DALLAS -- In 2011, Oil Boom almost went bust.
The group had recently released a critically lauded EP, Black Waxy, and appeared to be on its way to at least local fame, if not something bigger.
But then singer Brian Whitten left, and that could have been a knockout blow. Yet, guitarist/singer Ryan Taylor and drummer Dugan Connors, Oil Boom's core, didn't think about capping the musical well.
"I don't think it ever came to that point," Taylor says over breakfast at one of his favorite haunts, Oddfellows in Oak Cliff. "Dugan and I really like playing music together and we still had the songs, the drive and the desire to keep going. It was just a matter of finding a way to adapt. It was nerve-wracking at first."
Taylor took over vocals and pared the band down to a trio, adding bassist Steve Steward, a stalwart of the Fort Worth scene who made his name in such outfits as Darth Vato and Epic Ruins. The result is the latest EP, the impressive Gold Yeller, which includes the feisty, garage-rock blast of she-did-him-wrong blues, The Great American Shakedown, a track that's in regular rotation at KXT/91.7 FM. The group, playing Lola's in Fort Worth on Saturday, has been added to the bill of KXT's Summer Cut Festival at Gexa Energy Pavilion in June.
Any ghosts of Whitten seem to have been exorcised.
"I would say I was definitely nervous about taking over the vocal duties," Taylor concedes later in an email. "Having been in a band/bands with him for so long, it was like having a safety net that's no longer there to rely on. And I really like his voice too, so in the beginning, I wasn't real comfortable trying to step into that role."
In fact, the first time Taylor took the spotlight -- at a gig in his hometown of Oklahoma City -- things didn't go so well. "But Dugan was real encouraging and I just decided to press on and try not to duplicate Brian's style and do my own thing."
Paint it Black
Whitten's shadow wasn't the only one from which the band was trying to escape. There were those annoying yet constant comparisons to the Black Keys. Yes, both groups play a stripped-down brand of hooky blues-rock, but the Oil Boom guys insist that's not all they do.
"I'd be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn't influenced by them," Taylor concedes. "But, as time goes on, you find other stuff and incorporate that, too."
"There aren't many rock bands that achieved their acclaim that you could remotely associate with us, so I can see it a little bit," says Connors. "But, if you listen to our music, you'll hear other areas we draw from."
From the early-'60s pop flavor of This Girl's Man to the White Stripes-ish riff-o-rama of Lily Liver, Gold Yeller shows off a band that is more than the sum of its Black Keys collection.
"I'd actually played in a band with Brian for eight years prior in Oklahoma City. I think I was trying to write for his voice a lot of times," Taylor says. "Now, it's like a clear canvas to do whatever and not pigeonhole ourselves in just a blues-rock vein and expand it a little bit."
Fort Worth fandom
For whatever reason, Oil Boom's style seems to have especially struck a chord in Fort Worth. "I remember the first time we met Steve, and it was the first show we played in Fort Worth," recalls Connors. "It was crazy how much people seemed to dig what we were doing in Fort Worth."
Steward sums up it up this way: "Fort Worth likes rock bands."
Brian Forella, the owner of Lola's, agrees that there's a certain attitude among Fort Worth bands and audiences that can give a band like Oil Boom an extra boost.
"They do great," Forella says of Oil Boom. "Steven's been in a bunch of bands. That's a big tie-in, and they're part of a scene that's booming right now."
He ticks off such other outfits as Quaker City Night Hawks, Hannah Barbarians, Skeleton Coast and Josh Weathers + the True Endeavors as being part of the same scene.
Steward also believes the Fort Worth audience can be surprisingly accepting in its tastes, cheering on both dark and heavy Pinkish Black as well as the more pop-smart Burning Hotels. He points to the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards show last summer, when the two bands shared the bill.
"I was thinking that Pinkish Black would have scared off the Burning Hotels fans," he says. "But I looked around and everybody was nodding their heads. There were girls in sundresses singing with the band."
Of course, that raises the question: Does Oil Boom attract the sundress crowd?
Taylor laughs, "Uh, no."