Last year, when the Far West band went looking for a place to record, they settled on the American Legion post in Encinitas. “Our drummer, Tony Sanborn, lives just south of Oceanside,” says Lee Briante. “His mother works in the kitchen at the American Legion.” Far West played their first shows in the hall after the band formed more than a year ago.
“Tony said, ‘Hey, can we play?’ And [the legionnaires] said sure. They were interested in having entertainment. They opened the doors to us.” Far West would spend the next six to eight months honing their material in front of an audience of senior citizens, mostly veterans or relatives of veterans.
“When it came time to record, they were more than open and willing and said, ‘Sure, come on and use the stage.’” Briante likes the room, the tall ceilings, and the sound. “But they said they wouldn’t close up for us...that we would have to work around them.” He describes clinking glasses and deliveries and voices in the background of the recording.
“But we like that,” says Briante. “We like the whole spirit of working live rather than in a sterile studio environment.”
The Far West band is an alt-country quartet based in Los Angeles, although Sanborn still lives near Encinitas. “Americana. That pretty much defines us,” says Briante, a singer/guitarist from Eagle Rock, a community north of L.A.
“They have us back every month or so. It’s a lot of fun to go down there and play.” It’s a good, no-pressure venue, he says, to test new material. “They’re very open, and they give us feedback right away.” And then there is the ambiance factor. “It’s kind of half surf town, half biker town.” He thinks the building itself may have been a military barracks at one time.
Has the Legion atmosphere in any way informed Briante’s songwriting or the band’s performances? “We all agree in the band that having that venue outside of L.A., where it can be just a drag to play sometimes, is great. L.A. people have their arms crossed and there’s a lot of judgment going on.” He describes the Legion as having a honky-tonk vibe. “Everybody has a good time and nobody’s judgmental. In L.A., it’s not so easy to have fun.”
Briante says Far West will likely come back to the American Legion to record their next CD. Since there is no official stage, the band moves a pool table and sets up in a corner. But for purposes of recording, they spread out. “The drummer was in the dining hall, the bass player was in the kitchen, and I was in the bingo room.”
In addition to digital release, copies of the Far West’s self-titled CD are available at the Encinitas American Legion post.