Wilderado Drove Past the Tiniest Texas Town and Thought, "Great Band Name"

Wilderado Grant Spanier
Max Rainer recalls being out in the desolate plains of the Texas panhandle when he saw the word “Wildorado” on a road sign. He and his bandmates swapped out an “o” for an “e,” and the Tulsa, Oklahoma, indie folk trio Wilderado had its name.

“We just passed it and loved the word,” Rainer recalls. “It was a funny way to come about it, because it was just a big sign in the road right in front of our faces. It’s a cool word.”

Wilderado opens for Mt. Joy tonight at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and on Thursday, August 18, at the Mission Ballroom.

Information is a bit sketchy on that Texas town Wildorado, which is close to historic Route 66. According to the 2020 Census, the unincorporated town has about 200 people. Blink and you might miss it. Regardless of its tiny stature, the town that gave the band its name holds a place in Rainer’s heart. (For the record, Deaf Smith County, just down the road, also makes an excellent band name.)

“I always try to comment on their Facebook page and stay involved in the Wildorado sports, the Mustangs,” he says. “We did a shirt once that was just a mustang on it. We did the Wilderado Mustangs, with our spelling.”

In its seven-year run, Wilderado — which took early influence from bands like Delta Spirit, Third Eye Blind and Local Natives — has released a handful of EPs, a long series of singles and, in 2021, one self-titled full-length album. The band has toured with 1975, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Band of Horses, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, and Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, and has appeared at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, BottleRock, Shaky Knees and Innings. Recently, the band toured England and Ireland with Alt-J, whose record An Awesome Wave had a big impact on Rainer.

Rainer, along with guitarist and vocalist Tyler Wimpee and drummer Justin Kila, hails from Tulsa, but he says Wilderado really came together in Los Angeles clubs, bars and festivals. “We only really play Tulsa on tour,” he says. “It’s kind of an interesting approach. And we’ve been gone so much that it’s been difficult to really even go out and immerse ourselves in it.”

Although he doesn’t feel a deep connection to the Tulsa music scene, that’s something Rainer would like to change. During the touring gap at the height of the COVID lockdowns, he was able to take in some music from his hometown. “We started going to bars, meeting more bands, seeing more bands,” he says. “I want to be a Tulsa band. I want to be a part of the art and culture of Tulsa.”

Rainer says the songs on Wilderado's first full-length deal with the challenges of always being on the road as a touring band. He estimates that in the last year, he’s been home 100 days. It’s a brutal schedule — so much so that he felt a sense of relief when the pandemic forced him to stay home for more than a year.

“Now that we are back on the road, we are kind of like what everyone else seems to be — aware of how nice it is to not be on the road,” he says. “We didn’t have any perspective of how much we travel until we had eighteen months of not traveling.”

But touring has its moments, and Wilderado is happy to be back.

“We’re heavily aware of the fact that the band is growing,” Rainer says. “People are connecting with the music, and we are sharing this thing with strangers, which is a big goal of mine.”

Wilderado, with Mt. Joy, 8 p.m. Wednesday, August 17, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison, $55-$79.50; Thursday, August 18, 8 p.m., Mission Ballroom, 4242 Wynkoop Street, $39.95-$75.
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