West Thebarton | Josh Healey

Adelaide’s West Thebarton are well on track to becoming one of the next big exports in Australian rock if they’re not careful. The seven-piece South Australian group are not only hitting Aussie roads next month but will also be hitting up both 2018 instalments of Reading & Leeds in the U.K. and Bryon Bay’s Splendor in the Grass; all off the back of solid new LP, ‘Different Beings Being Different’. The rest of the year is going to be a pretty wild ride for West Theb, that’s for sure! After shooting the shit about how people say their band name differently (it’s pronounced “pheb-a-ton” FYI), guitarist Josh Healey gets down to chatting about the origins of their moniker, the name and artwork of their forthcoming pub-anthem of an LP, the budding indie rock music scene right here in Australia, and Healey’s other musical passion in life: melodic hardcore. 

When I was looking up more about the band, I came across the West Thebarton Hotel over in South Australia. So, is that place local to you guys and gals in the band over in South Australia and maybe even where the band derived your name now?

Our original band name West Thebarton Brothel Party a year and a bit ago now. Basically, West Thebarton road is just a main thoroughfare through suburban Adelaide, and the West Thebarton hotel is on the corner of that road and another main road. We actually jam in our rehearsal space 100 meters down the road from that, and the funny thing was there was once a notorious brothel on the corner too. One day, a while ago, we made a Facebook group called “West Thebarton Brothel Party” and we started playing shows under that band name. We obviously changed our band name since that time [laughs].

Right on! With the seven-member band setup, how does writing go and how do you delegate parts out in order to get the best sound?  

Throughout the years we’ve been a band, it was just six or so members. The band actually started without me, but after the first show, I said I was very keen to join as they wanted another guitar player. At that point, we had four guitarists, a bassist, a percussion, and a drummer along with our singer. As for writing, someone will just bring an idea to the table; a riff or a chord progression and then we all just come in add all our own little licks and parts to it. All of us have different influences and that influences how we write. We very rarely a song all-together from scratch, though we have finished full songs right there in rehearsals too.

Maybe it’s just because your singer’s stage name is Reverend Ray, but there is a whole community and friendly vibe of West Thebarton’s music and live show. Which I really like! When watching live footage from Falls Festival and there was just such a positive vibe from the stage and the crowd atmosphere.

It sounds pretty cliché, but when we started West Theb, it was just to jam and have a good time with mates. There was no intent to paly two shows let alone one. But playing music together has made us what we are and we just wanna have a good time. We’re all busy people but we dedicate a big chunk of our lives to this band, as we love it so much. Maybe that’s where the community vibe comes into it; we live in the same area, have similar friendship groups, we go to the same pubs and the same shows, and I think it has to be that way. If there’s a divide or any angst between anyone, it can ruin the chemistry of the band. Both writing wise and live performances too. We sort that stuff out quickly and that’s probably why we’ve been a band for six years now. Even with things becoming even bigger and exciting for us lately, I’m so glad the community vibe comes across to others!

I think it has to do with the local Adelaide scene, and while there’s a bad rap to the city because of low-ticket sales and tours missing us, I feel that the scene is really on the up lately. We are very proud of where we’re from, and we’re so stoked to take this as far as we can.

Glad to hear it, mate. Now, with the title of the new album, ‘Differing Beings Being Different’, I just wanted to tell you that that’s a really nice name that just rolls off the tongue so well.

Thanks man! That was something Ray came up with. We even revamped some old EP names we were gonna use back in the day, but Ray brought this forward and we stuck with it. The actual name was something we put on the back burner but we kept coming back to it: it suits everything we do. We all pretty much live together and we’re a very community-based band as people and as friends – we’re all similar but we’re all different in terms of our lives and musical tastes. And we respect that about each other. It’s a reflection on how we are as a band and as people.

Personally, when I look out at bands from here in Australia and around the world, you can definitely tell when there’s nothing exciting or changing from the face-value of a band. So we just stay true to ourselves and that album name suited us; that idea really came to fruition in the end.

Well said, Josh. With the album’s cover, is it one of West Theb’s live shot from a gig?

It is, man, it is. When we were designing the record cover, we wanted to go for more of a 50s/60s Motown, Miles Davis kind of cover; a grainy black and white picture that had the clear block tiles separated from the photo was the idea. We had some other ideas for it, like just putting a press shot of us on the front but obviously went with the live show. We had Kane Hibberd take some live photos for us – I believe the album cover shot is from NYE On The Hill Festival- and had a local Adelaide designer do it up. It was just one we really enjoyed as I think that most aren’t really sure what they’re looking at. You’ve got the crowd on the right and Ray on the left and it’s all washed out in colour and with all of the smoke. I’m glad it’s become a little bit left up to interpretation on someone’s first look.

Okay, cool, that was also me just guessing. Glad I was right! I really do believe that having a good or visual interesting album cover can make you want to check out a record more; even one you probably wouldn’t have listened to otherwise.

Oh, same! Seriously man, if there was a really wild cover released for an album or a track and I don’t know anything about the music or band, I’ll still listen to it. And if the art isn’t cutting it for me, I might listen to it later on then right then and there. I’m glad it looks really visually appealing. Hopefully, other people enjoy it too – just have to wait and see.

‘Different Beings Being Different’ drops May 18th.

When I look at the scene that West Thebarton exists in, you’ve got Smith Street Band, Dune Rats, Skeggs, your Domestic La La label mates in Dear Seattle, Press Club and Camp Cope from over here in Melbourne, Tired Lion from Perth, and The Hard Aches from your neck of the woods; there’s a lot of great rock bands coming up now and playing some really great Australian festivals. Because you’re apart of that world and because people like you and I are aware of newer, other bands in any given genre, I’m sure you’d find it weird when people say “rock or insert genre is dead”.

I think that all of the bands you mentioned are really leading the way for Australian rock and guitar bands in general. For such a long time there’s been producers and DJs – which have some real gems in those genres too – and there’s been a lack of guitar-driven music on offer. Some bands here are selling out thousand cap rooms on full tours; they’re there, you’ve just gotta look for them. Thousands of kids and fans love rock music of all forms, and I feel that people who say that there are no new bands were people in the scene ten or twenty years ago and who now don’t actively listen to new music. But you’ve got to keep up, as there’s always good new artists coming through. Like, you just name all great Aussie bands and those bands are killing it; proving that this music isn’t dead.

Hell, Camp Cope sold out their Adelaide show in less than 24 hours, before any other show in the country. It took us in West Theb two months to sell out a show here, whereas Camp Cope did it less than a day [laughs]. People just have to do a little searching because there’s some hot stuff out there, for sure.

Agreed! Now, one thing your publicist said when we were setting up this interview was that you love your melodic hardcore. I do too – a lot of older Counterparts, Taken, Have Heart, Defeater, etc. So I’d love to know which bands that you love and enjoy about the genre?

Well, while West Thebarton is my main band but I do playing in another called Sleep Talk. So I’m in two different worlds; the indie, garage-rock one and the alternative/melodic hardcore side of things. I’m not so much into Counterparts as a personal preference, but I do love Defeater – was mad into them. As for Have Heart, and all of that Boston hardcore, straight-up sound, there’s just so much energy and raw power in that. I love the aggression and the anger behind it all, and the community is respectful whilst still having these really wild and wise shows. It’s something that needs to be supported more, and I think if people weren’t as ignorant and really listened, they learn and love a lot more.

I think it’s really important when you play in a band to have people who listen to a lot of different music. We’ve got people who love noisy stuff like Sonic Youth and full-on shoegaze like My Bloody Valentine, and then you’ve got me who’s first preference is more melodic hardcore/hardcore punk, but it all works out in how we make music. I’m more chug and rhythm-based, whereas other people are more lead or fuzz-driven, and it all makes for a versatile music I think!

‘Different Beings Being Different’ is out next Friday, May 18th via Domestic La La. This is just the beginning for West Thebarton – get on-board now!

Check out their upcoming album tour dates below:

Thursday, June 7 – Rad Bar Wollongong with White Blanks

Friday, June 8 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney with Sunscreen

Saturday, June 9 – Cambridge Warehouse, Newcastle with Blue Velvet

Sunday, June 10 – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne with Self Talk

Friday, June 22 – Badlands Bar, Perth with Last Lions

Saturday, June 23 – Mojos Fremantle with Flowermouth

Friday, June 29 – The Zoo, Brisbane with Deluso

Saturday, June 30 – The Gov, Adelaide with Stork AND with Wing Defence

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