The Westerlies are a dream band for me. The secret is out now about how I would dream about conducting an orchestra in my mind while contributing my parts by playing the clarinet & the drums but alas that was only a dream… but this band has no woodwinds or percussion and is comprised of four brass players: Riley Mulherkar, Chloe Rowlands, Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch. This October, I got to speak with them about their music.
Q: When did the band start performing together as The Westerlies? And where did you come up with the band name?
A: All four of the original members grew up in Seattle, so we’ve known each other since childhood. We then moved to NYC one after the other for college, and formed the band out there. The name comes from the prevailing winds that blow from west to east.
Q: The band has played with some notable contemporary artists including Fleet Foxes and Common. If you were to choose a “dream artist” you could perform with, who would you choose?
A: We always love engaging in new collaborative projects with musicians from across the musical spectrum, so it’s tough to choose one “dream artist”! I’m sure each band member would give you a different answer but we’re all big time Beyoncé fans. If she called, we’d be there!
Q: In March of this year, you released the album, Songbook, Vol 2. Does one person compose the music, both trumpet & trombone parts? How long does it take to put an album like this together?
A: We all compose for the group, but our rehearsal process is very democratic, so often an individual will bring in a piece, and then it’ll go through a few rounds of revision based on feedback from the other band members. Since the pandemic we’ve all been honing our recording skills and producing more of our own recordings, so it’s getting easier and easier to put a body of music together and then get it “on wax”. For a shorter EP like Songbook, Vol 2., we were in the studio for about two days. Longer full-length albums generally require a week of studio time (and that’s not counting all of the hours and hours of rehearsal that happen before we go into the studio).
Q: You just performed a show in Times Square with Carnegie Hall. What was the experience like? That must have been surreal.
A: It was totally surreal. It was actually quite difficult to stay focused on the performance with so many people, sounds, lights, billboards and other distractions around. But it was also very cool to hear our sounds reverberating off the skyscrapers around us.
Q: The band also just wrapped up a 6 date tour with Haley Heynderickx. She has a great loyal fan base…what did you most enjoy and learn from being on tour with her?
A: Haley is one of our dear friends and one of our musical heroes. It’s a great pleasure to make music with her because her songs have lots of intricate, creative harmonic movement and rhythmic content – – there’s lot to chew on – – but they’re also incredibly catchy and playful. She strikes this amazing balance. Haley’s also very open-minded, so she gave us lots of room to try out different ideas and put our own creative voice into the music.
Q: I want to mention Denzel Mendoza, fellow trombone player, aka Illegal Son. His story is one of thousands of people across the US right now.. how impressed were you with his passion and creativity for his music & himself as a person?
A: Denzel is one of the most courageous artists we know. He brings incredible passion and energy to every performance he gives, so it was pretty mind blowing to see him do it night after night on tour – – I can only imagine how emotionally exhausting it is for him to go to a place of such catharsis and deep-feeling every night. We have the utmost love and respect for Denzel – – he lands an important voice to the undocumented immigrant experience.
Q: The band had a 13 date tour over in Europe, did you get to do any sightseeing while you were there? Anything crossed off anyone’s bucket lists?
A: Lots of good sightseeing! The food in Paris was amazing. Amsterdam was incredible. One of the best parts was getting the opportunity to play in so many historic theaters. The whole tour was a privilege, to say the least.
Q: When the band isn’t performing, what type of things do you all do to stay stress free?
A: We have all different interests and hobbies. For some of us, it’s reading, for some it’s cooking, for some of us, it’s playing video games. We all try to get exercise and stay active in various ways.
Q: Will we be seeing some new music headed our way anytime soon?
A: Most definitely! We have several recording projects “ in the can” so to speak – – it’s just a matter of getting the release timing right. Keep your eyes peeled for new releases coming this December and Spring 2023.
Q: Where can fans find your music/merch?
Thank you Willem for answering the questions for the band. I have a feeling we will be seeing more of the band on national stages and events in the very near future.
The Westerlies have released their first ever live album recorded at The Tourists in North Adams, MA. Their first two singles off the album have been released, Saro and Robert Henry. Please make sure to listen to this amazing group of musicians, you will be moved. (If not, you may not be human)
I’m on the lookout for bands/artists… who will be featured next?
Until then…. I’m Your Music Stylist.