The Old 97’s began their musical career as the darlings of the early alternative-country scene. The band’s lineup–guitarist/singer Rhett Miller, bassist/singer Murry Hammond, lead guitarist Ken Bethea, and drummer Philip Peeples–has remained constant since its founding. Like many other alternative country bands, the Old 97’s did not want critics and fans to box them into one musical style. Their participation in the 1997 Lollapalooza Tour proved that as they jammed with some of the best groups on the alternative rock scene. The Old 97’s included a number of pop songs on 1999’s Fight Songsas well. From their beginning, the Old 97’s have followed their muse regardless of the consequences.
The growth and changes in the music of the Old 97’s are also representative of the trends within the alternative-country community. Bands like Wilco have also traveled the same road, starting with Gram Parsons influences and steel guitars, and then moving to the Beatles and hook-laden pop songs. Songwriters like Miller and Hammond place more importance on crafting good songs than trying to fit into a preconceived genre. The band is also quick to point out that despite a change in record labels and a change in the band’s sound, it has yet to become famous. In other words, they haven’t sold out. Still, the band has high hopes for the future. Miller, who has residences in New York and Los Angeles, returned to Texas for three months and lived with the band while making Satellite Rides. “It just made us a lot closer as a band,” he told Wes Orshoski of Billboard. “So, it’s different from the last record in that respect–we’re a lot more of a band. I think that comes across.” This harmony and openness to change guarantees that the Old 97’s will continue to make music that will perk up listeners’ ears–no matter what musical category it happens to be in.