The swaggering history of Americana band Western Youth begins in 2011, when singer-songwriters Taylor Williams and Matthew Gregg began writing together in Austin. Drummer Brian Bowe joined them shortly thereafter, and the trio laid down tracks for their first EP, Leaving the Station, released in 2013 and produced by Britton Beisenherz. That led to the band playing an unofficial SXSW showcase in an eclectic backyard venue, where they met local singer-songwriter Graham Weber.
In 2017, Weber asked the guys to back him up on an EP he was recording. Their effort worked so well that it turned into a full-length record, and Weber joined the band, which now included Sam Powell on keys and bassist Sean Spiller. With three singer-songwriters and a collection of killer musicians on the roster, Western Youth won a spot in the official SXSW lineup in 2018. It was a turning point, opening industry doors and winning the band some much-deserved recognition and attention, setting the stage for the release of their first full-length album in the fall.
Recorded in Austin, the sextet’s full-length self-titled debut, featuring 11 original tracks, was self produced, mixed by Beisenherz and mastered by Steve Bersons (Foo Fighters).
The band’s personal transitions provide the backdrop for this collection of songs that stagger artfully between Americana, folk and honest American rock ’n’ roll. Smart, moody lyrics and sublime three- and four-part harmonies meld with searing guitar riffs and intricate arrangements showcasing a defiant yet evolving band on the rise. Frontman Williams writes songs that strike squarely at the intersection of tuneful country and soulful rock ’n’ roll, and the band’s music is both robust and rustic.
Western Youth, named after Walt Whitman’s poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” has received plenty of praise from local critics. The Austin Chronicle writes, “Western Youth taps into the kind of rollicking road show of The Band or Tom Petty,” while the Austin American-Statesman notes, “Austin’s long been rich with Americana talent, and Western Youth rises near the top of the heap.”
This year has seen auspicious growth for Western Youth with the addition of two new band members: Mark Nathan (formerly of Heartless Bastards) on guitar and Chris Spencer (Darkbird) on bass, replacing Gregg and Spiller. “It’s been hard to deal with because we were so close,” Williams says of the loss of the two former band members. He attributes the split to time-commitment issues and “familial responsibilities.”
The result is a fresh band ready to rollick. “I think the power of coming up with a six-piece band and the amount of air you move — more speakers, more people putting out more stuff — it’s just a force to be reckoned with,” Taylor says. “You can feel it, and I really like that.”
See them live at Still Austin Whiskey on March 19 for Texas Music’s annual Bands to Watch event.