Will Westerman, who performs music below his final identify, sang in choirs and performed saxophone as a toddler earlier than instructing himself find out how to play guitar at 15. The South London-born, Athens, Greece-based singer-songwriter began placing out singles in 2016 and made his label debut on Blue Flowers with 2017’s Name and Response EP, which was adopted by the Ark EP a yr later. Westerman recorded his debut album, Your Hero Is Not Lifeless, in Portugal and London together with his good friend and producer Nathan Jenkins (aka Bullion), who helped transfer his intricate people sound in a extra textural course. After spending a lot of the pandemic in Italy engaged on demos by himself, Westerman determined to go to Los Angeles to put down his sophomore LP, An Inbuilt Fault, which is out at the moment. Co-produced alongside Large Thief’s Krivchenia, the LP units his inquisitive and infrequently ambiguous songwriting towards vibrant and fluidly adventurous preparations that place emphasis on each complicated grooves and the primacy of the human voice. Even within the fragmented blur of plenty of these songs, a way of hopeful sincerity and tenderness seeps by way of Westerman’s attractive, intimate music, which makes an effort to carry as finest it will possibly.
We caught up with Will Westerman for the newest version of our Artist Highlight collection to speak about how a disaster of self impressed An Inbuilt Fault, his songwriting course of, freedom, and extra.
When did you progress to Athens?
I get confused with the years now, all of them appear to blur in the previous couple of years. However I went to Athens for a month in Could of 2021, simply to spend a while and try to get a really feel for the place, as a result of I hadn’t truly been earlier than. I’d already tried to maneuver as soon as and acquired caught in Italy, driving all of my devices over, however then ended up having to return to the UK. I spent a month in Could and I preferred it, so I made a decision to go in October of that yr.
The vast majority of the songs on An Inbuilt Fault have been written whilst you have been in Italy, is that proper?
Yeah. The primary physique of the document was written between November 2020 and April 2021, and a few bits, like ‘CSI: Petralona’, I wrote a bit later, and ‘Take’ I wrote in October. However the remainder of them have been written in Italy in that time frame.
Do you affiliate the document with a robust sense of place?
I don’t assume it’s tied to any specific place. I believe thematically, perhaps extra of a by way of line on this assortment of songs is extra a need for alternative, perhaps a sense of flux, a sense of being caught between two locations or struggling to maneuver to a brand new place – perhaps geographically, but in addition emotionally, trying to find a brand new area.
How did that state of flux feed into your inventive course of? Did it have an effect on your writing in any specific method?
I believe once I began writing the document – nicely, I wasn’t actually fascinated with writing a document in any respect. I hadn’t performed any writing for a while, and I type of simply began writing as an train for myself. I used to be in a really remoted place, actually and metaphorically talking. Typically, writing as an train has at all times been a method of working by way of issues for myself – once I’m making the factor, after which clearly making an attempt to form it to make one thing which is type of relatable as you type of go alongside. However when it begins, it’s at all times been that for me. And that was undoubtedly the case, perhaps much more so than it has been for a few years. I didn’t actually have any idea of anybody listening to any of this music, or it being for any actual function. I used to be simply writing stuff to maintain myself sane. And that was completely different; it wasn’t new, nevertheless it was extra of a type of reversion to the way it was earlier than you had any type of idea that anybody would possibly hear what you have been doing. In that regard, it in all probability made it barely simpler to put in writing in a very unselfconscious method.
What has the connection between songwriting and isolation been like for you? Has making music been a method of working by way of it?
It’s a humorous one, I barely yo-yo when it comes to my ideas about that. I believe the will to emote and put one thing down, some type of emotive response, that’s essentially a type of response to that feeling of loneliness. So It’s a bit rooster and egg – you need to go into a spot the place you take away your self, however the religious response to that’s mainly an act of communication. I don’t actually know the place I come down on that in the mean time.
There’s this line from ‘Take’, “Each feeling is a wire,” that I believe presents a useful metaphor. It made me marvel if songwriting is a method of untangling these wires, for you, or if it may need the alternative impact.
There are various methods of making an attempt to untangle; songwriting is certainly one among them. Any type of writing is one among them, I believe. Throughout the strategy of doing it, it’s not essentially a acutely aware effort. It’s the beginning of a course of, after which hopefully by the tip of it, if you have a look at what you’ve performed, perhaps you can also make some sense of the place you have been. Numerous the time, it’s fairly onerous to work out the place you might be, I discover, and generally it takes a ways. With this document, it wasn’t till about 9 months after I began writing it that I noticed I had a document. I had many different bits of music, after which I wrote the title observe, and I all of a sudden realized that there was a hyperlink between all of those items of music. I understood after the very fact – perhaps I by no means actually understood, or don’t perceive, nevertheless it appeared to me that there was some type of inside logic to those specific items of music, and that they need to be put collectively. There’s one thing satisfying, if nothing else, about that.
Haziness and immediacy are two qualities that appear to go hand in hand in your songwriting, or they no less than steadiness one another out all through An Inbuilt Fault. How acutely aware of that dynamic have been you as you have been placing collectively the document?
There’s undoubtedly a thematic continuity of unsurety, I’d say, all through the entire songs, that I used to be conscious of. Simply because I used to be simply making an attempt to put in writing in as unfiltered a method as potential, and that was simply how I used to be feeling, no matter which course I made a decision to show my consideration to on the specific second in time. If it’s quick, I’m glad. By way of how the music is introduced, it was a acutely aware determination to place the vocal very far ahead, in order that it was very a lot proper there. On the time, I used to be listening to plenty of simply purely vocal music, actually previous church music, simply because I used to be discovering nice consolation within the high quality of the human voice. I needed to include that into the document, and I needed to make the vocal really feel prefer it’s virtually proper subsequent to you, I believe as a response to the sensation of detachment and isolation. When it got here to fascinated with find out how to place issues on the document, James and I made a decision fairly early that drums could be very formative and the voice could be very formative.
You’ve talked about choral music being an affect previously, so there should have additionally been a type of inside shift in confidence so that you can put your voice additional into the forefront.
I truly laid out plenty of this music in various element earlier than we got here to document it, and a few of that has translated to the ultimate recordings, and a few of it hasn’t. However I believe I spent various time doing vocal preparations simply because it’s one thing that I take pleasure in doing. However yeah, I’d say there’s extra of my very own private identification in lots of the completely different components exterior of the pure songwriting on this document simply due to the period of time that I needed to type of work on it. I suppose there’s a confidence in that, and I believe it ties again into what I used to be saying earlier than when it comes to actually not fascinated with what individuals would give it some thought in any respect.
I learn that you simply have been impressed by movies like The Seventh Seal and Ikiru, that are each deeply existential in nature. What resonated with you about them?
As I mentioned, I hadn’t actually written for a very long time, and there was fairly an extended time frame the place I wasn’t actually certain whether or not I needed to make one other document. There may be an identification disaster concerned in that, and so the method of beginning to write this music was partaking with that very same factor, a lack of self ultimately. As was the case for many individuals with the pandemic, what I believed my life was going to be type of disappeared in a single day, and there was a disaster of, What am I doing? The protagonists in these movies are each coping with those self same type of crises of self, and I discovered each these movies fairly comforting in an odd method, I believe as a result of I might empathize. That’s what good artwork does, doesn’t it? It type of makes you’re feeling much less alone since you really feel this understanding. Regardless that the circumstances aren’t an identical, you may see, like, I perceive the place this individual is.
In addition they each have interaction with the concept of freedom that you simply discover on the document – even simply the phrase “free” comes up on a number of tracks. Was that one thing you have been considering as nicely, be it in a extra private or philosophical sense?
Yeah, on so many ranges. I believe I had two issues on the identical time: that fairly literal lack of freedom of being instructed that you’re not allowed to depart the home, however then additionally, the bodily restriction necessitated increasingly more time spent on-line as a method of making an attempt to attach with individuals within the in a non-physical method. I turned increasingly more conscious about how a lot profiling was affecting the issues that I used to be truly seeing on this area, how a lot the issues that you simply’re truly interacting with digitally are virtually absorbed by osmosis. I used to be considering loads concerning the nature of free selection and the way all of this could have an effect on even the capability for type of an unencumbered decision-making course of. I learn this Shoshana Zuboff e-book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, and that each one fed into it as nicely. With out making an attempt to be too apocalyptic about all of it, it wasn’t a lot that, however that stuff was very prevalent in my thoughts. Simply the character of freedom – like, what’s it? Is it potential? How do you discover it? Do you even need it?
What satisfied you to take that leap and document the album in Los Angeles?
I met James simply earlier than the pandemic began. Large Thief have been enjoying in London; I used to be dwelling in London on the time. My supervisor and Large Thief’s supervisor, they type of work collectively. Me and James had a cigarette, and we ended up talking for about an hour. I knew I needed to have stay percussion on this assortment of music. I’d performed plenty of programming on the pc, however I didn’t need it to be a programmed document; I needed it to be a type of respiration, stay percussion document. James had simply been making the brand new Large Thief document, and clearly he’s a implausible producer in his personal proper. I had feeling once we met, and I preferred the concept of simply tearing the band-aid off. I’d spent a lot time simply me and the music, and it’s course of when it comes to not getting too treasured. I believed, “Let’s simply go and see.” There wasn’t actually that a lot thought concerned in it.
How did it open up the method?
It was undoubtedly a far out of my consolation zone. Most of this document, the way in which it’s introduced, is basically stay takes from the studio. There’s some embellishing and a few overdubbing, after all, however many of the lead vocals, for instance, are all from the stay takes. It’s only a very completely different method of recording to what I’ve performed earlier than. I believe you need to try to make your self uncomfortable each time you begin once more, in any other case it’s troublesome to imitate the sensation of threat, which is the place plenty of the vitality comes from. And I used to be fortunate as a result of the musicians that I performed with are all phenomenal musicians.
Once you sing “I don’t know who I’m anymore” on ‘A Lens Turning’, it’s adopted by the affirmation, “That’s okay.” Was that at all times there?
It was at all times there. There aren’t that many lyrics in that music, however in my head, it’s speculated to be like an audio manifestation of a type of inside panic – the psychology of a panic assault in musical kind. [laughs] There’s many various sides of the identical voice, of somebody type of spinning right into a type of fever pitch. After I was making the music, I used to be making an attempt to expunge this sense, to try to put it down. However that was at all times there in that barely schizophrenic place.
Do you end up much less and fewer hesitant about embracing a type of hopefulness in your music?
I don’t know, it might appear type of vaguely inhuman to not should not have that as a top quality of music ultimately, sooner or later. I believe the entire thought of constructing music within the first place presupposes some ingredient of hope. I used to be speaking to somebody about this – are you able to make fully nihilistic music? I’m unsure you may, actually, since you’re nonetheless making one thing. There needs to be a component of hope so that you can hassle making one thing within the first place. If there wasn’t any hope, I don’t know why you’d do it, you realize? You’ll simply do nothing. [laughs] There are definitely some items of music on this document the place there’s extra of a battle to try to discover the hope, however I do assume it’s at all times there.
This interview has been edited and condensed for readability and size.
Westerman’s An Inbuilt Fault is out now through Partisan/Play It Once more Sam.