by Joe Gorecki, Deputy Music Editor
Today Westerman released his new EP Ark. Last month Deputy Music Editor Joe Gorecki sat down with with him for a chat that ranged from genre and Frank Ocean to Ark and his new music video ‘Albatross’
It’s been a busy year for Will Westerman, better known by just his surname. In February, his single ‘Confirmation’, released with little marketing behind it, became a break-out hit after it was awarded Pitchfork’s taste-making ‘Best New Music’ accolade, a prize he describes as a shot in the arm for him. He’s since been touring around Europe and releasing a number of singles ahead of the release of his EP Ark.
Three days before I got the chance to speak to him ahead of his packed show at the Crofters Rights, the music video for his song ‘Albatross’ was released. Working with Norwegian director Emilie Norenberg, the video is a visual treat filled with Lynchian vibes culminating in an eerie if joyous dance between Westerman and someone wearing a large mask of an Albatross head.
Intrigued, I wanted to ask him how such a collaboration came about. ‘I’ve been really busy making music so I thought it might be fun to source the track out to some people. There’s a lightness to it, it’s not like a joke but it’s important to have levity to balance it, hopefully showing something a bit more playful too. That Albatross head is terrifying though!’
It’s this mix of emotions and styles that makes Westerman’s music stand out. After studying philosophy at York, he went on to win ‘Best Folk/Country Act’ at the 2016 Unsigned Music Awards but then met and collaborated with producer Bullion, who opened up the world of electronic music to him.
I ask him whether such a seemingly big shift has changed his songwriting process. ‘Before I was thinking about filling all the space with guitar and vocals, but now I try and think about the pure melody of the song. There can be different textures that are more appropriate for what I’ve written. I think about rhythm too’.
This emphasis on melody is important to Westerman and has thus resulted in his song ‘Edison’ being remixed earlier this year by Ross from Friends. While Westerman’s songs don’t initially strike as material to be turned into dance remixes, the two share a lot in common.
Westerman performing last month at the Crofters Rights. Photo by Harry Goldsmith.
‘He’s a really interesting artist: he can do straight up and down dance music but then he has this really good appreciation of melody and space. That kind of open mindedness and not being too concerned about pigeonholing and genre. I always like artists who do quite disparate things in singular ways.
‘I think it’s just a modern way of viewing music. People aren’t interested in tribalism in the same way they used to be. People just want to go and listen to music: rather than “do you like Britpop?” or “do you like shoegaze?”, it’s like “I like both!”’
I ask him if he has a set answer if people ask him what genre he plays: ‘I still say I’m a singer-songwriter. I guess that I think it’s a kind of pop music but my criteria for pop music is quite broad: Pop is a structural term, there’s a chorus, that essential phrase you return to but I try and do experimental pop music and play around with these conventions.’
On this topic, I ask him if he’s done much experimenting in the writing of his upcoming EP Ark: ‘It’s going to be less “here’s a song” and “here’s a song” so there two straight up and down songs and two that are more instrumental-based. There are lyrics but I wouldn’t put them down as individual tracks. I’m writing my album now and I never really like albums that clearly 11 songs to go on the radio. I want to think of it in a more three-dimensional way and create a world of music to live in’.
Photo by Harry Goldsmith
I mention how recently artists like Thundercat and Frank Ocean have been using interludes to make some of their most memorable album tracks. ‘It’s about personality,’ he says. ‘You have the capacity now to really use that time and space you’ve made for yourself. Frank Ocean has been huge: he broke it open in a massive mainstream way, but it’s not mainstream music. It’s really exciting.’
Before letting him go and prepare for his show, I ask him when we can expect his first album. ‘I’m recording it in January, so next year, and it’s in good shape. I’ve never done an album before so it’s an odd process. I always thought I’d be writing concept albums but I changed my tune. I want to put across my personality in a richer way and show a fuller version of myself musically.’
Despite only being at the beginning of his career, Westerman has covered a great distance musically already. Going forward, it will be interesting to see where further he goes. Especially, with the release of his debut album, 2019 could well be a very busy a year for Westerman.
Ark is available now on Blue Flowers
Featured Image: Epigram / Harry Goldsmith
Have you listened to Ark? Let us know.