And while that fact has sometimes been discouraging to frontman Tim Warren, the positive notes he’s hung onto have come from the familiar faces that come out to hear the band perform. And those familiar faces aren’t only found in the band’s home state of Connecticut, but in California, in D.C. and everywhere in between.
“It’s really great to show up in Phoenix and have the bartender give you a free round and tell you that the entire staff came in on their off night just to hear us because they liked us so much when we performed there a few years ago,” Warren says.
The group’s MySpace page bears the phrase “One person at a time,” succinctly defining their approach. While the Routes may not benefit from the mass exposure of some rock bands, they have maximized the opportunities they’ve had in each market, leaving a lasting imprint on those that attend their shows (this reporter included).
The Routes sport an effortless polish when they perform, a veteran talent best described by the oxymoronic ability to play tight but loose during live shows. It’s a rare trait that makes you wonder if they’re playing the music, or their music is playing them.
“When it comes to us and a room full of people and just doing what we do, I think it’s a good situation for everybody and I’m proud of that. You know, I’m betting my life on that at this point,” Warren says.
It wouldn’t be the first time the group has bet heavily on a gut feeling. When seeking money to get their second EP pressed, guitarist Eric Donnelly convinced Warren to allow him to take their $200 paycheck and turn it into the $2,000 they needed for the EP. A few hours of poker and blackjack later, they had the cash.
If nothing else, betting on their ample musical abilities to leave an indelible mark on their audience seems a surer gamble than Texas Hold ‘Em. Particularly when you sample the tunes on their latest LP, “A Sucker’s Dream,” released in February.
Lead single, “The Future’s Nothing New,” entrances with the gypsy strings of an electric guitar that would remind of the Rolling Stones if not for the modern beat behind it and some silky, almost R&B-like vocals from Warren.
Pair that with the driving, ready-to-rock title track, the syrupy sweetness that bathes pop ballad “All That I See” and the waltzing-beneath-the-stars sensation generated by “Just a Dream” and you have quite the quartet of cornerstones.
Also notable is an aptly-named tune for the times endured by Warren, Donnelly, bassist Chip Johnson, guitarist Mike Sembos and drummer Michael Stavitz — “Never Gonna Be Rich.”
But while the going has been tough, Warren and Co. are just fine with the climb they’ve had to endure. What’s more, Warren knows that the footprints in which they now stand are not entirely unfamiliar to more successful bands the Routes have toured with and idolize.
“When those guys keep telling you that they’ve been in our shoes, you have to trust that. We hear it too often for us not to put any stock in it.
“And besides, I have no problem with the tax bracket I’m in.”
• The Alternate Routes perform with Carbon Leaf at 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. May 22 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. For more on The Alternate Routes, visit www.myspace.com/alternateroutes.