When most longtime Idahoans hear the phrase "wide stance," they'll probably think of former U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and his 2007 arrest for lewd conduct. The members of Wide Stance know this—that's why they chose it as their band name.
"The joke is Idaho is never in the news, and when it is, it's like, 'What?'" guitarist Luke Nuxoll said, chuckling. "So I think that's why we all kind of laughed about that name. And I think it describes us as well, in that we have really wide stances in musical tastes and political opinions and everything. We're all coming from a different area, so we do have a wide stance in a lot of ways. But of course, it's also funny because we all love to laugh."
The name may be a joke, but the band's talent isn't. Originally called The Hitmen, the Lewiston-based group established a reputation as a cover band, playing gigs ranging from private parties to opening slots for Collective Soul and Colbie Caillat. In 2017, the band changed its name and began focusing on original material.
The slick blend of rock, soul and funk on Wide Stance's self-titled debut EP (self-released, 2017) suggests a promising future for the rechristened band. Boiseans can hear that blend firsthand when Wide Stance plays The Reef on Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28.
Nuxoll sees Wide Stance as "four different versions of Idaho. Our bass player is from Boise, born and raised. Our singer is born and raised in Lewiston—kind of that middle-of-the-road town. The drummer is a farmer's son—lives way, way out of town. And then I'm an Army brat: My roots are all from Idaho, but I didn't live here 'til I was 19."
The foundation of the band reaches back to Nuxoll's childhood days, when he met drummer Curtis Boyer.
"A music teacher here in town had this kid playing for him. ... There was a school concert in the sixth grade, and the regular drummer for the school could not play a part. And Curt, a sixth grader, said, 'I can play that part.' He'd never played drums for the school, never heard anything, and he sat down and he nailed the part. When he was a sophomore in high school, he started doing gigs with me in other projects. He was that good right out of the gate."
The same music teacher introduced Nuxoll to Wide Stance lead singer Dusty Katzenberger in 2013.
"My contemporary called me up and said, 'Hey, I'm doing this gig, and I want you to come see this singer that's going to sing a couple Beatles song with us,'" Nuxoll said. "That singer was Dusty. And I saw Dusty and I knew Curt, and I said, 'We're one bass player away from a really good band.'"
That bass player turned out to be Stefan Jarocki, who was a sophomore at the University of Idaho at the time. The four men had only rehearsed as The Hitmen for two months when they got an offer to play a wedding at U of I's Kibbie Dome.
"That was sight unseen," Nuxoll said. "It was just, 'Hey, these are really good guys.' 'Okay, well, we need a band for our wedding. Hire them.' And that was our first gig, so we did kind of come out of the gate rolling."
The wedding proved to be the first of many unusual situations.
"Remember in World War II where if you'd shoot down an enemy plane, you'd put the Iron Cross on the side of your P-51 Mustang to mark the kill that you'd had?" Nuxoll asked. "We're gonna start getting stickers of all the places we've been kicked out of, all the incidents that have happened, all of the people that we've picked up or watched. We blew out the grill and the headlights on a deer coming back from Joseph, Oregon, so we're gonna get a deer sticker. We had the Lewis County Sheriff kick us out of an entire town and say, 'Don't come back to this town ever,' so we're gonna get the Lewis County Sheriff sticker and put that on the fender of the van."
With each performance, Nuxoll and his bandmates continue to hone their sound. They improvise and invent parts for both their covers and their originals onstage.
Wide Stance hopes to play its music for audiences beyond the Northwest soon. The band's touring plans—which Nuxoll half-jokingly called "the world's worst business model"—involve turning down paying regional gigs "to go play bigger population centers to people that have no idea who we are ... So somebody call up Warren Buffet and let him know that he's not in jeopardy at all."