So, the question must be asked: How in the hell did they do it?
Well, for one thing, they're awfully good at what they do--for the most part, traditional country-rock with pop hooks.
But an equally important reason is their attitude toward gigging. Unlike a lot of local bands with similarly serious intentions and goals, they'll perform just about anywhere, as long as there are people there to listen.
The Wyatts began in 2004, when singer/guitarist/songwriter Roscoe Wyatt (né Michael Drabousky--in the style of the Ramones, all of the band's members take on "Wyatts" names, though they're not actually related) and Country Mac Wyatt recorded a four-song demo and sent it out to possible interested parties. The feedback they received was overwhelmingly positive--so much so that the pair decided to form an actual band and see what happened. Jimbo Wyatt (Jim Howell) was enlisted to play drums; Johnny Guitar Wyatt played his namesake instrument, and Country Mac played bass. (Roscoe and Jimbo are the two remaining original members; Boudreaux Wyatt, né Damon Barnaby, now plays guitar, and though they've been through numerous bassists, Petruccio Michael Wyatt, né Michael P. Nordberg, currently holds that spot.)
Things took off quickly following the demo. They were sought by at least one record label; they recorded and released their self-titled debut album, and with it, says Jimbo, "We were charting, and we had 200 radio stations playing us."
But they were cursed by a case of bad timing: After the album was released, Country Mac had family matters to attend to, and the band was unable to capitalize on the album's success by hitting the road to promote it. "We blew it big-time by not going out and servicing those towns," recalls Roscoe. "We could go out now, but we would just be some other unknown band on a Tuesday night, driving through Albuquerque."
They've also had a difficult time finding a niche in the downtown and Fourth Avenue clubs. "What we've seen in town," says Roscoe, "is that when we first came out wearing cowboy hats and all that stuff, (the town) wasn't that receptive--and it's still not that receptive in the Fourth Avenue scene."
Adds Jimbo, "And the Maverick doesn't want to have us, because we won't do all cover songs."
Instead, The Wyatts have kept their schedule busy by adopting a play anywhere, anytime mentality that has taken them to both unlikely local venues and, in the summer, old country bars in smaller towns in Northern Arizona. In the process, yes, they've added cover songs to their sets.
Says Roscoe: "One thing that's happened is, to make pay and spread the gospel of The Wyatts, we've had to pick up 4- and 5-hour gigs now, which is something I never wanted to do in the beginning, being an originals-only band."
Adds Boudreaux: "But, really, out of a four-hour gig, we're doing (only) 30 percent covers. We have a lot of original music."
That attitude has allowed them to take gigs at local venues many other bands would turn down. After all, a lot of serious-minded bands would not play, as The Wyatts have, at Hooters.
"And one of our bass players wouldn't," says Roscoe, "and he quit because of it. ... A lot of bands have this integrity, and that's cool. But when you listen to the biggest bands, they say they've played every fucking hall, every room, every place they could, to get to where they were. We've never said, 'We refuse to play there.'
"You're either in it for the art, or you're in it for the music. And people who are in it for the art won't sell their fucking soul to play Hooters. But tonight, they're sitting there, eating fucking baked beans, 'cause that's all they can afford. Now, if they had played there, they could have had maybe $50, and they could have eaten a hamburger. And I understand the integrity part; that it's important. But the only way you're going to get good as a band is to not sit in your rehearsal space, not sit in my fucking room."
Or, as Boudreaux puts it, "I really don't give a shit if we're playing the back patio of Hooters or the Rialto Theatre. I want to play in front of people."
A few years ago, Jimbo got a random call from a guy who had found The Wyatts on MySpace. "He was looking for bands from around the state, or region, to play at his club," Jimbo recalls. "He had just opened this club that had been there for about 100 years, and they had a stage; they had sound, and they just needed bands to play there on weekends. It was in Williams, the World Famous Sultana saloon, right on Route 66."
The owner promised the band a gig, a meal, hotel rooms and a guaranteed amount of money, and they went for it. It would prove to be the blueprint for the band's summer itineraries. Since then, they've taken on an ever-increasing amount of gigs in Northern Arizona towns, playing to both locals and tourists who are in the area visiting the Grand Canyon.
"(When) we go up there and play full weekends in Prescott, full weekends in Williams, full weekends in Flagstaff and all the northern areas, tons of tourists are seeing us play, and buying our CDs and taking them back to Germany or New England or wherever they're from, and we're making good money," Jimbo says.
The Wyatts have also found that they like what Roscoe calls "the charm and the romance" of playing old, largely untouched historic bars, as opposed to "big, new, shiny clubs." Plus, contrary to what one might assume, The Wyatts say small-town audiences couldn't be more receptive.
"That's the cool thing about a lot of the country audiences," explains Boudreaux. "You can go out and do a pretty rockin', Social Distortion version of 'Cry, Cry, Cry,' and they dig it! They're into it. Some other genre-oriented clubs, if you went in and went too far outside your genre, you'd be shut down, or immediately hear about it. It seems like the audiences, at least in the places that we're playing, are way more open."
Says Roscoe: "The country audiences--especially the younger guys, our age and younger--are more sophisticated, more open-minded, believe it or not, than the urban kids. They listen to everything. Whereas most kids who listen to indie say, 'I listen to everything but country,' these kids who are 22 say, 'Well, I listen to country, sure, but I also listen to R&B and Death Cab for Cutie, or whatever.'"
The Wyatts haven't released a new EP or album since last year's seven-song The Continuing Saga of The Wyatts, Volume One, but now that the summer is quickly drawing to a close, they plan to return to Loveland Studio to record one, with their sights set on an early 2009 release. Once they do, they may embark on a short tour to promote it.
In the meantime, you can catch the TAMMIES Band of the Year headlining a show at The Hut, on Saturday, Sept. 13, their next scheduled local gig.
Unless, of course, you feel like taking a road trip up north.