Catch Up With Indie-Rock Powerhouse - West Of House
We caught up West of House members Erick Bieger, Dave Roberts, Kevin Huynh, Lance Bletscher and Tommy Maras and had a chat about their new release ‘Crescendo of Silence’ and the challenges of 2020.
Crescendo of Silence presents impressive lyrical depth. How did you decide upon the album name? Does it relate to the stories in your music?
Erick: The term “crescendo of silence” comes from a line in our song “Holy Ghosted:”
“Have I said too much? She never showed up - a deafening crescendo of silence.”
That song specifically is a social critique regarding systemic racism in America and the failure of the white American church to address it in any meaningful way. That continued silence has been building for decades to a point where it is now quite “deafening.”
Dave: We are at a tipping point in our society where the dawn of the 4th industrial revolution, the pervasive norms regarding “things we don’t talk about,” the loss of meaningful dialogue, and the “dark night of the soul” that most people experience have come to ahead. This album and its songs represent the impasse we have reached as a culture and a species. We are AT the Crescendo of Silence.
You clearly pride yourself on your unique sound and the act of ‘breaking the mould.’ How did you find your sound?
Lance: Describing a “sound” is tough to answer. I think the idea, as a few of us had been playing regularly with each other, was to embark on a project that was first and foremost awesome, but also one that pushed us...musically. Each of us experienced songs in this project where we were in unfamiliar territory, songs that asked us to be uncomfortable. The amazing thing was, it created a sound that I don’t think any of us expected.
Tommy: I’m the drummer and I have the good fortune to have a very large drum set with a large variety of cymbals and snare drums. I have a large assortment of sounds available. I also used different micing techniques and production techniques to get the unique sounds for the recording of this album.
Kevin: We all have pretty different tastes in music and I think recording separately, albeit much more time consuming, allowed us to explore our influences in greater depth. I have played with Erick and Lance extensively throughout the last decade, so that also really helped me find the parts that would compliment them the most.
Dave: Our sound came from the amalgamation of Erick’s original style and the unique influences each of us brought to the table. We all had a lot of common influences with New Wave along with 80s/90s indie and alternative - from there, we all added our unique flavour.
Erick: I don’t think we’re unique as much as we just happen to be using a recipe of influences that doesn’t happen all that often. I think much of our “sound” is built around the foundation of my songwriting; it has a “voice” that’s been consistent in all the projects I’ve ever been in. The other part is surrounding myself with musicians who are all far better than I am and then letting them use their gifts to help match what’s in my head.
How does the songwriting and recording process work as a group?
Erick: It starts in my head. The vast majority of music for this album was written very quickly, with some songs coming together in an almost ‘stream of consciousness’ style. “Echoes Down the Road” is a great example. I only had the chorus written and when I pushed record to get it down I just kept playing - three and half minutes later the music was done.
Lance: Well, Erick is the master songwriter. Both musically and especially lyrically, he’s a genius. However, I think even Erick was surprised at how each of his bandmates contributed to his ideas and together we forged a beautiful piece of art...together. In terms of the recording process, I don’t think this project could’ve happened just five years ago without the technology it required to record. With COVID forcing us to lay our own tracks from home and the existence of the necessary technology, we were able to independently record our parts.
Dave: Depending on the song, we will tweak the instrumentation after the rhythm section is
complete. Erick and I will re-do the vocal tracks once the song has taken shape, and then we work with Bobby, our mixing/mastering engineer who is truly the 6th member of this band. Usually, this involves 3-4 mixes of the song to shape it into what ends up on the album.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
Lance: Two things. 1. That you shouldn’t have to be a 20 something hotty to get a contract. And 2. Social media. It's not my cup of tea.
Tommy: The fact that a few mega-companies control almost all music. Remember back in the 50’s and 60’s when someone could go to a studio, record a song and send it to a radio station for airplay? That would almost never happen today. There is so much great music that was, at the time, off the wall from the 50’s and 60’s that are now staples of modern music history. These days, so much of the ‘popular’ music sounds the same.
Dave: We’re in a very strange dichotomy in the music industry. On one hand, the ability to create high-quality music has never been more accessible. We leaned into the “social distancing” aspect of our world in this pandemic and created this album together without ever being in the same room. The flipside is that it’s INCREDIBLY difficult to get anyone to listen. The airwaves are dominated by pop and hip-hop, regardless of the substance of the songs. If I had the Infinity Gauntlet and could snap to change the music industry, I would bring back stations that were dedicated to releasing music for up-and-coming artists.
Erick: Parity. Like every other place of power, there are gatekeepers who control what you hear and they’re working overtime because it’s easier than ever to record a great sounding song. I recorded in some big-time studios in the 90s and early 2000s what we did with ‘Crescendo of Silence’ would have cost us well over $100,000 back then.
Check Out West of House's Music Video for Moving Shadows off 'Crescendo of Silence'
How did you all meet? What were your musical experiences going into West of House?
Erick: All the guys in West of House are bright spots from my musical past. I started playing
professionally in my teens in the early 90s and came up in a Los Angeles scene where every band was having an identity crisis. I had some success in a band called god complex that was signed to an independent label. Tommy was the drummer for that band. Dave subbed in as a second guitarist on a reunion show we did a few years ago and has been on my radar ever since. Lance and I have played together for over twenty years in various projects and finally settled down in 2015 with a band called The Mad Ones. Kevin played with us on that project. West of House originally started off as a solo project of mine. But after bringing in the right people it became clear that it needed to be a band. The sum is definitely greater than the parts.
Lance: I’ve known Erick since I was in high school and have played with him musically for about 20 years both in worship bands and rock bands. Similarly, I’ve known Tommy for about 20 years playing in a worship band together many moons ago. Kevin is a similar story as well, but I started playing with him maybe 10 years ago. The funny thing about Dave is that I don’t think I have actually met him in person yet. Oh, the funny quirks of 2020 huh?!?
Tommy: I was in a band with Erick in the late 90’s. I responded to an ad he had looking for a
drummer. I was drawn to his voice. I really liked the music, but his voice was what hooked me. That’s still the same, I’m a big fan of Erick’s voice. Personally, I’ve been playing drums since I was seven. I’ve played about every style you can imagine on drum set as well as marching percussion, symphonic bands and orchestras. I have been in bands and recorded in Los Angeles, Nashville and Salt Lake City, Utah.
So, what's next for you guys?
Dave: We’re working on new material for a couple of different EPs and beginning the work on the second album. Once the world opens up again, we would love to do live shows and a tour to bring our music to more people. We have achieved the momentum that is so hard to develop in a newer band, and we’re going to keep that train going!
Erick: Until live music returns we’re going to keep writing and recording. I’ve also started working on material for album #2 so you’ll definitely hear some new music from us in 2021.
Check Out 'Crescendo of Silence' on Spotify HERE
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