Call yourself a country band these days, and it could mean you sound like late ’80s Def Leppard or—Merle forbid—modern pop and all its attendant cliches. Or, you could be a trailblazer like Sturgill Simpson or Kacey Musgraves, absorbing many styles but not completely losing your country sound.
Locals Huckleberry Road are in that latter category. In fact, they do the direct opposite of many modern country stars—actually look for ways to distinguish themselves.
“We were talking about this earlier: what can we do to create that one little thing that will give us a whole new sound that sets us apart,” said Robert James Clark, guitarist/vocalist with Huckleberry Road. “I don’t think we could ever be commercial or mainstream or a stagnant thing.”
“We’re definitely not going out of our way to fit in the cookie mold,” said Anthony Vairetta, the band’s guitarist and backup singer.
Clark and Vairetta have deep rustic roots. They first played together when they were teens in Clark’s aunt’s band in Susanville, California. “He took my job as lead guitar player, and I hated him for it,” Clark said in his deadpan drawl. Actually, they became fast, best friends and that’s lasted for close to two decades, including time together in Reno rock band Sil Shoda.
After Sil Shoda ended, Vairetta and Clark decided to play as a duo and then expand to a full band. “We took our time to make sure we found very well-tempered, great human beings to play with,” Clark said.
Enter Dillon Secklin, drummer, and David Zavesky, bassist. Both were pals with the duo before joining up with Huckleberry Road. Clark and Vairetta still play as a duo, though, when the occasion calls for it, as it will when they play on Oct. 17 at Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City.
Even in duo mode, Huckleberry Road centers on great songs and musicianship. Both Clark and Vairetta are excellent pickers. Vairetta in particular can shred like a metal maniac when it’s warranted. Add on the duo’s gift for a deft lyrics—presented in Clark’s rich, tuneful voice—and you have a recipe for great country-rock that sucks you in with its classic song-craft and storytelling.
The rhythm section also helps give some straight-forward rock drive to the band’s take on twang. “My style is pretty much indie, but I grew up on classic rock,” Zavesky said. “I found my dad’s records when I was young, and he had the Beatles and the Stones, but also some more obscure metal bands like April Wine and Dokken, so that’s the kind of stuff I like to listen to.”
The band’s biggest opportunity thus far was Night in the Country, a music festival in Yerington that rarely books locals. Although Vairetta described it as “utter chaos,” he and the other band members agreed it was a great experience overall. That chaos came from the rains, which were on and off during the event, including right at the tail-end of the band’s main set at a smaller stage next to the main one.
“We probably drug over about 500 to 1,000 people,” Clark said. “It was epic, man. People screamed the whole time.”
For the future, Huckleberry Road is auditioning for festival shows, as well as releasing a new single and video for their song “Ray-Bans,” all late this year or early next. “With Dillon, we have some new recordings, and that’ll be shaping up to be a new EP around that single,” Vairetta said.