Red Western embraces 'janglier' sound
The Red Western has been such a consistent presence in the Pittsburgh music scene that it's surprising how much the band's sound has changed.
In fact, it's almost as though there are two Red Westerns out there, haunting the barrooms and clubs of the East End and South Side.
How appropriate, then, that the group has decided to release two EPs simultaneously — “Sirens” and “Arrows” — instead of a single album. The release party for both will be Feb. 6 at the Andy Warhol Museum, North Side.
This town ain't big enough for two Red Westerns, apparently.
“The other Sean (Soisson, original songwriter) left, moved back to Utah,” drummer Sean Finn says. “Jay (Leon) and him set out to be a country band. It's what first came out. But even when he was getting ready to leave the band, there wasn't an overt moving away from country, but it was starting to become more of an indie pop, jangly sort of thing.”
Whether he intended it or not, The Red Western has begun to sound a bit like Finn's old bands, the '90s dream-pop band Manifold Splendour and the later, more complex guitar-driven band Life in Bed.
“Life in Bed was around for like 10 years. ... I kind of stopped playing music and quit the band for like two years. I had booked The Red Western at Lava Lounge, and ... they were looking for a drummer.”
Singer Lauren DeLorenze's clear, winsome singing holds it all together, sometimes alternating (or harmonizing with) guitarist Jonathan Gunnell's voice. In any style, the melodies are way out in front.
This two-short-EPs-instead-of-an-album business is intentional. The songs seemed different enough that splitting them apart made sense. Of course, they're not that different — it's not like one EP was death-metal and the other was opera, or something.
“Jay comes from a power-pop/indie background,” Finn says. “(Songs on ‘Sirens') ‘Away Too Long,' ‘Sixteen,' ‘Mountain Air' — he brought in an idea, and we worked on them together.
“Five of the songs were some that John brought to the band, that he had written years ago. He wanted to try to incorporate more complexity (guitar, rhythms).
“I think there was a little apprehension about going in that direction, but we made the songs into Red Western songs. It was a big move away from alt-country standard that Sean had.”
Michael Machosky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-320-7901.