Founded in 2010, alt-country five-piece the Western Set is a western swing band. “Honesty has been a huge influence on this band,” says singer/guitarist Patrick Conway (Tomora). “Meaning it has always been more important than being good at it. There’s an emotional vulnerability as a songwriter, and sincerity is very important.”
After a year of intermittent recording between hard drive crashes and rewrites, their debut full-length Country Music was released in March 2012. Conway calls the album, a self-released run of 100 CDs, “very much homemade.”
The ten-song release was recorded at the Hillcrest home studio Conway shares with guitarist/vocalist Emily Schrader and branded with their 39/44 Records imprint. “Punk music has really shaped our band ethics,” says Schrader. “It’s very DIY.”
“Almost all of us come from punk and hardcore, but we’ve all gravitated toward country, and I really can’t say why,” says Conway, who previously wrote political hardcore songs with Tamora and played grindcore with Schrader in Puppy Time.
Similarly, singer/bassist Justin Rodriguez has math-emo roots with Counterfit, while drummer Joey Nelson comes from cabaret rock quintet The Silent Comedy.
Conway says the album’s title track is an examination of modern pop/country’s “disposable songs.”
“I was watching CMT and I think Carrie Underwood came on and it was just this dog shit music and I was thinking, you can’t tell me this is what country music is all about. There is very little difference between country and pop these days.”
“Pop country belongs to another class of music,” says Aaron Brownwood (lead guitar, pedal steel).
“But,” Conway continues, “I realize the humor in a bunch of San Diego kids talking like an authority on country. That’s not lost on me.”
Conway says the album’s dark streak “isn’t by invention, but I don’t draw inspiration from great days,” a statement made evident by tracks such as “Blue, so Blue,” “You’re Dead to Me,” and “We’ll Never Bloom Again.”
Later in 2012, the band released a two-song 7-inch, “The Road to Redemption.” Conway and his fellow former Tomora bandmate Mike Pope (Tomora, Bible Brothers) also play together in the Tin Can Country Club, the house band at the Tin Can. They released a limited edition vinyl LP in 2013, limited to 100 copies.