Westerner has returned with an epic new single and it’s “The Dawn of the World.” Well established as a staple in the band’s live set, fans of the group have long since been demanding that this single get a proper release. It’s perhaps the highlight of the night when they play live, with its clever mix of psychedelic rock and very danceable disco beats. Well, the timing finally seemed right! The purpose of “The Dawn of the World” is to remind listeners of our shared humanity with each other in a frantic time of division and rising tensions. Despite all that divides us, there is much more that brings us together with our life journey exposing our shared values.
Lyrically, the song follows a storyline of past and future. As the band reveals, “‘The Dawn of the World’ follows a king and queen from ancient times as they march out of their city towards the rising sun and gates of heaven open to welcome them. Meanwhile, in the future, a spaceman launches himself into space in his solo rocket ship as he seeks the unseen and unknown. It’s about transcendence, inspiration, and compassion. Also, it was mixed by James ‘Fluff’ Harley and mastered by Vlado Meller, who has worked with everybody from Pink Floyd to Rage Against the Machine and is one of the best mastering engineers in the world.”
The driving force behind Westerner is lead singer Cooper Bombadil who originally wrote and recorded the group’s debut record Unreal City on his own before realizing he needed a live band. This live crew quickly became full-time members and the quartet began collaborating together. While they can certainly hold their own in a studio, the true greatness of Westerner lies within their live show which has been a large part of the reason for the group’s devoted following of fans. They play with precision and are seamlessly capable of combining fun pop songs with complex space rock intangibles which has made them one of Los Angeles most buzz-worthy bands.
With the revelation that is “The Dawn of the World,” we thought it may be a good time to get to know Westerner a little better.
“The Dawn of The World” may be Westerner’s most expansive and elaborate song. Take us through the writing of this one. I’m assuming it must have been quite a lengthy writing process?
Cooper: “I wanted the song to be epic because it was the opening track to a concept album. I was really taken with bands that played 10 or 20-minute songs that climaxed after a long, slow build, so I knew that was how this one would behave. I also wanted the song to flip back and forth between an acoustic, drum circle feel and then a futuristic, spacey, electronic feel to enhance the themes in the lyrics. To help me hone in on the sound and feel I wanted I created a playlist of songs and an image board. I did that for each song on the concept album.
For Dawn, the songs on the playlist included Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Led Zeppelin, Mt Eerie, some electronica songs, and the soundtrack to ‘Akira.’ I wish I still had those playlists. It would be fun to go back and look at them. I mandated to myself that I spend at least four hours everyday working on these songs, and if I got stuck on one I would flip to another. I would just hit record and throw stuff against the wall and see what stuck. I was learning how to use Logic at the time, so a big part of my creative process was experimenting with the software, seeing how much I could manipulate the sounds I recorded, and coming up with something I’d never heard before.
That’s how I came up with a lot of the ambient background noises you hear in the song. I had never used a drum machine before either, and I wanted the electronic sections to switch to a drum machine. When I wrote the solo section I, again, just hit record and started playing, and then I would go back and piece together the solo by taking the parts I liked and put them together. I had to learn how to play the solo after I wrote it. I had never soloed on guitar in my life before then. I was sort of disappointed that the main vocal line was a reiteration of the guitar line, but it ended up working out really well, especially when Brandon came up with a third harmony that makes the part sound divine.”
Clocking in at just under nine minutes, the song is a full-on epic, to say the least. Did you ever try to cut the song down or cut aspects of it out to experiment with different versions? Or is this released version the same one you started out with?
Javier: “What you’ve heard is the full, unadulterated version that we’ve kept since the beginning. Ha — now that I think of it, it’s actually a little longer than the original version. We’ve since added some extra ear candy during the intro. While pitching our songs, we went ahead and did a radio edit for those that can’t handle the full epic It was somewhat of a challenge but I think we nailed it, representing all the ‘meat’ of the song as best as possible. Whichever version people end up listening to — we think they’ll be quite pleased with the results! (We sure are, this is the first release that we’re all equally proud of and have put the most blood, sweat, and tears into.)”
Not exactly a brand new song, “The Dawn of The World” has become a fan favourite when you play live. Why do you think fans have gravitated towards this song in particular? Also, is it your most well-received song from your fans?
Brandon: “If you come see Westerner play live, whatever you do, don’t miss the first song! We always open the show with ‘The Dawn of the World’ and for good reason: it starts the party. Maybe it’s the tribal drum beat, or the ostinato bass line that puts you in a trance, or even the ethereal lyrics saturated with reverb and delay; there’s just something about this song that draws people in and keeps them there for the whole show.
Since our songs range from dance rock, to electronic to psychedelic ‘burning man’ type tunes, we reach a diverse audience. It’s hard to say if this is the fan favorite, but if I had to bet on it, I would definitely choose ‘Dawn’ as our most popular song. To this day, there isn’t a show we’ve played that at least one stranger or new fan hasn’t approached me at the bar after our set and said ‘that first song was epic’ or at least some version of that sentiment.”
There’s quite a concept and story behind the lyrics of “The Dawn of The World,” as you’ve made us aware of. How was this lyrical concept surrounding a king and queen created or thought of? Is there a deeper meaning behind it all?
Cooper: “I started writing the lyrics on a bus one day in Portland, Oregon. I started writing and it all poured out of me right there for the most part. I had been slowly piecing together the idea of this concept album. At the time, I was feeling like extremism was proliferating. Not only did beliefs seem to be more extreme, but people believed more extremely in their own beliefs. So for the song I wanted to combine images that were opposites of each other.
For whatever reason, this idea of a King and Queen from some archaic city, and a spaceman in a fictional future, came to mind. The King and Queen are marching toward the sunrise where the Gates of Heaven are opening for them. The spaceman is flying out into the unknown in the deep heart of space. Both of them are seeking to touch divinity, or transcend their natural state, but they do it in opposite ways. One with religion, the other with technology. One with the ecstatic energy of a crowd, the other in stoic isolation. One in the past, the other in the future.”
Vlado Meller, a very well-respected producer and sound engineer helped put this song together. What was the greatest asset that Vlado brought to the table when he helped in putting the finishing touches on “The Dawn of The World?”
Mike: “This is a very important song for us and our fans, so we wanted to do it justice. Vlado was an obvious choice as he is well versed in mastering many genres including Pink Floyd, Frank Ocean, and System of a Down. He was recommended to us by our mixing engineer James “Fluff” Harley. Fluff worked directly with Vlado so we knew we could be confident that we were getting.”