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Westerman: Live Review and Interview at Clwb Ifor Bach

By Max Modell

Westman’s music offers a thoughtful, meditative look at the world from a singular, slightly off-kilter perspective, placed on a backdrop of electronic, atmospheric pop. This often creates a contrast between the louder moments in the production and Westerman’s quieter delivery and performance. It feels at moments as if Westerman has retreated fully inside the music and the sound is the only thing left. This style definitely feels most at home on a recording where Westerman and producer Bullion have complete control and can create an entirely immersive experience which transports you from the real world and into a world of Westerman’s creation. However, the art of the live performance is not lost on Westerman who along with his band recreate this world on the stage.

Westerman’s live band are set up with him on guitar with a sampler, a bass player and a keys player. They form a cohesive live unit while never drawing attention away from Westerman himself. The focus of the gig was on the music over the performance which was rather understated. However, anything louder or more extravagated may have compromised the meditative quality of the music. Westerman’s falsetto also didn’t disappoint, being equally dreamy and emotive live as on record.  This was particularly clear on “Roads” where the falsetto was contrasted against this normal voice on the first verse.  Overall, he put together a strong live set, however, this is definitely an experience which could have been enhanced by some visual aids or some more experimental performance technique. Yet, as Westerman’s first major tour a failure to experiment with formula is hardly something he can be criticised for.

As the evening came to a close and in acknowledgment to shouts from the audience for him to play “Confirmation” Westerman sarcastically replied “We forgot to play that one”, before entering into the song. It was during this song when the final convergence between the real world and Westerman’s was felt in the room as the audience sang “Confirmation’s easier. When you don’t think so much about it. Trying and it won’t work. I still can’t get my head around it”. I think this encompassed the purpose of Westerman’s music, for others to see and understand the world from his perspective. By the end of the evening, I felt as if I could.

Before the show, I went make stage at Clwb Ifor Bach to talk to Westerman about this music and new EP.

You started out with this more folk sound. What led to you incorporating the electronic elements?

Working with Bullion, my friend Nathan who produces the music. We made this first EP which was more just acoustic-based. But that process of working with someone with an electronic grounding and seeing the way he works and the way he builds up tracks. This gave me a new understanding of how you can build sonics, which doesn’t have to be just two different elements and you can be quite creative with the way that you frame stuff.

When you are writing do you still have those same influences from the folk?

I see myself principally as a songwriter. I think in a lot of respects traditional kinds of songs come from that base in some way; blues or country or folk, a lot of straight up and down songs come from that. That is definitely still stuff I listen to, but there is other stuff as well.

Could you tell me what the concept of the Ark EP is?

I wanted it to be looser in a way. I had more live elements. Like I had live bass on it and I did a day of recording with my keys player and with my bass player. I just sort of let them play and went through the bits that I liked and tried to assemble it in a less measured cut and paste sort of thing and tried to capture something freer. I have just been releasing singles all year and I wanted to release something which showed a few different sorts of things that I am into and a few different sides of the music I like to make. I still like the process of trying to write a straight up and down song, but there are other things I want to do as well and I wanted it to have a bit more depth.

The Albatross music video is fantastic. How did that come about because it’s quite weird?

Yes, it’s pretty weird. I came up with the idea for the other video I did this year. For this one, I thought it’d be interesting to source the music out and get another creative impression of what they imagine when they hear the track. I had a few pitches treatments come through and that one seemed in keeping with the sort of thing I would have come up with. I’m happy with it. It was nice to shoot it on film as well.

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

I’d like to work with Frank Ocean, that’d be pretty cool. It’d be interesting to witness his sort of process of how he puts together his work. I think he has a very idiosyncratic way of doing that. That would be cool.

He is featured on your ‘Singer songwriting is Cool’ playlist on Spotify. Why did you put that playlist together?

Now to be honest it is more like a sort of memory aid to me. If I hear something good or someone sends me something and I like it I put it on there and know I won’t forget about it. As it developed I tried to put across my taste and the music that I like. Also, a lot of the songs on there are not like traditional singer songwriter stuff and I think that is in keeping with what I am trying to do.

How does it feel that people are having the same sort of connection to your music as you are to the people on that playlist?

It’s great. This year’s been really really cool in that respect. It is really rewarding knowing that people are enjoying what you are doing. It’s not the sole reason why you do it, but it definitely makes you feel better about what you are doing.

You also completed changed your personal aesthetic. You shaved your head when you had long hair before and your outfits became edgier. This look compliments the music more. Is that something you were thinking about?

I don’t know. When I shaved my hair, I did that for charity because I was feeling really bad about not really giving anything back. So, I wanted to do that. Now I’ve just got used to it. It wasn’t so much measured. I not very measured in that sort of stuff. But I’m glad that it makes sense and it feels like it has come together.