"When music comes to you as pure catharsis, it’s very dark, very beautiful." (An Interview With Taylor Robert Hawkins of Western Daughter)
Following the release of Issue VII: Aubade, Half Mystic would like to dance in a new kind of dawn. This wilderness can be found in Western Daughter, the delightful indie-rock band that croons blustery and forgiving tunes. Please welcome the ever-lovely Taylor Robert Hawkins of Western Daughter to the blog!
HM: Your musical style builds on decades of legacy in multiple genres, including punk, indie-alternative, country, and folk. How have these stylistic conventions impacted your work? How does your music both replicate and diverge from these artistic influences?
TRH: These genres were all starting points for us as a band, because almost all of us grew up in the DIY scenes of our respective towns, watching the early-00s punk, skramz (though I hate that term), and hardcore scenes evolve and play off of one another. So much of it seemed very machismo—almost jingoistic, in a way—and I think I instinctively started drifting towards indie-rock, softer forms of music, as a rebellion against that. Which I realize is extremely silly. I was 15 and dense.
But those genres gave me the roadmap, the starting point of the path. Their stylistic conventions taught me what the shape of songs might look like under certain criteria. I think Western Daughter’s songs diverge from any strict influences because all of us have a tendency to do things just a little differently. We don’t like the norm, I guess. It’s boring to us when everything is a carbon-copy of everything else. We gravitate to experimentation because it gives us vitality. It feels good.
A large cultural community surrounds DIY and alternative music that is nearly inseparable from the genres themselves. To what extent has your personal and musical development been defined by this community?
Through-and-through—it’s been almost all of our entire lives. I think it would be ignorant to claim that the communities you associate yourself with aren’t drastically, constantly shaping you. There’s so much, both good and bad, that I have learned from the musical communities I grew up in and later helped curate; there’s a lot of shuffling around and mixing of ideologies. I just try to always do things, act in ways, that I consider morally good. That’s what my mom taught me—and I figure she knows best.
How does working within the context of a band impact your musical creation? Do you find that your craft differs when you’re working on personal projects, as opposed to band projects?
It impacts the process greatly! Everyone brings something new to the table, so when we get together as six different people, all of whom enjoy different lifestyles and genres of music, we turn into a great big melting pot of ideas and sounds and forms. There’s more ingredients, per se. It’s very fun.
What personal experiences do you draw on when writing music? Are there stories, events, people, or places that inevitably find their way into your work?
I used to only write strictly about events that had happened in my life, and in a very direct manner. I thought at the time that it wasn’t right to preach about something that you didn’t know to be objectively true. I no longer believe this. I suppose methods change over time in order to get a point or a feeling across, or to purge yourself of something dark. And I’m sure the methods I’m using now will change in a few years, too.
What role does music play in your personal lives? What records do you play over and over again?
I can’t speak for the other members of our band as far as their favorite records, but I do know that music is something intrinsic to all of us. For me, personally, I would say that music wears many hats. It can reveal itself as simply escapism or enjoyment, but it can also be something much deeper, more abstract and substantial. When music comes to you as pure catharsis, it’s very dark, very beautiful.
While I really try not to have favorite things for too long because I think it’s crucial to keep evolving, there are definitely albums I always find myself fascinated by or falling in love with over again. Recently those records would be The Book’s The Lemon of Pink, Songs Ohia’s Magnolia Electric Company, Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, Fugazi’s The Argument, The Spirit of The Beehive’s Hypnic Jerks, Frank Ocean’s Blonde. And I’ve been obsessed with that new Big Thief record, U.F.O.F., too. It’s wonderful.
Describe Western Daughter’s music using only adverbs.
Carefully. Wishfully. Badly. Sweetly. Soon. Somewhere.
How does the process of writing lyrics differ from the process of writing music? Do you find yourself creating one before the other, or do they intertwine?
There are definitely times when the processes are inextricable—like when Cameron or Tay Ray come to practice with a new guitar part and the moment they start playing it, words flow out almost stream-of-consciousness that just align perfectly. That said, I think for me lyric-writing is an indefinite, ongoing process that I’m just naturally doing in my head all the time, whether I’m aware of it or not. So I guess I’m saying that I’m generally creating those lyrics before the music.
Both country and punk music are stitched together with threads of truth. What truths do you hope to explore with your listeners?
The next record we’re working on explores love, but it isn’t about romantic relationships by any means. I wouldn’t call it our “happy record” but it is about striving for positivity and staying content. About our attempts to heal after experiencing abuse, whether those attempts were ultimately good or bad for us. About helping our friends when they are hurt. There’s a lot of truth in that, in the love and the hurt and the healing.
So much of your music is tied to the environment you’re in—being, of course, Boise, Idaho. How has Boise shaped your music? How has the juxtaposition of both the city and the wilderness impacted your creation?
This is a really good question. I’m going to go on a bit of a personal tangent here: I’ve always felt stuck between two different lifestyles, one being the quintessential New York City party lifestyle—a whole “doing molly outside of some big party in a crowded apartment building stairwell on the 13th floor and getting drunk and having fun and meeting other artists and doing the whole LCD Soundsystem in the early-00s” thing—and one being that of quiet, temporal solitude in nature.
Boise allows me to, if even on a microscopic scale, live out both of these urges. It has so many incredible artists in it and when you end up in a place where they all hang out and mingle, it feels very much like a big city. But Boise is also surrounded in every direction by nature to explore and get lost in. It’s such a special place to me. I am—and I think Western Daughter are—very grateful to have found this city and to call it our home.
Bio: Western Daughter are an indie-rock band from Boise, Idaho. When discussing the state of their place in the ever-evolving Pacific Northwest music scene, Track Seven once said “It feels like the dawn of yet another golden age for a scene that always finds a new way to shine.” Since forming in 2015, they’ve already shared the stage with the likes of mewithoutYou, Joyce Manor, American Football, Big Thief, Hop Along, The Sidekicks, The Menzingers and many others. They are currently working on their sophomore LP to be released on Take This to Heart Records in late 2019. Taylor Robert Hawkins is the lead vocalist of the band.