Bands have it so much easier. The Beatles are the Beatles, but would millions of love-struck girls have purchased posters of the boys from Liverpool with the Quarrymen etched across them? The world will never know.
Fab four devotees themselves, the members of the Broken West can only imagine what their musical journeys would be like if they stuck with their original name – the Brokedown. The band had received a cease and desist order to change their name.
“Obviously we deserve the name,” says Brian Whelan, bassist for the Los Angeles quintet that is also comprised of Ross Flournoy (guitar, vocals), Dan Iead (guitars, vocals), Rob McCorkindale (drums) and Scott Claassen (keys).
The dreaded letter in question was sent by the Brokedowns, a hardcore act from Chicago. So, the L.A. band decided to just drop the ‘s' from its name, thinking that same-name fiasco would come to an end. Not the case, the band was still served.
“They knew about us for two years,” Whelan says. “They tried the cease and desist because good things were happening to us, and that's when they decide to drop that on us. It doesn't matter now. The name of the band is kind of inconsequential, all the bands that every really made it make good music. The name is an afterthought. The name has meaning because the band has made good music and not the other way around.”
It's such good music in fact, that it ultimately could not be wasted away as the band toiled within the American legal system. Not wanting to delay the release of its debut record I Can't Go On, I'll Go On , the band conceived a new name: the Broken West.
Release plans for the record went as scheduled and the band name debacle chapter came to a close. Though, Whelan says that victory had been earned, “We still kind of beat that band even though we didn't get to use the name.”
A product of the Echo Park and Silver Lake neighborhoods, the band has followed the checklist that many bands in the area have done.
Developing a relationship with Sea Level Records, which included the selling of their EP The Dutchman's Gold … check. Playing at all the local hot spots: Spaceland, Silverlake Lounge and the Echo … check. Rocking audiences with levels of noise rock that is sonically heavy at first listen, but dies down to an ambient sound of dream-like pop … well, don't grab the pen just yet.
Never much for the scene, Whelan says that the group doesn't really know too many of the bands that exist within the area.
“Musically a lot of these bands don't have anything in common. It's not like we're all best of friends. A lot of us don't really know each other. It's kind of a scene but it's something that has its origins as much in the media than the music itself. A lot of people like to write about a scene [rather] than write about a band itself. Whatever kind of scene there is, I would not say that we were a part of it.”
More than likely you can find the band on the beach than in a booze-soaked bar. Gorgeous psychedelic pop melodies filled with soaring guitars, hand claps and ample amounts of tambourine are sugarcoated with sweet harmonies that Brian Wilson would love.
While Whelan suggests that future recordings could see the band go outside the box encompassing both layers and textures like their contemporaries, it's traditionalism out the gate, a loving homage to a '60s California music scene that thrived on the bop rather than the standing still.
Though when making the record, it seemed that all the effort might not pay off. The band self produced the record, putting its money into a project that, according to Whelan, came with pressures from the uncertainty of knowing that once you finish a record, the next step is releasing it.
“We didn't know what was going to happen with it [the record]. It was very possible that nothing would happen with it. We wanted to do something that we thought was good and that we could play.”
In need of some of that California sunshine that was the foundation for the band's record, much needed light was again required to help steer the band in the right direction. The light shined directly towards Merge Records, home for artists like the Arcade Fire and Spoon.
It has been a whirlwind for the band ever since singing with Merge, which Whelan says has been incredibly fun. It beats being an accountant which he spent most of his day as when he wasn't laying down bass lines in the studio.
The entire band, he says, had desk jobs. Flournoy was an SAT tutor and McCorkindale worked in real estate. Such jobs that seemed necessary to keep the ship afloat are all but gone now.
A yearlong journey is set with a return visit to SXSW and an opening slot on tour with the Walkmen looms. 2007 is shaping to be an adventure that'll go in all directions, including West.
I Can't Go On, I'll Go On is currently available. The band will perform Jan. 29 at Spaceland in Silver Lake. For more information, visit www.thebrokenwest.com .