Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mini-Interview: The Broken West

It's rad when a great local band makes good like The Broken West, who had their first album release on Merge Records earlier this year and have been touring in support of it since.

Still, lead Ross Flournoy took some time to talk to us this week. And not only that, he was a damn good interview on top of it.

Hey, Ross. How's life in the big city today?

Pretty damned good. We got back from seven and a half weeks of touring last Tuesday, and today is just about as beautiful day as I’ve ever seen in Los Angeles. It’s nice to get back to normal life.

When did you guys first start playing together? Were you all friends before?

The initial core of the band was Rob (drums), Dan (guitar, vox) and me, and we got together during the summer of 2004. I’d known Rob for about four years at that point, and we met Dan through a mutual friend that summer.

Brian, who plays bass and sings backup, was someone we spotted playing bass in another band—for a great musician named Eugene Edwards—and we thought he was the bee’s knees, so we kind of poached him; that was about a year and a half ago. So, long story short, we were not all friends before, but we certainly are now.

Sorry to hear about the legal dramas where you had to change your band name. Not to make you relive it all again, but what happened?

When we started in summer ’04 we called ourselves The Brokedowns. We soon learned there was some lame ska/punk band in Illinois with the same name, so we thought if we lopped of the “s” and called ourselves The Brokedown, that we would be in good shape.

All was good until after we signed to Merge and the signing became public last fall—a few days before the record went to the duplication place, we got a “cease and desist” notice from The Brokedowns’ record label, threatening legal action. We could have fought them, but it would have taken a lot of time and a lot of money, so we switched names.

If it had to happen, it happened at the right time, because it would have been a disaster to have to change the name AFTER thousands of CD’s had been printed.

You just got back from a tour. How did it go? What were your favorite nights? When are you back on the road?

All in all, I have to say that it went quite well. It was, for all intents and purposes, our first tour, so that lifestyle took some getting used to. There were off nights, for sure, but by and large I think we all feel like it was a successful little jaunt.

My favorite night was opening for the Long Winters in front of a sold out crowd of a little over a thousand at the Showbox in Seattle (it was their homecoming show—hence it being sold out); that was a special night for them and us and there were good vibes all around.

Other highlights include two nights at the Mercury Lounge in NYC and St. Louis! We’ll be back on the road starting May 20, doing a combination of dates with The Comas, Fountains of Wayne, and The National. We’ll be back in LA at the El Rey on June 26, I believe, opening for The National.

And before your tour, you did a residency at Spaceland right around the time of your album's release on Merge. How did that go?

That was a blast—doing a Monday night Spaceland residency had been a dream of ours since we started the band. The crowds were great and it was just a lot of fun to get to play there every week. It was the perfect way to get ourselves in shape for the tour.

Who did you record the album with? What was the process like?

We recorded the album at a studio in Rancho Park called Red Rockets Glare, which is owned by a really great guy named Raymond Richards, who has a band called The Idaho Falls and has played pedal steel with Mojave 3 and Brian Jonestown Massacre; Raymond engineered the record.

The process was definitely one of “stop and go”; we all had day jobs at the time so we basically recorded when schedules permitted. It took us about a year to make the record due to the nature of the schedule. I think we learned a lot and grew a lot during the process. Near the end, we were completely scrapping and re-recording songs we’d tracked at the beginning.

I think for the next record, we’d like to do it in a more concentrated setting; that is, instead of doing it piecemeal over the course of a year, we’d like to work hard for a month or so to knock it out.

How's life on a label treating you?

Life on Merge is absolutely tremendous. You couldn’t ask for a more genuinely nice, down-to-earth, hard-working and passionate group of people.

We’ve been really blessed in the sense that we haven’t had to deal with your stereotypical record company assholes…we consider everyone at Merge to be a genuine friend, which is a pretty nice situation.

What do you like the most and least about being a band in LA?

That’s a good question…I guess the thing we like most are the friends we’ve made, from Raymond at Red Rockets Glare to Todd at Sea Level to Andy Creighton, who’s in a fantastic band called The World Record. The thing we like least? LA crowds tend to be a bit jaded, I guess.

Also, when you go to other parts of the country and people there know you’re an LA band, they expect you to be wearing leather pants and carrying a handle of Jack Daniel’s, which can be disconcerting, especially since none of us owns leather pants.

What sort of music do all of you guys agree on?

Rolling Stones, Kinks, Beatles, solo George Harrison and John Lennon, Gram Parson/Flying Burrito Brothers, and the new Arcade Fire record, which we listened to A LOT on the last tour.

And what are you listening to these days?

The new Clientele and Wilco records, Midlake’s The Trials of Van Occupanther, and Fujiya & Miyagi’s Transparent Things.

What's next for you?

Recuperating this month, and trying very hard (against my strong impulse to procrastination) to write some songs for the next record. Then, just touring for the rest of the year as much as we can stand!

That's it! Thanks for your time.

Thank you!

DOWNLOAD: On The Bubble MP3


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