Trying to peg any sort of label to Lubbock, Texas-based Thrift Store Cowboys can be a challenge. Even if you caught the band the last time through — about six years ago with Denver's DeVotchKa at the former 32 Bleu — lead vocalist Daniel Fluitt says their sound has changed a lot since then.
"We started off definitely on more of an alt-country route," says Fluitt. "It's just kind of evolved over the years. We just play what we play. I don't really know what to call it."
Which might be why when you search around for information on Thrift Store Cowboys, you end up with phrases like: "gypsy desert music," "spooky punky tonk," and "cinematic alt country."
Fans, meanwhile, have told Fluitt that the Thrift Store Cowboys are their soundtrack of choice for road trips across West Texas or New Mexico. They'll put on the band's 2006 CD, Lay Low While Crawling or Creeping, he says, "and it fits really perfectly with the terrain they're driving through."
The group has been together nearly 10 years — all, that is, except for Kris Killingsworth, their "13th and longest-running drummer of four years." According to Fluitt, each of the seven members brings different influences to TSC's sound. Bob Wills' music is a key influence on Amanda Shires, who plays violin and contributes additional vocals. Killingsworth went to school for jazz, so often leans in that direction. And Fluitt says he's listened to a lot of Buck Owens-style country over the years, although he discovered one of his favorite bands, Pearl Jam, at the age of 12.
Listen to their music, and you can also pick out strains of Cowboy Junkies ("Sidewalk Song") and the BoDeans ("Beneath the Shoes"). See them in person and you'll likely be drawn to bassist Clint Miller's hyperactive stage presence.
"When he plays bass, he likes to jump around and dance," Fluitt says. "His feet are always moving. They just never stop."
Through the years, TSC's dealt with the usual challenges that bands face. But last January brought something new, when the group's house fell victim to arson.
"The cat scratched on the door really loud and woke us up," Fluitt says. "I heard a noise outside and I thought 'Oh man, somebody's trying to break into the van.' When I looked out my window there were these huge flames right next to my room."
The Lubbock Fire Department was quick to respond, and it didn't turn out to be too much of a mess for the group (the source of the fire was never determined).
Six months afterward, the band put out a 7-inch vinyl split with One Wolf, another Lubbock band. And after their current tour, they'll head back into the recording studio to work on a new full-length album for release next year.
Three shows in Colorado will wrap up their fall West Coast tour — which took them on a whirlwind drive through Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington and Utah. Shires won't be at the last gig here in the Springs; she's off to another show on the East Coast. But perhaps that's OK.
"We'll probably be some haggard, smelly boys by the time we get to Colorado Springs," says Fluitt.