Take a trip to a performance by Oscar Anthony and the Westfolk and you’ll see a Belmont-based band that can boast a live show like no other.
Six guys, all performing with such fervor, can saturate a room. With every break in the music, the band members intake their respective breaths simultaneously. The beat courses through their bodies, provoking an infectious kinetic energy and revealing the otherwise imperceptible bond uniting these players. Later, one begins to realize that this connection is simply the band’s collective Bohemian soul professing its existence to their audience.
Perhaps in contrast to their melodic chemistry onstage, the band itself was formed as arbitrarily as possible. The group now consists of Oscar Anthony (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and the Westfolk Band, which is John Shaw (lead guitar), Brady Surface (bass), Ross Bridgeman (keys, vocals), Jared Ziemba (sax, vocals, percussion), and Houston Mathews (drums). Reaching this current line-up was a rambling, roundabout story in and of itself.
“Oscar and Houston got together and I got a call February of our freshman year,” Shaw recalls. “Houston left me a message that just said, ‘Call this number.’ He didn’t give me any details whatsoever; just hangs up. I got my bass player to play with us for a little while, and Ross was his roommate. He played keys and sang, so we needed him.
Then, we went to RCA to record, and Jared (was just) there for some reason.”
Brady Surface came on the scene a little later. Anthony and the guys saw him play at a house party and had to have him on their bill. With Surface on bass, the Westfolk Band finally settled in but only as far as the members. Their music was another matter altogether.
“I have recorded with this band more than I’ve recorded with any other band I’ve been in, and we still don’t have anything out, but that’s just because we’re constantly evolving our sound,” Shaw said.
The band’s MySpace describes their music as reminiscent of blues, jazz, country, folk, metal, earth, and oceans.
The guys themselves don’t have a much straighter answer.
“I’d say we’re country rock,” Anthony said.
“A lot more jammy,” Surface added.
“Bob Dylan meets Radiohead,” Mathews finished.
Despite the apparent diversity, Oscar Anthony and the Westfolk are genuinely adept in every genre they attempt.
They aren’t scrapping their previous work, but rather taking it with them and moving forward. With six members, each as musically immersed as the next, their interests and influences are forever shifting, and so their music goes with them.
“Musically immersed” can mean a lot of things, but these men surround themselves with musicians, primarily through individual side projects and multiple obligations. Ziemba is in a band called Skylion; Surface is in Biscuits and Gravy as well as a jazz ensemble. Anthony has some solo stuff going on, and Shaw has his own band, The John Shaw Group, to name a few.
Contrary to what one might think, these other commitments have compelled Oscar Anthony and the Westfolk to become more regimented in their practice schedule. They’ve become more resolute and less cautious.
Their next steps are logical, yet ambitious. Oscar Anthony and the Westfolk are working to release their first EP and establishing fan bases in proximate cities. The band is more comfortable and confident now than ever before and is ready to expand.
Shaw is optimistic: “If you can survive in Nashville, you can thrive anywhere else.”