Since forming in 2015, Western Daughter has gotten by on what guitarist Cameron Brizzee calls "a combination of dumb luck and a certain degree of, maybe, internet savviness." The recording of the album Driftwood Songs (Take This to Heart Records, 2017)--which the indie-rock band had thought would be its last hurrah (Brizzee and bassist Jess Hope were considering a move to Portland)--is a perfect case in point.
"At one point, we had said that we were going to play one final show," said Brizzee. "That was in October [or] September . So there was definitely that feeling of Driftwood Songs being the final thing we did."
But a social media post changed that.
"We have an Instagram, and we follow various record labels and stuff," explained lead singer Taylor Hawkins. "And then one of them followed us back; they were called Take This to Heart Records. We posted, 'We're in the studio,' and there was a shot of us in the studio. And they commented with, like, heart-eye emoji—'We're excited for it!'"
As a joke, Hawkins responded, "Hey, glad you're excited. Sign our band!"
"I think he put LMAO on it too," Hope added.
Take This To Heart wasn't kidding around, though. The Massachusetts-based indie label signed the band and released Driftwood Songs on March 24. Circuit Sweet declared that it "projects the divine balance of lyrical ingenuity and musical ferocity," and Idobi Radio premiered an exclusive stream of the album on March 20. Now committed to continuing, Western Daughter is currently out on a brief tour that includes a set at Upstream Music Fest in Seattle on Friday May 12.
A major theme of Driftwood Songs is the value of relationships. As Brizzee told Idobi Radio, "It's about love and friendships and mental health, and how we struggle to maintain them all in a world that's changing for better or worse all the time."
In a way, this theme has played out in the lives of Western Daughter's members as well. Hawkins and Hope have known each other since they were 15 and 17, respectively. In addition to this band, guitarist Taylor Raymond and drummer Zach Sherwood have played in the local group Feel Better (originally Telescopes as Time Machines) since 2014. Brizzee went to high-school with Sherwood and Hawkins's older brother Brett (who led local band Ancient Psychic and has produced recordings for Western Daughter and Tispur).
A band that Brizzee had formed with Brett Hawkins—which was part of the DIY scene around Idaho Falls—helped inspire the younger Hawkins to make music.
"It's hard to explain," Hawkins said, "but just seeing that community come together, I was like, 'I want to be a part of that. That seems very nice and good, unlike all of the really terrible people I go to high-school with.'"
From the very beginning, Hawkins and company recognized the chemistry they had as a group.
"The four of us minus Zach played in a Modest Mouse cover band," Brizzee said. "We did five songs for Halloween. After that went really well and we all liked playing together, then I think we were kind of like, 'Hey, maybe we should actually try to write some original music.'"
After writing and rehearsing for only three months, Western Daughter played its first official show at Treefort 2015. A few months after that, the band finished recording its debut EP As the Sun Went Down (Broken Bark Records/Camp Daze, 2015). The release's mix of yearning introspection and surging power got an immediate response. New Noise Magazine, for example, ran an exclusive stream of As the Sun Went Down in December 2015.
"I emailed a few places and was just like, 'Hey, we're in a band, we really like what you're doing and we think you might enjoy our music. Please listen to it and let us know what you think,'" Raymond remembered. "Some places ended up digging it. It was really cool, really positive."
As impressive as the first EP was, Driftwood Songs is even better. The album's ability to balance sophisticated arrangements with careening energy shows how quickly the band's songwriting has grown. According to Hawkins, he and his bandmates had resolved to work together more after the success of As the Sun Went Down.
"Instead of everyone doing their own thing, we all kind of met in the middle," he said. "Let's work on this as a whole and work our way out."
That approach should serve Western Daughter well both in music and in life.
"It's pretty safe to say that we've all seen each other at very highs and very lows," Hawkins said. "You know you have something really special when, during those lows, you don't just call it quits. Everyone helps everyone else get out of these funks."