.: I did it one time and we were about to roll out of town and I was like, "Let me just call this bar and see if anyone is there!" And there was this bartender that worked there picking up her paycheck and she was like, "I'm walking out..." and I said, "Stay there! I'm coming!" I think she charged extra shit to my card. It was like $80 dollars.
Nathan: This is something I've learned from being in this band. You don't have to check all the bags on an airplane that you're bringing. A lot of times, they'll let you carry two things to the gate and then the flight attendant will be like, "No, you can't bring that, but we'll check it for you." And you don't have to pay. They put the gate-tag check on your guitar and you don't have to pay the $50 bucks or whatever.
Nolan: I was also told that if you send Chipotle your tour dates a month of ahead of time, they will notify the locations on your route and you can get free Chipotle.
Kristen: Wow. I'm going to start getting my route figured out.
A.J.: We really like Chik Fil A.
Nathan: We stopped at one about three weeks ago and it was National Cow Appreciation Day and A.J. dressed up like a cow to get free Chik Fil A.
A.J.: I put some cow stickers on my shirt. I wanted to get my face painted. Everybody had their face painted so I was thinking, "Oh, there's a face painting booth here," but it wasn't. All of those people painted their faces prior to going.
Kristen: That's dedication right there. What's next for you guys?
Nolan: Our goal is late night shows.
Patrick: Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon, Letterman...
A.J.: Last year our goal was to play a major festival and we played ACL...This year the goal is to play a late night show.
Nolan: Coachella. I want Coachella.
Patrick: That would be another landmark.
Nolan: And I’d really like to go back to Newport [Folk Festival]. We played that this year. That’s where we hung out with Houndmouth.
Kristen: You guys should do a little tour together.
Patrick: We're working on one. We've been creating rumors about doing a tour together in the fall sometime, so hopefully that works out.