(Photo by Scott Stormann)
Westerners, a Lawrence-based indie-rock quartet, has been playing a seemingly overflowing swarm of shows in recent months. Having had the pleasure of catching a couple of those performances, I was pleased to stumble across their new EP on a recent Bandcamp stroll. With yet another strong production job from Joel Nanos at Element Recording, the band has managed to capture its raw live energy, tight arrangements, and dynamic range quite effectively in this four-song sampler.
The EP’s opener “Ugly Girls in Pretty Shoes” (which coincidentally is one of the best song titles I’ve seen in awhile) is a nice fiery shot out of the gate. This Nada Surf-meets-Me Like Bees slice of garage rock bounces from jazzy strains to feathers of prog rock, all brought home nicely by a strong and poppy singalong chorus.
“Tetris” sees the band move more in a psychedelic or jam direction. Easily comparable to a more meandering version of The ACBs or the older, less-dancey Soft Reeds material, this song features the best vocal work of the EP. The more tender moments are carried perfectly by Floyd-esque “ooooo”s that transform the listener to a serene place. Extra points for the tasteful and effective use of hand claps.
“Broken Bells” shows a bit of a Midwestern side of Westerners. The proggy, tight rhythm section featured previously is replaced by a content shuffle beat and walking bass lines. The chorus explodes a bit into a chuggling, folk-punk experience, proving even the “slow” songs can have some nuts.
My favorite song of the EP, “Dog Days,” closes things out with a powerful, body-moving Zeppelin-style groove. A little more riff-driven than the other tracks, the guitarist really shines here with a dynamic and careful use of effects. Typically I shy away from a band’s more jam-esque material, but this song seems to be the perfect harder rock culmination for this batch of songs.
I would imagine Westerners are coming to a bar or town near you. As stated previously, they keep a pretty busy schedule about the Midwest. Go over to their Bandcamp and throw them a few bucks for this EP (currently selling for $3 or more). Gas aint cheap and Westerners have some good sounds to spread about.
Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings begins production. He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.