Do tattoos make the band? What about unemployment, or just plain disregard for societal norms? Must every band be filled with tattooed, out-of-work social zealots in order to grab the attention of popular culture?
By day, the members of Prairie Flyer spend their time doing everything from working on ranches to driving trucks. Now in their 50s and 60s, these men are not too interested in moving to Los Angeles in search of a recording contract, fame and fortune.
"In some ways, I think we are so boring. We haven't just gotten out of jail, and I don't think any of us have tattoos," says Jim Faddis, singer and guitarist for Prairie Flyer.
Instead of labeling their music with a rough-and-tumble band name, the guys from Prairie Flyer decided to go with a simpler name that would reflect the hobo roots of bluegrass music: trains. The four members chose a speeding-diesel train as their logo and as a guide for their music, noting that they "travel nonstop across the boundaries of bluegrass, folk and Americana -- all on the same trip."
Founded seven years ago as the Barley Brothers, the band was forced to change its moniker after discovering that there was a Canadian band by the same name that had formed before the Spokane quartet.
Unlike so many younger bands, Prairie Flyer's lineup has never changed. After meeting at a bluegrass festival, Faddis and Richard Doble decided to start up a project with Dave Hackwith and Andre Vachon. They slowly made a name for themselves by touring bluegrass festivals around the Northwest. They are now a staple of many of the area's festivals.
"Most of the people who are involved in the bluegrass scene are aware of us," Faddis says. "We're not a traditional bluegrass band because we play a lot of different stuff."
Indeed, Prairie Flyer plays songs that are not your typical bluegrass style, often playing covers of the music of rockabilly/blues guitarist Steve Earle, slide-guitar legend Ry Cooder and the folk-rock classics of Jackson Browne.
"We like to think of some of the stuff that we do under the category of Americana," Faddis says.
In 2003, the band released Selkirk Serenade, its fourth album (the second under the Prairie Flyer name). The record ranges from bluegrass standards to songs mimicking the Cuban-inspired work of the Buena Vista Social Club.
Overall, the guys from Prairie Flyer are just trying to have a good time, Faddis says. Their experimentation has gained them popularity across the Washington state bluegrass scene, but it's their unassuming attitude and their love for good tunes that allows their musical train to keep on chuggin'.