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Jeff Moehlis: The Wheeler Brothers Bring Austin Edge to Santa Barbara

Texas-based 'Best New Band' to perform Saturday at the Lobero Theatre as part of Sings Like Hell series

Austin, Texas, is rightfully known as a mecca for music, thanks largely to the city’s annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences & Festivals. And the latest band to bubble up to receive the prestigious Austin Music Award for Best New Band is the Austin-based band The Wheeler Brothers, consisting of brothers Tyler (bass guitar), Patrick (drums) and Nolan (guitar, piano and vocals), plus friends A.J. Molyneaux (lapsteel, guitar, vocals) and Danny Matthews (guitar, vocals).

The Wheeler Brothers’ “rock ‘n’ roll with a bit of twang” on their debut album Portraits has been well received in Texas and beyond, and their eagerly anticipated second album is in progress. The Wheeler Brothers will be performing Aug. 18 at the Lobero Theatre, as part of the Sings Like Hell series.

Nolan Wheeler answered the following questions by email, with answers received on July 31.

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming concert in Santa Barbara?

Nolan Wheeler: We pride ourselves in presenting well-rehearsed, highly energetic shows that are fun for audiences of any age. Santa Barbara, and most theater shows for that matter, deserve a little bit of extra treatment. We are a rock ‘n’ roll band, and it will be loud, but we also like to play more intimate songs to cater to those more intimate environments.

JM: When you’re on tour, what’s the thing that you miss most about Austin?

NW: I really miss watching my favorite local bands grow. I have lots of friends in very talented bands, and wish I could be there to support them as often as they are there to support me.

JM: Who are some of your favorite bands from Austin that aren’t so well known elsewhere?

NW: TOO MANY ... Take an hour and check these bands out: SORNE, Wild Child, Crooks, Holiday, Shakey Graves, The Eastern Sea, Mother Falcon, The Bellmen, Quiet Company, The Bright Light Social Hour.

(JM: Take Nolan’s advice — you can easily find most of these bands on YouTube. Let’s bring some of these bands to Santa Barbara! I suggest we start with The Eastern Sea ...)

JM: Being from Austin, I’m guessing that you attended the SXSW music festival before you played at it. Is it more fun being an attendee or a performer at SXSW?

NW: Playing there and being there are totally different. While both are amazing for different reasons, I would much rather attend as a performer.

JM: Can you give an idea of what we can look forward to from your second album?

NW: Well, you never really know how an album is going to shape up until it gets going. This one is coming out pretty rock ‘n’ roll, thus far. A distinctive step toward more traditional ‘70s and even some
‘90s-influenced rock ‘n’ roll. Still, a large variety of instrumentation, and still a lot of twang.

JM: Who are your primary musical influences?

NW: Some of my personal favorites: Wilco, Arcade Fire, Animal Collective, The Band, Dr. Dog, Modest Mouse, Dirty Projectors.

JM: How do the band’s songs typically come together, or is there a typical?

NW: There is no real format. We all write collectively and listen intently to each other. We are a collective songwriting unit.

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

NW: If someone comes along who believes in your project and wants to help it grow, get out of their way and let them help! I hear a lot of bands along the road that are so proud to have done every little thing themselves, which is cool, but there is a time and place for publicity work, management, booking and such. The real advice: Surround yourselves ONLY with people you know and care about, and who believe whole-heartedly in your project.

JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?

NW: Writing and touring. Hopefully catching some fun shows at festival gigs.

JM: Where are you responding from?

NW: Once Over Coffee Bar in Austin.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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