DENVER — Twin brothers Ray Carlisle and Brandon Carlisle, both 33, of Laramie enjoy fairly normal lives in Wyoming. Both are geologists working for the same company, and their jobs testing oil wells takes them around the United States and all over the world.
The Carlisles blend into a blue-collar and outdoors culture that has long moved past the romanticized Wild West, but still mostly identifies with country music. A very small percentage of Wyoming share the Carlisles’ enthusiasm for the Descendents, NOFX and other punk rock legends.
But when they travel, the Carlisles are sometimes recognized as punk rock stars themselves.
Once, while working an oil-testing job in Moscow, the brothers ran into some fans of their band, Teenage Bottlerocket. Singer and guitarist Ray and drummer Brandon are half of the four-piece band.
“They showed us around to a few bars and talked to us about what music we liked, what music we didn’t like, and laughed and drank vodka,” said Ray Carlisle.
When the band tours the U.S., they’re sometimes mistakenly introduced as being from “Laramie, Wisconsin.” When they visit with fans in New York or California, they’re likely to recall Wyoming as that place where they got snowed in once on I-80.
“They usually don’t have anything positive to say about the state,” said Ray Carlisle. “It’s usually like, ‘It was really windy, it was an icy road, I wrecked my truck, we broke down.’ That’s what you hear about Wyoming from people when we’re out on tour.”
Teenage Bottlerocket bassist Miguel Chen, also of Laramie, wears sleeves of ink, but similarly enjoys a life of relative anonymity in Wyoming.
Vocalist and guitarist Kody Templeman works at Decker’s Food Center in his hometown of Newcastle, in Wyoming’s northeast corner. Templeman, confident and reserved, first found international success in the 1990s and early 2000s fronting The Lillingtons, based in Newcastle. After recording four albums with The Lillingtons, Templeman joined Teenage Bottlerocket in 2005 helping record the album Total on Red Scare Records.
Before forming Teenage Bottlerocket, the Carlisle brothers had played in Laramie under several lineups, most notably as the Homeless Wonders. Chen and the Carlisles are all graduates of the University of Wyoming.
It’s no surprise that Wyoming is home to a wide array of homegrown music. But the critical acclaim that Teenage Bottlerocket has garnered in the world of punk, and the band’s still-growing international following, would be noteworthy even if the band emerged from Brooklyn, N.Y. or Los Angeles.
“This is the Mortal Kombat of pop-punk,” boasts a review by Punknews.org. Teenage Bottlerocket was featured as “The Band You Need to Know in 2009” by Alternative Press. In 2009, Teenage Bottlerocket signed with Fat Wreck Chords, the same label as punk icons NOFX.
“Ten years ago, I think I was more motivated to get people inspired to like our band. I wanted to get the word out,” said Brandon Carlisle. “Now, I don’t have to say anything; the word’s out. And I don’t mean that with any arrogance. It’s changed, for sure.”
In March, the band re-released its 2003 album, Another Way, then in April released a new EP, Mutilate Me. They headlined a four-band show at The Marquis in Denver this month then launched an international tour that includes some 40 dates over the next three months.
“We’re flying to Europe tomorrow to go on tour with NOFX. It’s something I never would have thought would happen when we came out with our first 7-inch,” Ray Carlisle told WyoFile before the band’s Denver show on April 9.
In their 10-plus years of playing punk, the bandmates have played all over the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan. This fall, the band will go to Australia for the first time. Teenage Bottlerocket draws big crowds in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, L.A., and, yes, Sheridan, Wyo.
“When we were on tour with Cobra Skulls, we had a phenomenal show (in Sheridan). Over 200 kids on a Wednesday night. Vibrant punk scene going on in Sheridan right now,” said Ray Carlisle.
Teenage Bottlerocket’s sound can be described as pure-form punk, much in the tradition of The Ramones. Whether it’s the swaggering lyrics of “Bigger Than Kiss,” or the youth angst-inspired lyrics of “Blood Bath at Burger King,” “Teenwolf” and “Skate or Die,” the music comes from a universal revelry in being a social misfit — and it’s just as organic to small-town Wyoming as it is to the ‘burbs of Chicago.
“I think that it doesn’t matter where you’re from to make music,” said Ray Carlisle.
The proliferation of digital music and the Internet has allowed musicians to enjoy international audiences no matter where they call home.
“It’s just as easy to type in Green Day into a search engine as it is to type in Teenage Bottlerocket, or a band from Indonesia,” said Brandon Carlisle. “That’s something that’s great about music in modern times, and the music industry; it doesn’t matter where it is.”
So does that mean the Teenage Bottlerocket bandmates can’t be uprooted from Wyoming by their own success?
“I think if there was some sort of crazy break-out thing where we got a million dollars for Teenage Bottlerocket, I would not move to L.A.,” said Brandon Carlisle, whose recent big move was just across the state line to Fort Collins, Colo.
“Yeah, I probably would,” said Templeman, adding that he currently enjoys the best of both worlds. “It’s also nice because the job that I work at is pretty lenient about letting me take extended periods of time off.”
Working regular jobs based in Wyoming has meant that Teenage Bottlerocket misses out on some tours, like one with the Dropkick Murphys.
“And we were bummed about that, but we do what we can,” said Brandon Carlisle. “I think it keeps us grounded, you know, and I like the fact that we’re regular people, and I always want it to be that way.”
The bandmates admit there’s a certain pleasure in living a sort of dual life, with fame in the international punk world and the anonymity of being an average Joe at home in Wyoming.
Now that they’re back on tour, the punk rockers from Wyoming are anything but average Joes. After several shows in Spain this month, Teenage Bottlerocket will play the Groezrock Festival in Belgium, then continue their tour with NOFX in Berlin and London, then make their way back to North America with about a dozen dates in Canada.
Still, when asked what he does for a living, Brandon Carlisle said, “I usually tell them I work for a company here in Laramie.”
Contact Dustin Bleizeffer at 307-577-6069 or [email protected]
LISTEN to “Mutilate Me,” a newly released track from the Teenage Bottlerocket EP of the same name.
WATCH the video for “Skate or Die,” by Teenage Bottlerocket. ADVISORY: The song contains adult lyrics that may not be suitable for younger viewers.