Interview: Western Settings

By Paul Silver

Let’s get something straight from the start. Western Settings, hailing from San Diego, are my homies. I was at their very first show, and I’ve been to almost every one of their hometown performances. I’ve seen them grow. I saw them off on the few west coast tours they’ve done, and been there to welcome them home. But I wasn’t prepared for the reception they received at Awesomefest 9, attended by a lot of people from out of town; the place went crazy! This is a band that’s really making a mark with their emotionally charged pop punk sounds. Hot on the heels of their third release, the “Old Pain” EP, and on the eve of their first full US tour, I had a chance to briefly chat with the band, consisting of Ricky Schmidt (bass, lead vocals), Will Castro (guitar, vocals), Dylan Wolters (guitar, vocals), and Adam Kissell (drums).

The new EP, “Old Pain,” was produced by Chicken (Tyson Annicharico) of Dead To Me. How did that opportunity come about?

Ricky: Through the magic of Twitter actually. It’s not as cool of a story as you would hope for. It would be a way better story if we randomly met in a movie theater or at a bookstore and hit it off or something. But, yeah, we met on Twitter. Shortly after that we talked on the phone and agreed to work on some music together. That all happened in May of 2015. So it’s been about a year now.

How did the process of recording this EP with a producer differ from the self-production of your LP, “Yes It Is” and your self-titled EP?

Ricky: The big difference was having an outsider’s brain come in and work the songs with us. Tyson is a really great songwriter and knows music well. So he was able to come in with a fresh ear and see what the songs needed. When you’re working without a producer you can still make a great song, it just takes more time. You work on a song hours on end and eventually you don’t know up from down, good from bad. So you have to walk away, come back later and see what sticks out once you’re ears are rested. It’s a lengthy process. With a producer, or at least with Chicken, he expedited that process. I’m speaking from my own experience working with a producer. I’m sure not all are as super radical as Mr. Annicharico.

What sort of input and feedback did you get from Chicken that you feel made a significant difference in the sound of this EP?

Ricky: All of his input made a difference. “Try this here, try that there. Sing that part again, Ricky, you sounded like a dying animal on that last take.” He contributed way more than just input, too; he was a part of this album. There are “Chicken bits” sprinkled all over “Old Pain.”

The new EP has a much darker, sadder sound than “Yes It Is.” Why is that?

Ricky: Well, I was going through a sad moment in my life. These songs touch on some of that.

I think my favorite song on “Old Pain” is “Champion Schizo.” I especially love the ending, and wish that last thirty seconds could last forever. For each of you, what’s your favorite song on the new EP, and why?

Ricky: I like all the songs equally, I suppose. I really enjoy playing “The Phenomenon.” it’s a very fun song. I enjoy singing it; it’s a mouthful. 

Will: “Champion Schizo” is my favorite. I had to leave for Iceland the night after I recorded my parts, and I wasn’t really there for the rest of the process, as I was for “Yes It Is”. So I was on vacation wondering what was going to happen with this new record, what direction they were going to go in postproduction, and how hard was Ricky going to get pushed on vocals, which started the day after I left. I got an email around 10pm one night with a rough mix of “Schizo,” and I lost my shit. That song was always special in my mind from the first time we jammed it, both lyrically and for the story behind it. But, damn, finally hearing Ricky’s vocals on this song, made me super emo for a couple minutes. Then I was off chasing waterfalls and sunsets again. I think the entire record shows a significant improvement in our songwriting to date.

Adam: “Old Pain” because I love the huge chorus and I get to change the drum pattern up when we play it live.

Dylan: I like “Old Pain” because it was a chance to get really dynamic with our song writing. It’s got great, heavy-hitting loud moments and subtle quiet parts.

Your touring game is picking up. After a series of West Coast tours, you did a bigger Western US tour, and are now about to embark on a full US tour. Is touring something you look forward to with enthusiasm, or do you sometimes dread the grind of driving from place to place and playing every night?

Ricky: I would rather be on the road more than I would like to be doing anything else. I love everything about it, even with the driving and the loading. One of my favorite feelings of tour is when you’re initially driving away from the place you live and know you don’t have to be back for however long. I don’t dislike home but it’s always a magic moment driving or flying away.

What are you most looking forward to with this first full US tour?

Ricky: I’m really looking forward to playing a lot of towns we haven’t played yet. New towns mean new friends and new bands, which is awesome. We are also going to write our next album during this tour so I’m looking forward to being in a van with Adam, Dylan and Will working on music. Also I’m excited I get to spend a month with my dear friend, Tony Shrum, who is coming along with us.

Do you have any plans to tour in the UK and Europe?

Ricky: We are doing a three-week tour of Europe in October. It will be the three weeks right before Pre-Fest in Ybor City, Florida and The Fest in Gainesville, Florida.

Western Settings’ new EP, “Old Pain” can be streamed here:

Western Settings “Old Pain” Tour dates
5/4 San Diego, CA – The Tower Bar
5/5 Las Vegas, NV – The Dive Bar
5/6 Salt Lake City, UT – Diabolical Records
5/7 Denver, CO – Marquis Theatre
5/8 Laramie, WY @ Cowboy Saloon
5/9 Ft Collins, CO @ Surfside 7
5/10 Aberdeen, SD @ Slackers
5/11 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
5/12 Madison, WI @ Mr. Roberts
5/13 Bloomington, IL @ The Bistro
5/14 Chicago, IL @ Quenchers Saloon
5/15 Pittsburgh, PA @ TBA
5/16 Kalamazoo, MI @ Louie’s Backroom
5/17 Baltimore, MD @ The Sidebar
5/18 Brooklyn, NY @ Gold Sounds
5/19 Long Branch, NJ @ Brighton Bar
5/20 Norfolk, VA @ Hookup Cafe
5/21 Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
5/22 Raleigh, NC @ Deep South Bar
5/23 Charleston, SC @ Tin Roof
5/24 Gainesville, FL @ Loosey’s
5/25 @ TBA
5/26 Atlanta, GA @ Star Bar
5/27 Nashville, TN @ East Room
5/28 New Orleans, LA @ Euphoria Kava Bar
5/29 Dallas, TX @ Prophet Bar
5/30 Austin, TX @ The Sidewinder
5/31 Ft Worth, TX @ 1919 Hemphill
6/1 Oklahoma City, OK @ Hilo Club
6/2 Flagstaff, AZ @ TBA
6/3 Phoenix, AZ @ Time Out Lounge

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