The band Westerners was born in 2013, not long after Mitch Hewlett moved to Lawrence from Springfield, Mo. Hewlett had been friends with bassist Josh Hartranft since grade school. Through the Lawrence music community, they met drummer Geraldo Rodriguez and guitarist Matt Pelsma, and the four started writing and playing songs.
They started playing live shows in the fall of 2013, and in 2014, they started recording. Friday night at Mills Record Co. and Saturday night at Love Garden Sounds in Lawrence, Westerners will celebrate the release of their first full-length, “Reoccurring Dream Theme.”
This week, Hewlett, who also plays drums in the Lawrence band Spirit is the Spirit, answered questions about the band, its history and its many diverse influences. Here’s some music at their Bandcamp page.
When and where was your first live show?
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Our first show was fall of 2013 at our “commune” in our two-story shop building where we hosted a handful of shows before we moved out. Two bands from New Orleans were on the bill. It was fun and sweaty and I wanted more immediately after. That building burned down a couple of weeks ago.
How many recordings do you have, including singles and EPs?
Our first EP was recorded in 2014, which we’ve recently taken down because two of the songs on it were redone for the album that we are releasing. The Record Machine released “Tetris” and “Dog Years” as singles in late 2015. We are definitely planning on releasing a lot more material in the next year or so. We are a live band through and through and have put a lot of focus into playing out and making friends. This will be our first full-length release. We are very proud of it and excited to share it. At the same time I am just as excited to move forward and hammer down a ton of new tracks. We have several songs we play live that are not on any recordings.
Describe your sound.
I’m really proud that we have a sound that is sometimes hard for people to pin down. I sum us up by saying we are an indie garage-rock/psych band, or self-proclaimed garage-a-delic rock. We hear the word folk thrown in a lot but I think it is mainly because Josh and I harmonize together on every track in some form or another.
Who are your influences?
My Morning Jacket, Dr Dog, Wilco, Television, Iggy Pop, The Beatles, Spoon, T Rex, Sparklehorse, Radiohead, Harry Nilsson, White Denim. This could be an incredibly long list.
Who do people say you sound like?
To be honest it is always so different and has varied from person to person. I’ve heard we sound like My Morning Jacket and Dr. Dog, which is to me expected. Then some people have said bands like Led Zeppelin, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Deer Tick, and so on.
What have been some of your favorite or memorable shows? Have you opened for anyone of note? Who would you most like to open for?
One of my favorite shows was surprisingly a house show in Springfield a couple of years ago. There were around 100 people there, most of whom were singing our songs and it blew me away. There have been a lot of great shows though. We opened for Cloud Nothings, which was a blast. Those Me Like Bee’s boys have pulled us on for a handful of shows over the years and those are always so much fun. Opening for the Good Life at Middle of the Map Fest was a real treat for us. Our Georgia friends in Futurebirds have hit us up a few times making for some fun shows. We try to play out a lot and have met so many great people over the last four years.
I’d die a happy man if we could do some opening dates with Dr Dog. I’ve just been a fan boy for like 12 years. On a closer level, it would be incredibly fun to tour with our friends in bands like Me Like Bees, the Kickback, Futurebirds, CS Luxem, Not A Planet. Love those groups to death.
Finish this sentence: The Kansas City music community is ...
Massively underrated. I adore Kansas City and the hardworking musicians in it. KC has always offered us nothing but positivity and as we grow, I’d love for the city to grow with us.
Westerners will celebrate the release of “Reocurring Dream Theme” at two in-stores: 6:30 p.m. Friday at Mills Recording Co. in Westport; and 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Love Garden Sounds in Lawrence.