9 p.m. Friday
VZD’s Restaurant & Club, 4200 N. Western
When Brooklyn native Rich Russell decided he wanted to be a country singer after years of drinking up indie bands in hip, New York City neighborhoods, he knew the perfect place to go: Texas.
“Austin is a really hip, indie-oriented city, but everybody still likes Hank Williams,” he said. “It made perfect sense for me to move out there.”
Russell soon found more than a receptive town, with a writing — and romantic — partner in Landry McMeans. Both independent songwriters, they played a few shows together, but their styles didn’t work well together.
“Then we started going out, and six months later, Landry learned steel guitar,” he said. “Our housing situations got a little perilous, so we decided to go on tour, and it was awesome.”
Russell’s affection for vintage Western music found a perfect counterpart in McMeans’ folksy background and authentic Texas upbringing, and The Lonesome Heroes were born. He was forced somewhat to compromise his vision of totally pure, old country music for something that accommodated the indie-rock influences of Yo La Tengo and Sonic Youth that kept creeping through.
“The core of what we do still sounds like what country music used to do,” he said. “We just added a little indie sound sphere over that, and it felt right.”
It’s opened up doors they might not have expected, as the band’s appeal goes across the board.
“Our key demographic is 15 to 75,” Russell said. “That’s really cool to me. We can play anywhere.”
And they do. The Lonesome Heroes make their way back and forth across the country almost constantly. Playing in the underpopulated state of Wyoming has become a favorite.
“We just played a show in Wyoming where there were maybe three hipsters in the entire town, and it was a mostly over-60 crowd, and they really seemed to love it,” Russell said. “It helps that everyone there seems to be half-cowboy and half-hippie.”
Their penchant for touring up that way became a theme for its latest jaunt behind their forthcoming, full-length debut album. Stretching from Port Arthur, Texas, to Glacier National Park in Montana, the “Highway 287 Tour” gives them the opportunity to relive how they got started.
“We kind of feel like this is our life and lifestyle, so we try not to do the traditional route of driving nine hours to hit the most popular market every day. We take our time and see a little bit of the country, stay around the town and make friends,” Russell said. “We started out wanting to get out of Texas because it was hot, figured we’d play some shows and camp in between. The more we did that, we were touring to go camping, as opposed to the other way around.”