Brett Hool (voice/guitar) and John Kibler (bass/voice) formed We Are The West in a shipping container on a sheep farm in Holland, and began performing as a duo in an abandoned convent in Brooklyn, before moving back to California. “Originally described by Rolling Stone as a two-man orchestra of stunning vocals, meditative guitar, and exploratory double bass,” (Albuquerque Journal), the group now often includes an extended family of musicians. Their national tours have included performances in natural desert amphitheaters, mine shafts, tow lots, redwood groves, sunset coves and masonic temples, in addition to traditional theaters and festivals. The band’s latest release is the 11-track album ‘The Golden Shore‘. Have a listen to “Tonight’s Tonight” embedded below.
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Chris Remmers: Here at SCP we try to encourage people to get out and explore this great, big, floating rock in space we call home. We achieve this by providing perspectives of influential figures in today’s society. Why don’t we start by you telling us a little bit about where you call home?
Brett Hool: I’m originally from Los Angeles and John is from West New York. We are essentially the co-founders of the band. We actually met in LA a while back playing other music in the studio. I was working on a solo project with a mutual friend of ours and John was in a band with one of the producers who had brought him in to play on a couple of our songs. The chemistry was just undeniable. Within a few minutes we were jamming out, then we started becoming friends and from there John ended up moving to Holland and I moved to New York.
I went out to visit him in Holland and we actually rented a shipping container on a sheep farm and used that as our studio out in the countryside. There was a sign that we always drove by that translated to “the green heart of Holland” which is where our song “Green Heart” came from. That was one of our first real recordings. We kind of started in Holland, then came back to the Tri-State Area and started playing gigs around NY as a duo.
We played in the normal clubs you would preform at. But, there were some far-out places we ended up in, which was equally as amazing and gave us great experiences. We have played in trucking yards and abandon churches, just really interesting places I don’t think we can ever forget. After a while, we ended up moving back to LA and this is where we have been for the past six years. It was the first place we released something as We Are The West. We preform with either the two of us, but sometimes we have people playing string instruments or piano. We’ve had up to about 14 people on stage with us at our album release party.
CR: Can you remember what your first real exposure to music was? When did you decided to start creating your own?
BH: As a kid I really started to become interested in creating my own stuff. I had an older brother and we both kind of really got into music at the same time. The only difference was he happened to be four-years older than me. I sang in choir growing up, but when I was about eight or nine years old I really started to get into pop, rock and folk, which ended up being my musical foundation. I remember George Harrison had a solo record coming out, and at the time I didn’t really know who he was. We just really loved his music, later finding out he used to be in a band called The Beatles. Yes, only one of the most influential bands of all time.
We ended up buying The Beatles records in chronological order, so I kind of grew up in the space of a few years. I went through the whole “Beatle” experience as a kid and completely fell in love with it. I was inspired to start taking guitar lessons, but nothing really stuck until I hit 13 years old. I started playing by myself for the next 10 years and over that time I jammed with a bunch of friends. Nothing really came of it until I moved to Paris, France and formed my first “real” band. That was my first real project where me and two other guys rehearsed every day. I didn’t get heavy into writing songs until 16 or 17 years old. I have taken off with it ever since.
CR: Really cool. Growing up we all have had music we wanted to emulate. Outside of The Beatles, do you have other bands that influenced you?
BH: This guy named Neil Finn, who is a New Zealand singer/songwriter, had a band called Crowded House. They still do stuff every once and a while. I got into him around the same time as The Beatles. Neil Young has become a huge influence in my career too. He has the whole spectrum of solo-acoustic songs. Then there are his heavy-rock songs and songs playing with an orchestra, as well. He just seems really in tune with inspiration. Then, of course, the classic people like Bob Dylan and Van Morrison.
I know my co-founder John has a lot of other inspirations. I studied literature in College, so a lot of short-story writers influenced me. John studied music, so he also has a wide, eclectic range of composers and jazz musicians. Truth is, we are always finding new inspirations and new bands or acts we like. So, I guess you could say I’m always being influenced to pursue my passions.
CR: Most people in the music industry are constantly on the go traveling, exploring new places and seeing new cultures. What kind of impact do you feel that lifestyle has had on your career?
BH: That is a really good question. It’s huge! We’ve been on this path of trying to figure out how to do what we want to do. Not play a certain way, or have a certain persona, because someone else tells us that is what we should be doing. Sometimes it’s nice when you get that opening spot for a larger band at a show, but sometimes it’s also nice when we get to play some lo-key, parking-garage shows, and around other beautiful places. This summer we will be in Yosemite a few times. We will be doing some beach shows, which are always a lot of fun. You can almost guarantee people will be making bonfires and skinny dipping. It really is a lot of fun. Recently, a friend put me in touch with a charity that gets musicians to go play at children’s hospitals. I’ve done this a few times and it truly adds joy, meaning and inspiration to my life, and what I do with my career.
CR: How do you feel music can break down barriers?
John Kibler: I guess this may be a little corny, but I studied music in school and I travel abroad. One of the first times abroad I realized you didn’t really have to be able to talk to people to be able to play together. I moved to the Netherlands for a little while and everyone spoke Dutch. One day I was practicing in a room and heard a guy playing sax in another room to a song I knew. So, we ended up jamming out together and became friends over our love of jazz music. I played with groups there and did some traveling around even though there was a language barrier. Once we started playing, everyone was pretty much on the same page. It was a really cool experience.
CR: When you are looking for a personal getaway are you looking to relax on a beach? Hike in the mountains? Explore a new city? Or, something different all together?
BH:: Most of our trips are centered around our tours, but I really am a beach person. I kind of grew up next to the beach, but I also kind of grew up next to the mountains. So, there’s a love for both there. Recently we played in [Carmel-by-the-Sea] and had a day free afterwords to go explore along the coast there. That ended up being super beautiful.
JK: I think where we choose to live in “So Cal” gives us the best of both of all those worlds. You’re never far from a beach, mountain range or city. So, in my opinion, Southern California has almost everything we look for in a relaxing getaway.
CR: When you guys touch down in a new location what are some of the first things you like to do?
JK: I love that feeling of showing up in a town. Even though we are tourists, we have a purpose and are going to play and connect with the people that live in that area. I think our go-to is to park by where our venue is, get a feel for the neighborhood, get a coffee or a drink and take a walk around. I tend to try and find second-hand stores or thrift shops to find some unique things, and then just see the sights.
CR: Everyone has a bucket list of places they would like to travel in the near future, do any places stand out to you guys?
JK: For the longest time we’ve always wanted to go to Japan. I have no connection there, but the people and the culture always fascinated me. So, that’s a place I would love to spend some time in. Hopefully, one day we’ll get to play there. I can’t wait. Recently, I’ve also been meeting a lot of people from Argentina, so that has kind of inspired me to want to explore South America a little bit. They have some amazing cities, and their landscape of mountains and forests is just amazing to me. It really wasn’t on my radar until recently, but it’s grown to be a place I would love to visit and get to preform our music in.