Interview: Indian Summer Westward HO

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Indian Summer Westward HO – Photo courtesy of Indian Summer Westward HO

Indian Summer Westward HO may be a primarily Berlin band, but it didn’t start that way. Instead, the four-piece band grew out of a quiet, mostly nonexistent scene in eastern Germany, before slowly making its way west to the Hauptstadt.

It all began back when the four members met by virtue of growing up in the same region and regularly running into one another at local shows, which were few and far between.

After one such house show where singer/guitarist/keyboardist Julian Gutsche’s former band, at chaos end, played, he ended up deep in conversation with Samuel, and the two got along so well they made plans to hang out and jam on their guitars. When that went off without a hitch, Basti — Samuel’s brother who was already in a handful of other punk bands — joined, as drummer. And not long after, his best friend, Lukas Nitsch, rounded out the quartet as bassist.

This was in the summer of 2013, and within six months the band had recorded its first EP, a five-song self-titled release that came out in March of 2014. At the time, all of the band — with the exception of Gutsche — lived in Dresden, though in the three years since, that has changed, with three-fourths of them now living in Berlin.

“[In the past] I always drove to Dresden for rehearsals, [but] nowadays it is Basti who has to travel to Berlin,” Gutsche shared. “The fact that we live in separate cities for various reasons sometimes really annoys me. [Yet because of this], we are all very focused and productive when we meet. That means we lock ourselves in our rehearsal space for a whole weekend. For me, it always feels like these sleepovers [you’d have] in your early teens, just that you feel more hungover the next morning. It is exhausting and recreational [all] at once.”

Last year, the band finished writing all the songs for the next release, which will be their first full-length album. This week will see the end of the recording process, and it will finally be released in September.

And naturally, since so much time has passed between the two recordings, listeners can expect a different band than the Indian Summer Westward HO of 2014.

“Over…the past two years, each member gathered so many new influences, which definitely affected our songwriting,” Gutsche said. “Stylistically, we developed our songwriting to the extent that the new songs have more vocal sections, are more straightforward. In general, [it’s] a step away from post-rock toward ’90s emo stuff.”

This progression in sound is interesting because while there was a level of awareness involved, it still happened without any major decision dictating it. For example, Gutsche recalls listening to early demo recordings of songs that were on the EP early last year.

“I was very surprised because I forgot that we did this instrumental post-rock without any vocals,” he explained.

But having lyrics came naturally, as did writing them in English.

“I grew up with listening to bands singing in English. Because of that it almost feels natural to sing in English,” Gutsche said.

He admitted that it’s also much easier to write in English, because it provides an outlet while simultaneously maintaining emotional distance, something many German musicians also attest to.

“Writing lyrics is the best way for me to cope with the things [that] go on in my life. That is why they are quite personal, [and] maybe sometimes a bit melodramatic,” he said. “I couldn’t be [as blunt] if I would sing in German.”

As for writing the music itself, Gutsche explained that it always starts off the same, with him and Samuel coming up with a riff and then expanding on that.

“Often we get carried away, and then this phase can last up to two hours, just gathering ideas,” he said. “The great thing about making music in this band, or maybe in a post-rock-ish band in general, is that the songs don’t need to fit into conventional song schemes. You just let it happen and do what feels right.”

Once the basic idea exists, Gutsche said that subsequent rehearsals are used for adding vocals and pinning down additional parts, with each new practice resulting in changes or additions.

“[This process] makes the songwriting kind of infinite,” he said. “I consider a song finished when it has been recorded.”

Of course, that doesn’t take into account the life a song takes on when played live, so it will be interesting to see how the band’s new music comes across this upcoming weekend, when they play a trio of shows in Leipzig, Erlangen, and Dresden.

But beyond that, it will also just be fun.

“We enjoy everything about playing shows. Traveling, meeting so many amazing bands and people, and just having a good time,” Gutsche shared, noting that the band’s favorite venues are alternative, non-commercial spaces with open-minded policies and a political (leftist) bent.

Additionally, it follows that the four are fans of bands and labels that subscribe to similar beliefs and ideals.

“We all admire Audiocæneat from Dresden. Their first album is superb and they pretty much got me into post-rock. [In] the Berlin music scene I have to highlight Späti Palace/Cranky Booking and the Flennen collective and its bands like AG Form, Molde, etc.,” Gutsche said. “I love to go to shows hosted by them. I always get good vibes and they [feature] really inspiring bands [that are] creating stuff [that thinks] outside the box.” 

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