Photo by Krystal Ramirez

The Rhyolite Sound Has a New Album and Renewed Passion for ‘Desert Honky Tonk’

Born in the dusty Nevada desert, Las Vegas band The Rhyolite Sound takes its name from an eerie sonic phenomenon in an abandoned ghost town and has coined its own subgenre of music: desert honky-tonk.

“The biggest styles that run [through the band’s music] are Bakersfield honky-tonk and Texas roadhouse honky-tonk,” says Larry Reha. “We wanted something that spoke to where we were from—the desert. We’re a [combination] of those two styles, which is definitely different. We had to coin something, because we haven’t been defined yet.”

The five-piece band features Reha on guitar and vocals, Erik Alesi on acoustic guitar and vocals, Chris Davis playing upright bass, Wade Braggs as lead guitar, AJ Palluck on the drums and, often, Joel Ferguson joins them on the pedal-steel guitar.

Although they’ve been playing together for more than four years, they are releasing their first studio album on Saturday, October 14, named after the style of music they invented.

Wade Braggs (left) and Chris Davis. Photo by Krystal Ramirez.

“This used to be a country town, by the way, and we’re trying to bring that back,” says Reha.

“It’d be nice to see people go out two-stepping again,” Davis agrees. 

On Saturday, to commemorate the release of their first album, The Rhyolite Sound is throwing a party at The Bunkhouse Saloon (124 S. 11th St.). The party will not only allow them to showcase the project they’ve been working on so hard, but they’ll also feature fellow honky-tonkers Doug C and the Blacklisted and The Reeves Brothers.

“It’s gonna be a big party, a big night,” Davis says with a grin.

“What’s cool about this show is that usually people know that the headliner is not going to go on until late, so they don’t usually care about the first two bands. But we hired this emcee from L.A. and two badass bands, so the show from start to finish is going to be entertaining,” Reha boasts.

The emcee, Dumptruck, is renowned for hosting motorcycle shows, and his well-known antics are just what the show needs to gel. Beyond a coed Daisy Duke contest, BBQ from Rollin’ Smoke and a photo booth, the event will also hold other surprises, including featured guest and beloved performer Frankie Moreno.

Frankie Moreno on keyboard and Larry Reha (far right) rehearsing. Photo by Krystal Ramirez.

Reha, who owns Makeshift Union, a salon located in the Arts District, has been cutting Moreno’s hair for years.

“We have a large musician clientele. I’ve been cutting Frankie’s hair for a few years. I got on the stage with him at one of his shows,” he remembers. “And I used to joke around, like, ‘Hey, you wanna record with us?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah.’ Then he actually did it!”

Moreno is featured on numerous tracks on Desert Honky Tonk and he’ll be manning the keyboard and singing along with the band at the release party, adding yet another reason why it’ll be next-level.

Upbeat and twangy, Desert Honky Tonk simply oozes fun, but that may be because the group of tight friends knows how to have a good time together. “To me, bottom line, the band is fun. And has fun. We don’t do really any serious ‘she broke my heart’ kinds of songs. Mostly drinking,” says Ferguson.

“We’re working on the broken-heart stuff,” jokes Reha.

From left: AJ Palluck, Wade Braggs, Larry Reha, Erik Alesi, Chris Davis. Photo by Krystal Ramirez.

The fun and the beer may be the only country clichés that they adhere to. Because they wouldn’t be caught dead singing a song about losing their dog or their truck. “We don’t have a single ballad that we play. We don’t write ballads, we don’t play ballads,” says Braggs. “But just because we haven’t written a ballad doesn’t mean [the music] isn’t from the heart.”

“There’s a movement where people are getting really sick of what they’re forced to hear on the radio,” Braggs continues. “I can’t stand that stuff. If they had asked me to play that kind of stuff I would’ve told them to go fuck themselves. But this is completely different, and it’s real.”

Although they love playing music together, earlier this year they were ready to take a break. That is, until they were asked to participate in the Life Is Beautiful Battle of the Bands, which they ended up winning.

“We’ve definitely gotten to the point where we’ve been very frustrated and talked about dialing it back. And it was funny, because it was just prior to doing the Battle of the Bands. Really, our goal was just to pick up a few fans,” says Braggs.

“A week before that we were talking about taking a break, because we’d played a few really, really shitty gigs in a row,” Reha says, laughing. “That day we were like, ‘We ain’t gonna win, but let’s just try.’ And then we fucking ripped the balls off that bitch!”

Erik Alesi. Photo by Krystal Ramirez.

“In no way did we think we would win over as many people as we did,” Alessi says.

Their win earned them a coveted spot at this year’s Life Is Beautiful, giving them the opportunity to earn a new, completely unique set of fans.

“There were teenagers who actually liked what we were doing,” Braggs remembers. “So, that’s really inspiring.”

The release of their first album is a momentous occasion to a band of friends that simply likes to get together to have a good time, but they’re still looking forward to what’s next. When pressed on future goals, Reha laughs and proclaims, “World domination!”

“Basically, we’re looking at regional touring. Traveling, getting out of town. We’ve already done the Viper Room and Escape to Hazzard County in Santa Barbara, so we’re looking on touching Utah, Arizona, and spiraling outward from there,” says Davis. “What Larry said is accurate: world domination. We just need to start small and work big.”

Reha scales it back: “I’d be happy if we could play at a cool place four times a year.”

Joel Ferguson. Photo by Krystal Ramirez.

For The Rhyolite Sound, remaining friends, holding down their day jobs and being present with their families come before any grandiose dreams. It’s this realness and the fact that they genuinely enjoy hanging out together that make them gel so effortlessly as a band.

“The reason we all play together is because we like each other. There are a lot of bands where you can tell that nobody gives a shit. That they’re like, ‘Let’s just get through this gig and get some money,’” Reha says, then laughs: “We’re obviously not in it for the money—if we are, we’re really bad at it.”

The Rhyolite Sound

Saturday, October 14, The Bunkhouse Saloon, 124 S. 11th St.,

Vegas Seven