I saw The Summer We Went West a few weeks ago in a very hot, very sweaty, basement that had some of the coolest painted walls ever. The band prank called my friend, bummed copious amounts of cigaretts off me, basically gave their merch table to me, and Erik gave me one of the sweatiest hugs ever. It was at this time I knew an interview had to be done.
Scene Point Blank: It's kind of remarkable that you guys all met, live together, and are able to play in three different types of bands. So what's the story behind the Summer We Went West, how did you guys meet and start making music?
Anton: We all lived in this suburb in Maryland called Columbia that had a surprisingly active music scene while we were all in high school there. That's how I met Jeremy, Erik and Al originally, though I only recognized them from shows I went to. When I went to school at the University of Maryland, I saw Erik at one of the dining halls and asked him if he wanted to play some music with me. We actually started as an acoustic duo, famed for our ridiculously drunk performances. Jeremy had seen me around campus and at shows at the University and started to come onto my radio show that I did at WMUC, and we started to become friends there. We all moved in together because Erik and I were at the WMUC recording studio one day and Jeremy called asking for roommates. Erik and I immediately agreed. The Summer We Went West as a full band came out of Erik and I drunkenly playing the guitar in our living room and Jeremy saying "lets take this party downstairs" which really meant "I'll play drums, you two idiots play the guitar." Al has known Jeremy for a really long time and hung out at our house all that year. It was only natural to ask Al to play bass because he was the only bass player we knew. Al lives with Jeremy and I now, and Erik moved to an apartment down the street but still sleeps on our couch more often than not.
Al: I knew Jeremy, and Jeremy lived with Anton and Erik. Prior to that happening, I didn't really know Anton or Erik very well, only that I saw them at shows every now and then back in our home town/county. Anton asked Jeremy to play drums and later asked me to play bass. Our first show as this lineup was on Halloween, and I dressed up as someone who was cold.
Scene Point Blank: Is there a story behind the band's name? Did you all actually go out west one summer?
Erik: Pretty much picked on a whim at a time when Anton and I had just started jamming. What we were playing was simple, sloppy, folksy acoustic stuff so I figured I'd make a sort of funny, self-indulgent country-western inspired name to fit the music.
Scene Point Blank: This interview could essentially be with Hobis and Dawn Treader, since you guys all play in those bands together as well. How do you guys manage time and split up practice and playing time between all three bands?
Anton: Dawn Treader has a dedicated practice day, I think the only dedicated practice day out of all the bands. The practices are always impromptu, poorly planned, and tons of fun. Since three-fourths of The Summer We Went West live together it's relatively easy to coordinate a practice.
Al: Most of the time, one band is doing something (recording, playing shows, lots of practice) and the others kind of take the backseat. Its usually worked out like that, in fact, I think The Summer We Went West and Hobis only practiced once before we went on tour because Dawn Treader was finishing up our album.
Scene Point Blank: You guys just came back from a full US tour? How was that? Any funny stories? Any good scenes around the country or awesome bands you played with?
Erik: A lot of shit broke sometimes during a song, which was pretty silly at times. But other than that all the shows were wonderful, people were awesome and when shit did break, we just got some lent to us anyway, which was great cause a lot of the equipment was much better. Trifle Tower from Dallas was pretty fun. Also, this band Margot from Houston and this band Lanterns from, I think, CA. Also, all our Philly friends, Towers/Peter and Craig, and all things Circle Y were a blast.
Anton: In Houston, everyone went to go and get some food at a local joint but I had missed them because I was drinking beer in the van or something. After finding out where they went I decide to take Jeremy's longboard and skate down to meet them. As I'm skating down these streets, this truck pulls out in front of me and a little kid in the back of the truck yells to me "Cuidado!" and points behind me. I look behind me as the truck speeds off and see 10 dogs growling and chasing after me, not 2 feet from where the board is. I fucking truck it down the street and these dogs chase for about 3 blocks, almost up until I got to where the rest of the band was. I never thought dogs actually did that, but they do! Other than that, and a bunch of our equipment breaking, we had a blast. Thanks to everyone who we met, let us sleep on their floors, and got totally shit-faced with us all night! We met a lot of cool dogs (and people!) on tour.
Scene Point Blank: When I saw you guys in Blacksburg, you only played a three song set. How much of a role does fatigue play when doing a US tour and more or less playing as three bands?
Anton: Jeremy gets the most tired I think because he has to sing and play drums and play the guitar in 3 bands. We tried doing Dawn Treader, The Summer We Went West, and then Hobis for one show as a lineup but Jeremy was too exhausted after singing and then playing drums. You get tired going on tour and sitting in a van all day long, but the moment you start playing it all goes away and you just want to play all night. We opted to play short sets for tour because a lot of the times shows had to be over by a certain time and we wanted to make sure that all three bands, plus any other bands playing had time for at least a few songs. There were a few shows where Hobis and The Summer We Went West could only manage to do one song each with the time allowed, but it was worth it.
Al: I know that I had to hold back sometimes, knowing that I'd be tired as all hell for the other two bands. I forgot about that in Seattle and had to lay down on the floor. It's okay though. I think it takes some getting used to, but once it's actually happening, you don't really think of it so much as, "Man, I have to play three sets tonight." It's more like, "Okay, don't go too crazy. Pace yourself," and it's usually over pretty quickly. I'm always surprised when I realize I'm playing the last song of the night. It goes by too quickly.
Scene Point Blank: Unlike most DIY bands now a days, you guys seem to have strayed away from releasing albums on vinyl. Any reason why you decided to do releases on CD rather then vinyl?
Al: We self release most everything under the name Metaphysics Records, which Jeremy started to put out the first Hobis CD six or seven years ago. Its hard, and most of the time we can only afford to put out a CD. Hobis and Dawn Treader both have vinyl though, so we aren't at all opposed to it, its just something we do when we can afford to. I think The Summer Went West has some split records in the works...
Anton: It wasn't really a conscious decision to stay away from vinyl. As a group all of us have put out a lot of records, Dawn Treader has a 7" and a split 12", Hobis has a split 7", Bezout's Identity (a project with just me and Al in it) has done a split 7" with Peter and Craig. I think we just figured that as a first release for The Summer We Went West it was better to do it as a CD.
Scene Point Blank: You guys are self-described as drunken indie rock." Does the Summer We Went Went prefer liquor or beer?
Anton: I prefer liquor. Whiskey. But I'll drink just about anything really. In Olympia we played a show at The Witch House, but the show got shut down and had to be moved to another house. I had been drinking whiskey all night by this point and was so wasted for the show that I don't even remember what happened. I just woke up in the van the next morning in a parking lot. After that I made a mental note to not start drinking whiskey till I was about to play. It's all about timing.
Al: I prefer liquor followed by beer. Just beer takes too long.
Erik: I prefer wine.
Scene Point Blank: What is the song writing process for you guys? Is it a collective effort lyrically, or does Erik write most of the lyrics?
Anton: Musically we tend to just get together in the basement, hang out for a bit, and jam on random riffs that people have here or there and see what happens. It seems to work out; we're not really ever too stressed about anything. Lyrically, everyone writes what they individually sing. The songs on our first full-length, Following The Holy Moon Goddess, Erik wrote and sang everything, but as we progress as a band everyone is becoming more lyrically involved. New songs will have three or four intertwining topics each sung by a different person. Again, we're usually just totally shit-faced so its whatever we feel like doing.
Al: I usually end up asking Erik what he's singing about and try to come up with something along those lines. Erik does do most of the singing so the rest of us only have two or three lines to sing anyway.
Erik: For writing songs, I have an idea then I just sort of yell shit along with the music and then write what comes out. I find it usually comes out best this way.
Scene Point Blank: What are the future plans for the band. Are you guys planning on sticking together after school is over?
Erik: I see us probably playing music together, for a bit at least.
Anton: For the time being I think we're going to stick together as long as possible. There was talk after Erik and I graduated to all move to San Francisco, but I don't know if that's going to happen. Jeremy graduated last year and has thankfully stuck around to do music with all of us. I'm really glad too because it's been awesome and more rewarding than anything else I've done, that's for sure.
Images courtesy of The Summer We Went West