An Interview

The Westerlies (s/t) – Notes on the Music

Disc 1

1. A Nearer Sun (Mulherkar)

This piece takes its title from the story of Icarus and was inspired by the sounds and textures we discovered while recording Wayne Horvitz’s music, which was released as our debut album in 2014.

2. So So Shy (Hensler)

Sometimes I feel shy and sometimes I don’t feel shy. When I’m on stage, even if I’m feeling rather shy that day, I try my best to be shy out loud, to let the audience in to my shyness. This works pretty well, but sometimes it’s hard to do.

3. New Berlin, New York (Clausen)

Inspired by a photograph of a beautiful barn on a backroad in upstate New York. Originally composed for a multi-media project called Shutter, which featured two guitars, cello, trumpet and trombone.

4. Saro (traditional, arr. Sam Amidon / Nico Muhly)

We became familiar with this old English folk ballad through Sam Amidon’s 2007 album All Is Well. Over the years it’s been covered by the likes of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins and Doc Watson. This song, particularly the Sam Amidon / Nico Muhly arrangement, has been the soundtrack to a number of Westerlies relationships over the years, and it was one of the first pieces we adapted as a band.

5. Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself (Clausen)

I wrote this piece while reading a book of interviews with writer David Foster Wallace. The phrase itself comes from a passage in which he’s talking about how his parents allowed him and his sister to pursue their passions freely, without pressure (something I feel extremely grateful to have experienced myself). But he talks about all sorts of other topics that I think any writer or creative type will find fascinating and deeply affecting: fear, meaning and meaninglessness; what defines truly engaging work; motivating and enticing the reader to dig deeper; finding joy and getting lost in the work itself. I wrote this piece as a way of processing all these ideas – obsessing over the process, constructing this giant world around a single melodic cell.

6. The Beekeeper (de Koch)

This piece was written for our friend Mike Halperin, who owns the cabin on Lopez Island where we recorded our first album. He raises bees and harvests their honey, and the piece reflects a specific story wherein Mike emerged from the woods in his full beekeeper suit, with two cans of wasp-killer spray held over his head, on his way to eradicate a wasp nest from under the front porch. The piece is also a tangential reference to Riley’s deathly (and semi-comical) phobia of bees.

7. Where’s The Music? (Ellington)

This is a Duke Ellington piece from his album Happy Reunion, a small-group album recorded in the 50s that featured Clark Terry among others. We all played Ellington’s music growing up in Seattle, and even competed against each other at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington competition, so it’s natural choice amongst so much original music.

8. Double Situation (Mulherkar)

This piece takes inspiration from the Blues and the idea of fugues and rounds – it goes between forms of all three, which is a fitting juxtaposition of our jazz, classical, and folk influences.

9. Lopez (Mulherkar)

This piece by Riley was originally called “Concerto for Zubin”  because it was written with his unique sound, technique, and personality in mind. The title comes from Lopez Island, where Riley wrote it during our retreat in the summer of 2015.

Disc 2

1. The Shop (de Koch)

This piece was written for my dad’s workshop, where he built surfboards and stand-up paddleboards. During Riley’s first summer home from college, he got his first real job working for my dad in the workshop; meanwhile I was working for Riley’s dad helping with some housepainting projects.  The piece refers to that period of time and the experience Riley and I shared “trading dads”.

2. The Beach (Hensler)

We hail from the Pacific Northwest and our beaches are cold. The rocks are huge, the driftwood is huge, and you are small. This is an important feeling, I think.

3. Rue des Rosiers (Clausen)

This piece was inspired by a photograph I took on the streets of Paris. There was this crazy old man riding a giant tricycle down a street called Rue des Rosiers. He had all sorts of bells, whistles, windmills, tassels, and a rainbow disco ball. It was an absurd scene, straight out of the circus (or maybe a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film). This song is his imaginary soundtrack.

4. Run On Down (Hensler)

Sometimes are you ever just overwhelmed by the sense that maybe everything you feel has been felt a million times by a million other people? And that makes all the little things you feel not only incredibly insignificant and trite but also just so mindblowingly precious?

5. Edomala (Clausen)

I wrote this piece on an airplane from New York to Seattle shortly after learning about the passing of drummer/composer Paul Motian. Hearing Paul’s trio with Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell interpret the American Songbook and Paul’s own compositions had an enormous impact on how I think about the essence of a song, and the purpose of improvisation. I’m so grateful to have heard him live.

6. Ruddy Ducker (Clausen)

This song is dedicated to my late grandmother Jean Goodsell Clausen, a lifelong birder and conservationist who spent decades living and working on the Wisconsin River. The Ruddy Duck is a beautiful North American species whose males have this beautiful bright blue bill. The piece explores the idea of their quacks and flocks in various contexts.

7. Songs My Mother Taught Me (Ives)

This piece is a Charles Ives’ re-imagination of an 1880 composition by Antonín Dvořák. The joyful nostalgia and hanging suspensions of the piece embody so much of what we love about Charles Ives’ music and legacy.

8. All To Ourselves (Clausen)

Inspired by a photograph of the Pacific Ocean at sunset, this is a song about the simple moments we share with loved ones. Whether we’re making music in living rooms, rock clubs, old school houses or concert halls, we invite listeners to hum along and participate in this collective experience as a way of saying goodnight.