Spotlight On: Westmain
Interviewed By: Stephanie Williams
Northern Virginia rockers Westmain have a unique claim to fame that stems from the energy they bring to any stage. When going to a show of theirs, the crowd is found completely immersed into their performance. Westmain fans are diehard, and show strict loyalty to the quartet. This month marks a milestone for the band as they celebrate their debut Glamour Fades, which has been a much anticipated release by their growing fan base that they’ve racked up over their years together. With a soon-to-be-released music video down the line that will be shown in hundreds of movie theaters along with a string of shows geared up, the band plans to secure their mark in the D.C. music scene in 2012.
DMD spoke with Westmain members Tommy Rothman, Paul Davis, Seth Morrrissey and Ed Zigo about their new album, showing hometown loyalty, and a crazy night in Cleveland.
For more information about Westmain, check out their official website
To preview and purchase Glamour Fades, click here
Catch them next: Thursday, May 17th @ Fat Tuesday’s (Fairfax, VA)
D.C. Music Download: How did everyone in the group get connected to form Westmain? Were all the band members friends prior to the group’s inception?
Ed: Tommy and I grew up just outside D.C. in Northern Virginia, but we didn’t cross paths until we started playing music together . Paul and Tommy met while attending Radford University in 2007. Shortly after, they began playing shows and continued on as a duo until their junior year when I met Tommy while he was playing a solo gig at a pub in Fairfax, Va.
It was actually a Sunday afternoon and I was getting after it in honor of a friend’s birthday. What happened next escapes my memory due to severe dehydration I was suffering at the time. The next day my phone rang and the caller ID said the name “JAM”. “JAM” was indeed Tommy and he proceeded to tell me that he had met me the day before where I aggressively told him that I played drums and that he HAD to jam with me. Not to sound like a frat kid, but to this day I have no recollection of that conversation ever taking place, but I’m pretty flattered that in spite of being borderline psychotic, he had the nerve to call me and eventually come over to play music. He’s been “JAM” in my phone ever since. Soon after our initial introduction, Tommy brought Paul up to Fairfax from Radford where the three of us began writing songs together and eventually booked gigs in and around the area. While it was fun for a bit, it became obvious that we were definitely missing a vital piece. We needed funk.
Enter groove regulator Seth Morrissey. Paul and Seth actually grew up with each other in the Shenandoah Valley, about two hours outside of D.C., and had always been connected musically in one way or another since they were six. He was actually playing with an awesome southern rock band, Natural Born Easy, at the time who looked way cooler than us. Nevertheless, he had to be ours. We didn’t band poach, but lets just say the rock gods kindly allowed things to work in our favor and he became the fourth and final piece of our band. Overall, its been a weird eventful trip but somehow we’re still here and its still fun so we’ll keep coming back.
DMD: Congrats on your new release, Glamour Fades. What kind of inspiration or experiences did you pull from when writing songs for this album?
Tommy: The songs that made the cut for the album, often deal with love and loss. Almost all are inspired by our experiences with these common staples of life, with two (“Pulaski” and “Baby Blue”) having direct references to those experiences lyrically. The rest are a mashup of truths into individual stories we feel anyone and everyone can relate to. At some point or the other most people deal with love, lust, loss, addiction, fear of death among other things. The one common theme of life is that everything has an end. Love can fade over time, friendships fall apart, and inevitably we all lose everything we’ve ever cared about (including ourselves).
Ultimately, this is why we chose to call the album Glamour Fades. It’s a repetitive lyric in the track “Highway Robbery”, but it perfectly describes the theme of the album as a whole. If one or any of these songs can evoke an emotion in the listener, then we’ve accomplished something great. The beauty of an album is that it is set in stone. It will never change. The listener can go back at any time to get that feeling again. The melody and words are constant, but the meaning is unique for each individual. It’s whatever they make it and that is truly something special. Hopefully, it will inspire people to see us perform live, which is an entirely different experience than the record. Either way, we’re damn proud of ourselves and all of the fans that waited so patiently for it to come to fruition.
DMD: How did you decide on the album title and artwork for Glamour Fades?
Seth: Let’s just say, there were a lot of ideas thrown out. It wasn’t until we sat down with Bridget Murphy, our artist and Ed’s aunt, that we really started going down a road we could all agree on. When we decided to go with a lyric for the title, “Glamour Fades” was one that really stood out. Not only did it fit the general theme of the album, but it also opened up a lot of artistic doors our previous attempts had failed to discover. After some discussion with Bridget about the concept, we pretty much let her take the wheel which I think gave not only the artwork but the album itself a face that we might have never seen. The second we got the first draft of the painting, we knew it was just right.
DMD: The band’s overall sound is a unique infusion of rock with a few other genres incorporated. Just curious as to what kind of artists did the group listen to growing up?
Paul: We all grew up listening to the usual rock cannon: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Stones among others. For Tommy, Seth and I, the music we listened to mirrors the music we started out playing. Tommy listened to a lot of pop and rock vocalists, like Ray Charles, Otis Redding, John Mayer, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. Seth grew up with blues and roots rock: The Band, John Lee Hooker, The Allman Brothers. I mostly listened to classical music up until I started playing jazz (on saxophone), getting into Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Miles Davis and Coltrane, until Seth converted me to rock and roll when we were in high school and I have been hooked on the stuff ever since. Ed is another story. While he comes from a punk rock background, the guy could teach a graduate level class on rock history. He can spit out entire catalogs of bands I have never even heard of. If we ever need a musical reference, Ed is our guy. Suffice to say, we have a lot of places to pull from when we combine our different music upbringings.
DMD: With everyone originally hailing from Virginia, in what ways does hometown loyalty serve as inspiration or connect back to your music?
Ed: We believe that we are a product of the musical environment we grew up in. It goes without saying that the D.C. area is a highly underrated music city that has a ton of history and influence on outside music as well as within. D.C. was a major player in the punk rock/hardcore movement during the ’80s with bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, Fugazi, and Bad Brains. Then in the early ’90s the area had a major push into the mainstream with bands like Emmet Swimming, Pat McGee, Carbonleaf, Jimmies Chicken Shack- and the list goes on. For us though, it was the local radio stations that steered us musically. Stations like HFS and DC101 were pioneers in the alternative movement and thats all we listened to.
I mean it’s safe to say when you hear us live or on record we have a mixture of all those eclectic hometown elements. Sometimes we can have a bit of a poppy sound that evokes positive emotions, but on the flip side of that we also love being loud, aggressive, and in your face-like our punk/hardcore forefathers taught us. It’s an interesting dynamic that we thrive on when performing live. Also, the people in the area that have been following us for a while have provided honest feedback, which has driven us to get better and to think outside the box musically, and I don’t know if that’s something you can find in every other “music city” -so for that we’re extremely thankful. Overall, we are proud to call the DMV our home and are beyond grateful to the incredible musicians that came before us that are still active. We want to honor them all by borrowing their ingredients and throwing them into one delicious pie in hopes of creating something unique to us.
DMD: If there was an ideal band (let’s say, both local and national) that you had the opportunity to perform in a show with, who would it be and why?
Tommy: Wow-that’s not an easy answer. Well, I guess we’ll start locally. When we were first started out as a band we were given an opportunity to open for The Kelly Bell Band in Leesburg, Va. I don’t know if you guys have heard of them but you should definitely look into them if you haven’t. These guys are no joke. Killer “phat blues” music as they like to call it. Just pocket tight unlike anything we have ever heard. Lets just say that we showed up thinking we were playing a typical Virginia “jukebox gig”. A few covers here and there mixed in with the four or five originals we had at the time. We were way out of our league, man. Kelly came on and their soundcheck alone brought us to our knees begging for mercy. In hindsight we were new to the live music scene and had no business sharing the stage with such incredible musicians. But looking back, it was one of the most valuable learning experiences we’ve ever had. When we got home we had a serious discussion.
We needed to practice and get better in every facet of music possible. There’s nothing more soul shaking than a tight band. Every note is strategically placed and every transition is seamless, but the process is effortless. It’s like those guys were meant to play together. It’s something we’re constantly striving for, but will probably never achieve. Maybe that’s a good thing. After all, rock ‘n roll was built on imperfections, so we’ll take what we can get. Long story short, yes we’d like another shot to play with the Kelly Bell Band. This time all grown up (except Ed). There are also a ton of bands that we’ve been honored to share the stage with in the area like Howlin Bends, and Chainsaw Baby who we can’t wait to play with again. Now, on a national level? Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Derek Trucks, George Clinton, Motley Crue, The Stones, The Minutemen, Wu-Tang, Foo Fighters, and Prince.
DMD: Any upcoming gigs or special projects down the line this year that you want fans to know? Also, any plans to tour soon?
Seth: On July 28th, we’re extremely excited to be playing a festival in Aldie, VA called Juanapalooza which is a benefit to raise awareness for affordable healthcare. Also, last November we recorded and shot a music video that is being used in a drunk driving public service announcement, and will be released in 600-800 movie theaters this fall. In regards to a tour, we are in the early phases of planning one out for hopefully next fall.
DMD: Finally, the most memorable performance the band has had thus far?
Ed: I guess the most memorable, or lack there of, show we’ve had was over a year ago up in Cleveland. I actually went to college in Ohio, and many of my friends still call the Midwest home. So we knew that we’d have a decent showing of people, but never in a million years did we expect the turnout that we actually had. I had friends that flew in from all over the country to participate in what became one of the most single handedly bizarre, out of hand, greatest nights of our lives. It was slam-packed. Every brand of person was there from under the bridge vagrants to high school valedictorians. I would go into a more detailed description of the night events but for your reader’s sake and my lack of a desire to go back to jail I will say this: sex, drugs, and rock and roll were among the more virtuous activities that took place that night- and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Thanks Cleveland!