As far as an image is concerned, The Wagon doesn't really have one. At least not yet.
"In this day and age, you've gotta create some sort of image," says Sutton Papanikolas, the rock band's lead vocalist. "It's like, who's the good-looking guy, where's the guy who talks smack, who's the guy that destroys and throws things out the windows at the hotels?
"Hey, I'd love to throw a TV out of a window in a drunken whiskey rage, but that's the future. You gotta pay your dues."
The absence of image dovetails nicely with The Wagon's undefined sound. Described by fans as playing "schizophrenic rock 'n roll," the group has no problem jumping genres and laying down tracks that sound nothing alike.
"Even our biggest fans and our family have said, "I can tell you guys are still searching for your sound.' Which is very true. But in the end, we're gonna write songs that differ from the next," Papanikolas says. "Perfect example The Beatles. Even though they were developing their own sound, you'll find songs that sound completely different from the next."
Papanikolas is quick to point out he's not making comparisons between The Wagon and The Beatles (whew!), but his point is valid. So he, Quinn Cox (vocals, guitar, bass) and Rex Havoc (drums, vocals) mix it up by playing one song with a punk edge, the next with a country drawl, and still others with something else.
The Wagon evolved through a series of challenges. Papanikolas and Cox started a band known as Shaggin' Wagon around 1998 in college in Flagstaff, Ariz. They joined a couple of friends and headed to San Diego.
Over the next few years, the group's dynamic shifted as bandmates came and went. They even lost one member to a fatal diabetic attack.
Things seemed to be looking up for Papanikolas and Cox when they met bassist Paul Moffat and drummer Rex Havoc. The foursome emerged as The Wagon and put out the End of Summer EP in 2005. But Moffat left soon after to start a family, and the hunt was on for a new member, again.
After auditioning a dozen bass players, the three remaining members decided to try a different approach.
"We got to the point where it was like, nobody knows these songs better than us," Papanikolas says. "Quinn and I weren't bass players, but we knew how to play the instrument. And more importantly, we knew the music. So we gave it a shot at the three-piece and were blown away with how great it sounded and how comfortable we were."
Now, he and Cox trade off playing bass, both on stage and on their full-length album, Match Made in Hell, set for self-release on April 28. All three guys also sing.
As The Wagon sets out on a five-week tour of the western U.S., the tricky part will be transferring the sound it achieved in the studio to the stage.
Papanikolas isn't too worried.
"We like to think that we find a happy medium within our recording, that when you hear us live it's not like, "Oh, their album is much better.'"
Note: The Wagon also plays in Denver on March 21 and Pueblo on March 22. Visit myspace.com/shagginwagon for more.