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The Dirt Drifters steer country-rock band toward Oklahoma hometown



Hopefully there won't be a burn ban in Oklahoma City this weekend, because The Dirt Drifters are making a stop Saturday night at the Wormy Dog Saloon, and the band has a tendency to cause explosions wherever it goes.


The Nasvhille, Tenn., act is known for its live fire; a rock 'n' roll-influenced country music that has earned a reputation for setting stages ablaze. But the group's undeniably bad luck with vehicles has also been known to bring heat. 

First, it was the television in the band's tricked-out, old-as-dirt RV that burnt to a crisp. Two weeks later, it was the RV itself.

"We got all of our gear out in time, but it was really sad to watch it burn," said lead singer Matt Fleener. "We put a lot of hard work into that RV, and we all loved it."

It's still a touchy subject for the five-piece, but a brand-new, decked-out tour transport with a flat-screen TV helps heal all wounds. And after showcasing for a list of interested record labels, a deal with Warner Bros. doesn't hurt either.

The five members of The Dirt Drifters lived in various parts of the country before their paths crossed in Music City. Fleener and his brother, rhythm guitarist/background vocalist Ryan Fleener, grew up in Moore listening to their dad and two uncles sing in a vocal group. Lead guitarist Jeff Middleton followed his dreams to Nashville from New Jersey. Bass guitarist Ron Gomez hails from Florida, while Nick Diamond drifted with drumsticks in hand from New Orleans.

The musicians couldn't be more different from each other " a dynamic easily heard throughout their music.

"We were thinking earlier about what makes us different from other country bands, or other rock bands in general, and we decided it's because we're uniquely an American rock band playing country songs," Matt Fleener said. "It's like a hybrid of the two. No one has done anything like this before."

It's a mixture that works for the musicians, and they work well together.

"Every Thursday night we would sit around with a six-pack and a six-string, and we'd write some songs," Middleton said. "Then one day, we were like, 'Why don't we start a band?'"

Middleton and the Fleener brothers soon met Gomez and Diamond at church, not long after, and the group was formed. It's easy to assume that religion isn't the only thing the members of an up-and-coming country act would likely share, but Diamond insisted this isn't so. 

"I don't own one country CD in my whole collection," he said. "But I live in Nashville and I'm in a country-rock band."

Growing up, the Fleener brothers didn't care for country music either, despite their Oklahoma roots, which proves why even those who don't appreciate country music find themselves stomping along with The Dirt Drifters.

"We all believe in what we're doing. We all write and we all sing, but when we get together, it's bigger than any one of us," Ryan Fleener said. "I think we're like five male Sheryl Crows " you couldn't pigeonhole her into any one category."

Beyond dedication and musical drive, the one characteristic shared by the group is fatherhood. Each Dirt Drifter is a dad " a commonality that Diamond said unifies the eclectic group.

"It's nice, because it's not like it's just one married guy surrounded by a bunch of single guys," he said. "We all deal with being away from our families while we're out on tour, but we're doing this for them. We just want to be able to do what we love and provide for our families."

Matt and Ryan Fleener said their father is excited for their hometown show and is, hands down, one of their biggest fans.

"Dad is like a drug pusher of our music," Ryan Fleener said. "Everyone he meets, he's like, 'Listen to this, it's my sons. Listen to this.' We actually have to have someone stay with him during the shows. He gets a little amped up."

The country rockers plan to release their first single early next year and a debut full-length album soon after. "Lauren Parajon

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