We have been sonically graced with the new EP from the Americana/Folk Group Westerly. We present to you the 3 song masterpiece of “Rags and Ribbons”. The first song of this amazing body of work is called “Build” and that’s exactly what it does. It sonically builds and also builds your love for this group. Starting off with a simple percussion beat, there are synths introduced and accompanied by the duo vocals of a man and woman. The lyrics are absolutely beautiful. Standing out to our ears, we fell in love with “I need someone to hold me close to their chest, won't you choose me” as well as “searching for love is all I do”. You can’t help but feel the love in this song and the melodies are so infectious, you really don’t stand a chance. This reminds you of Bruce Springsteen meets Arcade Fire meets Mumford & Sons and maybe The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon. There is an electric guitar lead at the end which proves the Springsteen influence, as well as the male vocals in the song. All in all, “Build” sets the tone for a great opening track to this 3 song EP. We want to build with you, too, Westerly!
Up next, we have the guitar riff that grabs you right from the very beginning and takes you “Down to the Filter”. The song then breaks into a Rock influenced slow jam and carries all of the elements needed, while also keeping the Americana/ Folk vibes. The singer confessed “I ain’t saying I’m an easy man to live with”, this sort of self-awareness is something we can all use and learn from. “God is just another woman who won’t return my calls anymore” is one of the most powerful lyrics we have heard in a while and we love how it also gives the idea that God is a woman - very progressive and nice to see in the genre. The song is a longer one, clocking in at 5:11, but you go through the song with a smile on your face and a warm fuzzy feeling the entire way through. The guitar work is flawless, so much personality in the playing and the other instruments allow the player to do their thing, by pulling back. A great middle song, for sure!
The last song “Shakin” wastes absolutely 0 times! The song jumps right into what some would say is the “hook” of the song. “You’re wearing me down with ‘Rags and Ribbons’ is mentioned and allows for that “A-Ha” moment, when you finally hear the EP name in a lyric. The song is a smooth sound that feels more like a John Mayer jam and we are very happy about it. However, again, the vocals do their job of standing on their own platform. The feeling of the EP changes from song to song, but you can still see that American flag waving in the background and the Americana vibes are consistent the entire way. Like every song on the EP, the guitar work is what we are really excited about and has no problem showing it’s true potential with this song, too. This ends as abruptly as it starts, but that isn’t a bad thing as you want to start the EP over from the very beginning!
All in, we definitely think there is something special and to be said about Westerly and their latest EP “Rags and Ribbons”. Be sure to listen to it and stay up to date with Westerly on social media!
Listen to “Rags and Ribbons” here.
We're here with Sterling Spence, the frontman and songwriter for Westerly! You’re from the Bay Area of California but recently moved to Los Angeles (Echo Park). What inspired moving south in the state?
I never really wanted to leave the Bay. It’s my home and that means a lot to me. But my partner got into Law School at UCLA, so I had to re-evaluate and figure out if I was going to follow her. That’s part of what our new EP “Rags and Ribbons” is about, it’s the questions and comprises and prices you pay when you look at a relationship to figure out what it means to you. I was looking at all the things I was building and holding onto in the Bay and I realized that maybe my own self-interest wasn’t as important as thinking about what I could build with her. On top of that, the Bay Area is changing so quickly. I grew up with the memories of all those iconic San Francisco Bands of the 60s and then later the power of the East Bay punk scene. Now, if you go to the neighborhoods where that history flourished, it's all just luxury apartments and WeWorks full of start-up designers. Everything’s gotten so expensive so quickly that the art scenes (along with families who have lived here for generations) are being pushed out.
Moving away from all that kind of felt like a breath of fresh air. Of course, the same thing is happening in LA, but the resistance feels stronger. I’m enamored by the LA communities and cultures that are making their stand and creating art and music that feels distinctly American but is rooted in traditions from all over the world. I mean, Westerly makes Americana roots music, that’s the core of what we do. But really that means we’re making music influenced by the South—Rock n Roll with the blues, gospel, country, and folk. But being in LA, you just get this sense that American music is something so much wider, that it comes from every part of the globe. It's just a good place to breathe in the atmosphere and try to make something of your own.
Would it be crazy to say that there is some Brian Fallon influence on your music? If so, who is your biggest influence?
You know, I’ve gotten that before and I do love Brian, especially his band the Gaslight Anthem. This might be a bit too in the weeds, but I have a theory about them. Ok, so in 2009 the Gaslight Anthem put out the album “The ’59 Sound” which was this really amazing blue-collar Rock n Roll storytelling reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen but blended with a punk rock heart. That same year, Springsteen put out one of his worst albums since the 80s, just this really cheesy overproduced bullshit. But somehow, he heard the Gaslight Anthem and ended up bringing them out on a couple of his shows. The next two Springsteen albums “Wrecking Ball” and “High Hopes” where his best and most inspired albums since the late 70s, they’re filled with this rawness straight from The Gaslight Anthem, they’re beautifully angry and energetic. Here’s my point, I think Brian Fallon gave Springsteen back his voice and taught him how to be relevant again. I know it's very uncool to say this, but Springsteen is by far the biggest influence on this EP, so I’m really glad you heard a bit of Brian Fallon in there. If I'm being honest, our song Build is a rip off of “I’m on Fire” and the song Shakin’ uses the line “Ain’t good enough for you” which is the name of another one of Springsteen’s songs. I wrote a lot of those with the distant dream that if they ever got big enough, he might hear them and sue us. Then, I’d get a chance to meet him and just say thank you!
“Rags and Ribbons” seems to tell a story of a struggling love. Is there anything else you hope to get across with your music? (Besides your amazing guitar work!)
Westerly has been a very special thing for me. Just as an example, I’ve been playing with Scott, our guitar shredder, since we picked up guitars for the first time over 15 years ago. I feel very lucky to get to make music with this group of people. It’s a rare thing that you find friends and collaborators who believe in the little sounds inside your head. So, when I think about that with this record, just the fact that we’ve put out so much music over the years and we keep making it despite the difficulties of being in a band, I think it’s a testament to friendship. In some ways that’s also what the love I’m talking about on the EP means. The songs are about the struggles of relationships, the things we fight for and the difficulties we face, but ultimately its hopeful. It’s the idea that the struggle is worth it.
You have played venues of all kinds, where is the most unique place you have ever performed? Where do you hope to one day perform?
We used to play this old wooden ship that would circle around Alcatraz and do a wine and hors d’oeuvres cruise at sunset. It seemed like a good gig to have a captive audience and usually it was, but if the passengers didn’t like you, you were just stuck there with them. A couple of the crew were original burning man people, so if we were really bombing, they’d come out and do fire spinning on deck to amp everyone up again. The whole thing seemed like a wonderfully terrible idea, but they paid alright so that was cool. I guess if I thought of places we'd like to play in the future, there are so many iconic venues. I mean, it would be a dream to do the Troubadour. Also, in San Francisco, there’s this old bar called the Condor Club that used to hire live bands for their burlesque shows. I always wanted to get one of those gigs…you know, why not dream big!
When can your fans see you on tour and when can we expect this EP to be released?
So, we’re still figuring out what it looks like to play gigs being spread out across the state, but we’ll be hitting the road again this summer. Until then, we have shows here and there and you can keep up with us on Instagram @westerlytheband and facebook.com/westerlytheband Those are the best places to see upcoming shows. The EP dropped the day after Thanksgiving, and you can hear it everywhere music is streamed. We also have new stuff coming out soon. There’s a single dropping in February, another EP in April, and a bunch of short stories that go along with our earlier EP “In the Empire” that will be coming out later in the year! So, if you follow us, you’ll get all the details. We’d love to see you!