Going off-road with Wheelies

By Jason Baxter on October 1, 2010


Local quartet Wheelies' indie rock combines equal parts depravity and delicacy; they can sing about getting wasted while sounding angelic, only to eventually tumble into Murder City Devils-esque explosions of musical furor. But besides being slippery players, they're also straight-shootin' dudes. I recently called up Wheelies' front-dude Patrick Doherty to rap about pizza, BMX and hand-sewn T-shirts.

VOLCANO: You guys had the opportunity to play at Piecora's Pizza in Seattle. Did you try any of their slices?

PATRICK DOHERTY: No, but what's actually kind of funny is we got twenty bucks for the show - they gave you tickets for either beer or pizza, and we got beer, took the twenty bucks and went down to street to get pizza.

VOLCANO: Where did you go?

DOHERTY: It's like a new place, by the Cha Cha Lounge.

VOLCANO: Oh, Big Mario's.

DOHERTY: It was cool that it was open late. Piecora's closed up early.

VOLCANO: I think it's one of those spots for drunk people who need food in the middle of the night.

DOHERTY: Which we were.

VOLCANO: Does everyone in the band ride bikes?

DOHERTY: No, I'm actually the only one. I grew up riding BMX.

VOLCANO: So you've done many actual wheelies in your life?

DOHERTY: I've popped a few wheelies in my day.

VOLCANO: Thoughts on Tacoma's bike scene?

DOHERTY: I ride BMX, you know? There (are) a lot of road bike kids. Most of the kind of "art kids" and "alternative". ... A lot of kids are really into classic road bikes and stuff. But it's not the same how it is up in Seattle - everybody in Seattle has a bike, and here it's like there will be these small little pockets where kids get into dirt bikes.

VOLCANO: Previously, you revealed to the Volcano that you'd recorded some material to an old PC running Windows 95. Was this a deliberate aesthetic decision, more to do with a sense of nostalgia, or motivated by economic constraints?

DOHERTY: Tom, the other guitar player - it was the computer he had when he was a little kid. His whole family is really, really into music. His dad is, like, a rock god. They just had this computer forever. That's kind of how Wheelies got together, was because of this computer. Joe (the bass player) and Tom had been in another band called Trip the Light Fantastic, which disbanded, and they wanted to have a more traditional kind of band. We just started making little demo tracks on Tom's computer, and we didn't have a drummer [yet], so we would just use Casio beats from keyboards. We actually never planned on doing anything with the songs. It was just three friends drinking beer and goofing off.

VOLCANO: I'm interested to learn how you guys landed on your sound, with the very pretty guitar and synth melodies juxtaposed against the rawness and blue-collar screaming?

DOHERTY: I guess in some ways, we think about everything, but it always comes together really naturally. The other three guys in the band are just really creative people. Somebody will just have one small idea for a song - a drum beat, a melody, a phrase, whatever - and we'll just freestyle from there. The one thing we really try and do is actually write songs, you know? It might be a little different every time you play it live, but there's definitely a solid backbone to it, and everyone's on the same page.

VOLCANO: You guys made some DIY merch in the past. Do you have any more plans for stuff like that?

DOHERTY: That's a pastime [of ours], figuring out little ways to keep making things with pretty much no budget. The hand-stitched Wheelies shirts? Me and my mom actually made them together. She's actually a really rad sewer.

VOLCANO: Awesome.

DOHERTY: On the last batch we made, she actually sewed through her finger really bad. She hasn't helped me since.


with Pioneers West, Blanco Bronco
Saturday, Oct. 2, 9 p.m.,
The New Frontier Lounge
301 E. 25th St., Tacoma

LINK: The New Frontier Lounge celebrates two years this weekend