The Westerlies

5 questions to The Westerlies (New Music Brass Quartet)

Following the release of their debut album “Wish The Children Would Come On Home”, The Westerlies made their way back to the west coast from New York for the summer, and celebrated Canada Day with a performance at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. We asked 5 questions to The Westerlies.

The Westerlies

The Westerlies

How has geography influenced your music and your musical approach?

The four of us grew up in Seattle which is a very laid back, nature-oriented place. This has certainly shaped us as individuals, and in turn our music reflects the environment in an organic way. On the other hand, we all moved to New York to study music and it is a really intense city – super busy, super exciting, but chaotic. New York is essentially the opposite of Seattle, so our music comes from and is informed by these polar extremes of our living experience.

Tell us about your annual residency on Lopez Island.

After our first six months as an ensemble, we discovered how difficult it was to find rehearsal time and to delve into some music, especially in a hectic place like New York. Going to Lopez Island, to a cabin there overlooking Puget Sound, gets us away from the world and brings the focus back to our music. There’s no cell phone service or internet on the island so distraction is really minimal. We’ve been going there every year for as long as we’ve been playing together.

What is one thing that most people don’t know about brass music?

A lot of the feedback we’ve gotten is people saying, “I was really pleasantly surprised because I thought you guys were just going to be loud and abrasive, but you actually played very softly and sensitively.” Not all brass ensembles are loud! We’re often caught between the concept of a brass band – especially the music presented in that context – and the chamber-style brass ensembles which has its own set of connotations. One is raucous and the other is more polished, but we’re not exactly either of those things. We’re somewhere in between, drawing influences from both while at the same time introducing other genres into the mix. Finding this sound together, really discovering it for ourselves and doing so without trying to define it, has been one of the coolest things about this project so far. It’s a very liberating process.

The Westerlies

The Westerlies

What has been your greatest challenge so far as a group?

Our two trumpets and two trombones setup doesn’t give us a huge amount of textural and timbral variety to work with, so making an interesting, full set given these circumstances has been a big challenge. That’s why we’ve pulled from all these different styles and extended techniques: to create a diverse and contrasting repertoire, whether for recording sessions or for live performances, and to explore all the different sounds we can possibly make, to combine them in a way that feels new and fresh to us.

What’s next for The Westerlies?

We’ve got an upcoming west coast tour in August from Seattle down to LA with several stops along the way. Two of us still have one year of school left so we’ll be wrapping things up in that sense. Otherwise we’d like to continue touring and eventually release another album of our own music. We’re also looking forward to more collaborations down the line. We did an amazing one last year with the Juilliard Dance Company, and have also played with a couple vocalists, rock bands, folk singers… we really love seeing how our music fits into other people’s sound. More of that to come!

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