Band: Wess Meets West
Album: A Light Within The Fracture
Label: Hassle Records
Trying to throw a label that will stick on a band like Wess Meets West is a tricky thing. The artists in this four-piece group from New Haven, Connecticut are constantly evolving, challenging and pushing themselves as they progress from one record to the next. After recently being signed to Hassle Records, their new album A Light Within the Fracture is ready to be set loose into the world. It’s the band’s third full-length studio offering, which sees them continuing that journey of self-discovery in their ambitious style.
Wess Meets West began life as the project of lead guitarist Sam Stauff, and has now grown to incorporate elements of electronica and live programming into their sound, and becoming known as purveyors of a defiantly optimistic strain of instrumental rock. Originally shirking vocals and lyrics to concentrate on crafting otherworldly soundscapes, over time the band have introduced sparse vocals to guide themes and boost the dynamic presence of certain songs, though they’re conspicuous in their absence on this latest offering.
“I think this album represents many feelings we collectively have as a band and as individuals,” explains Stauff of the concepts behind the new record. “Be it feelings of hope, despair, joy – they’re all very visceral feelings towards life and the constant shifting that comes with it.
“One of the main themes of this album is life and death. Not just in the human sense but in nature, relationships, family, and how we handle ourselves in everyday situations. There is a struggle that we wanted to convey. We reach for hopefulness even in the darkest places. We live in extremely complicated times and sometimes the only chance I get to myself to ‘think’ is when I am listening to music. It’s a time to reflect and learn how to be better.”
Across the new album layers of ambient guitars, mirrored harmonies, swelling lows, and textured percussion mix with found sounds and electronics to create a density of sound that is often staggering. The slow-burning, riff-driven race of “Direct Experience” cleverly utilises an array of competing melodic lines to emulate vocals, the delicate bloom of “Catacombs” is hauntingly evocative of its moniker, and the sprawling electronica sci-fi battle of “Temporary Galaxies” sees the band reaching further in their use of arpeggiated synths and samples.
Although recorded in multiple locations, the bulk of A Light Within the Fracture was written in a small cabin just outside Portland, Maine in the winter of early 2016. The cold weather and the remote location kept the band on task as they stayed inside working on ideas through all hours of the night.
“I love making albums in the winter,” elaborates Stauff on the creative process “I feel like the music we make fits better with that time of year. We recorded the majority of the instruments at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY. The rest of the record was done on Andy’s and my home studio setups. We’re both audio engineers so we send files back and forth and are always messing with sounds and bouncing ideas off each other even when we aren’t together.
“One of the best parts of instrumental music is that the feeling you can get from a song can change with your mood. In that sense I think it may be easier to express yourself with instrumental music than with lyrics, because lyrics can force a listener to an exact place, whereas instrumental music allows the listener to go wherever they want to. We would rather have a simple melody that is beautiful and moves us than a super complex shredding lead.”
Their evolution towards the use of an increasingly electronic production led set up has helped them to brighten and expand the textures they so lovingly create, and provides a denser backdrop for these supremely talented musicians to shred, breakdown, and groove over. The song “Build Your Life” in particular showcases that their knack for the heavy side of the genre is as strong as ever. The result is a flood of constantly shifting melodies that are connected by fluid and complex musical motifs, communicating a romantic and often emotionally overwhelming portrait of the unabashed beauty of the human experience and the power of the enduring spirit of our species.
As prolific writers, they have so far released two EPs, Live At Riverworks (2014) and Barricades (2015), and two studio albums, their 2011 debut Chevaliers and sophomore record When The Structures Fail Us (2014), as well as a full remix record titled Migration: When the Structures Fail Us Remixes (2014). They have been featured in Paste Magazine, Electronic Musician Magazine, Premier Guitar, NPR Morning Edition, CBS, Wrangler, ESPN's X-Games and, most recently, in Spotify's Deep Focus Playlist which racked up over four million plays.
An immediately apparent and rich odyssey in their song writing recalls their New England home, a coastal hub exposed to the elements and ripe with historic consequence, harnessing a deeper narrative of both a physical and spiritual connection to the awe-inspiring landscape which has fed so much into their creativity. Like many of the best in their field, they’re a band who refuse to shy away from the grandiose and embrace it wholeheartedly, conveying magisterial, alien compositions that mirror the visceral natural world which inspires them.
Over the years they have shared the stage with the likes of The Appleseed Cast, This Will Destroy You, Caspian, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Maps and Atlases, Pianos Become The Teeth, This Town Needs Guns (TTNG), And So I Watch You From Afar, The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die and many more.
Cathartic, intelligent, and passionate, Wess Meets West are a band full with spirit and audacity, demonstrating a confidence to tackle an enduring scale that most bands, of any level, would be discouraged to dirty their hands with.
Wess Meets West are:
Erick Alfisi - bass, vocals
Andy Porta - drums, vocals
Nick Robinson - guitar, vocals, programming
Sam Stauff - guitar, vocals, programming