Tone, Truth, Twang

You, too, can be a Wyatt--but you probably should like whiskey

You might not expect it from such a rough-and-tumble-looking bunch, but the members of the rockin' country band The Wyatts have more on their minds than guitars and beer.

During the course of a recent rambling, whiskey-fueled interview in a chic downtown restaurant (the employees of which patiently tolerated our party past closing time), four of the band's five members held forth on such topics as global warming, the difference between Macs and PCs, self-marketing, the philosophy of pop culture, radio formats and a social climate that leads to increasing fragmentation of musical tastes.

In a brief pause in the conversation, guitarist Boudreaux Wyatt remarked, "I had no idea we were so deep."

"I know," said singer, guitarist and songwriter Roscoe Wyatt. "We usually talk about hookers and booze."

One of them then shouted, "Waffles and blowjobs!"

Quickly enough, they were back to relating tales of tequila madness and pre-performance Jâgermeister courage.

The Wyatts are being honored this year as Tucson's best band, as voted by the readers of the Tucson Weekly, at the Tucson Area Music Awards (TAMMIES).

The band's spirited sense of humor is no doubt as popular with listeners as its category-defying urban brand of country rock and Roscoe's charming, catchy tunes.

"We're not a Top 40 country band; we're not a straight rock band, and we're not Americana. I think it's rare in music today to get stuck in a genre," Roscoe declaimed.

"I guess the closest thing you could call us is we're loosely a honky-tonk band, but there is a lot of rock influence there. In the space of three songs, you'll hear influences such as George Jones, Hank Williams, AC/DC and Black Sabbath, only played with cowboy hats."

Listening to The Wyatts' debut CD, one gets a vibe not unlike that of Arizona power-house pop-rock bands, such as Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers or maybe Dead Hot Workshop, with lots of twang and vinegar.

The Wyatts' motto, in fact, is "Tone, Truth, Twang." It appears on their CD, their T-shirts and the plastic sheriff's badges handed out to fans and friends.

One thing's certain: The Wyatts are devoted to their growing fan base, which consists both of party-hearty college students and older honky-tonk fans. The group gigs everywhere from Old Tucson to Frog and Firkin.

"Of course, there are a lot of people our parents' age who come down to see us, especially at Old Tucson, who want to hear the old honky-tonk music, something with melody and harmony. We give them traditional stuff they can't find anywhere else," Roscoe said, talking a mile a minute.

"It's the whiskey," he explained.

As many listeners may well know, The Wyatts claim to all be related, thus the Ramones-like shared surname,

Said Roscoe, "We all have the same father. He was a traveling salesman who spread his fuckin' seed. I think there were eight marriages all together, and the last time we sat down to think about it, we figured there were 22 siblings, 13 of which are sisters. It's kind of sick and disgusting."

The Wyatts began two years ago when the nascent group had recorded a few songs in Country Mac's living room, said Roscoe. "We said, 'I think we got something here,' and I said I thought we needed to get a band together then."

Roscoe teamed with "brothers" Jimbo "JVD" Wyatt on drums, Country Mac Wyatt on bass and Johnny Guitar Wyatt on, well, guitar. Johnny and Country Mac have moved on to other projects.

With producer Tim David Kelly, they finished an 11-song album, titled The Wyatts, which was released in the spring of 2005, and started playing out. The bulk of the album was recorded with the Apple software GarageBand.

"Half of that album would not have gotten made without Macs," Roscoe said. "Thanks, Steve Jobs!"

Even though these guys goof on each other constantly, they don't take music lightly.

"We still rehearse at least twice a week," said Jimbo, who also plays with Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios and has done time in bands such as Lord Primate and Truck.

These days, the lineup includes Roscoe, Jimbo, Boudreaux, bassist Outlaw Wyatt and Li'l Joey T. Wyatt on guitar.

Outlaw is a journeyman musician who has played with everything from blues bands to heavy-metal acts. Boudreaux also has played with Loveland and Jelly. Roscoe fronted a band that carried his name, among other groups. A couple of the guys also teach music.

All live in Tucson except for Li'l Joey T., who isn't that little at 6 foot 5 inches tall, and who resides in the sprawling valley two hours north of here.

The storied Wyatt name is something worth sharing, too. Recording engineers, occasional guest musicians and fans are bestowed their own Wyatts moniker.

Pedal steel guitarist Neil Harry, something of a legend in these parts, is known to sit in at times, when he is called Rusty Wyatt. The group's sound guy is Sluggo Wyatt.

And every fan who registers as a "friend" on the band's MySpace page becomes a Wyatt. "Everybody can be a Wyatt if they want it bad enough," said Boudreaux.

"It's like the Kiss Army back in the 1970s," said Roscoe.

"A girl signed up today," Jimbo added. "And now she's called Chingona Wyatt. She chose that name, by the way."

Making flyers, monitoring the Web site, networking with musicians and fans--the members of The Wyatts take their chosen vocation seriously.

"We approach this band as a job, and we have respect for that," Roscoe said.

The guys in the band know mainstream listeners aren't about to make The Wyatts a household name, but fame isn't important to these guys. Really.

"We just want to make a living doing this and not have to do a day job," said Roscoe, who works by day as a graphic designer.

"I just want to pay my bills," said Outlaw. "And I think I might be able to start soon."

Just the whiskey talking?