From high school garage band with a youthful folk rock sound to no bullshit, emerging pop punk rockers with something to say, One Flew West is finding their true identity and sound with the new EP, Trial and Error.
The room with its one wall painted blue is small, almost claustrophobic, and tucked away in the back corner of the windowless Bluebird Theater basement; a place where the building’s notable music vibe almost seeps from the concrete walls. It’s the perfect setting for the four rock and roll, pop punk band mates and self-described man children that make up Denver’s One Flew West to get ready for their headlining show and EP release party. They anxiously move from one corner to the other unable to sit still, questioning whether guitarist and lead singer Linden Jackson should wear his jacket all night, laughingly explaining to their manager that they “had a little too much on their mind” to even think about moving the van, posting on Twitter and Facebook, and then finally wondering how many people will show.
I first met these guys when a few friends, my wife, and I decided to throw a music festival in some South Dakota field a few years ago and wanted some Colorado talent on the bill. At the time they were gracious, full of youthful energy, and showed a lot of talent and promise. Not much seems to have changed. They’re still gracious, exuding the same playful, not too serious vibe as we briefly catch up, but instead of still honing their talents and showing promise, it all appears to be finally coming together. Time and growing up has made them both better in the studio and somehow even better live resulting in recognition, plays on notable Spotify curated lists such as The Scene and Pop Punk’s Not Dead, and their fan base has grown exponentially. And now they’re here, two hours before show time nearly bouncing off the walls while waiting for the anticipated show and release of Trial and Error.
What has the band been through in the last few years since I last talked to you? Any challenges or accomplishments to know about in the last three years?
“We got him,” drummer Jonah Bartels laughs, pointing at the fresh faced newest member and bassist, Dawson Fry, as a sheepish smile quickly appears.
“We’ve gone through an extreme lineup change,” guitarist David Di Salvo admits. “We’ve dropped a few people.”
In September of 2016, pianist Dillon left the band which was followed by guitar and trumpet player, Joe, as well as hired gun bassist, Noah, leaving a few months later in December.
“We’ve really been experimenting with what we want to sound like,” Linden adds. “But I think the main thing since then is that we’ve developed an identity as a band which is something we struggled with for a while. You know, getting a solid sound down, really like this is what we are as a band. I think we’ve been able to get that pretty down.”
One Flew West formed in 2014 out of Longmont, Colorado, starting out with a more folk influence due to Jackson’s love for the acoustic guitar and where he started from as a songwriter. They’ve been able to morph that early identity into a now more rock based sound injected with a little punk attitude toward things and how they present themselves.
“We’ve just never really taken ourselves very seriously,” Linden says brushing his jet black hair from his eyes, “and the thing is we’ve tried, you know when you kinda first knew us, for a while we were trying to take ourselves too seriously because we thought this is music and we need to have a good image. We do need to have a good image but at the same time we don’t give a fuck. We just want to have fun with it.”
And now tonight is the night. What does it all mean to you?
“A year of hard work,” David says, breathing out a small sigh of relief.
“A lot of ups and downs into it, that’s for sure,” Dawson smiles.
“A year ago we were playing Lost Lake across the street and we told Dawson that this is where we’d do our EP release,” David adds, recalling that moment of foreshadowing at the time. “That was his first gig with us. We didn’t have it booked at all, we didn’t even know the EP would be called Trial and Error, we didn’t have a single song written.”
Will this be the first time your fans will hear the new stuff?
“In Denver, yea,” Linden says. “We actually haven’t had a Denver headliner in while. So this will be the first time a lot of people will hear it and this is a fucking great place to do it. It sounds pretty bitchin’ here.”
What’s been the reaction to the new song?
“The new song has been doing really well,” Jonah confidently says while comfortably sitting back on a small couch. “We put it on Spotify and it’s getting close to 100,000 and it’s only been out for two months.”
“Which for a band our size,” Linden speaks up, “you know a local and small Denver band, we’re pretty happy about that.”
The entire project was recorded in a just a weeks time with Chris Beeble and partner Randall Kent at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, the same studio where the band recorded “Kinda Love” off of the Selective Memory record released in 2015, and a place known for producing records for notable bands such as Rise Against.
“It’s just a really really good vibe up there,” Linden says. “I think it helped subconsciously to channel the vibe for this EP because some of the best punk albums have been made up there. Its just got such a good fuckin’ vibe especially with records all over the walls of super huge punk bands.”
“There’s something about walking into the first hallway and seeing all of the Rise Against records up on the wall,” David quickly agrees. “It just brings it out in you.”
Trial and Error is a four track masterpiece comprising the band’s best work to date. It includes the poppy yet no bullshit title song attacking today’s political climate, a true coming of age song about growing up called “What Do I Know,” the songs “Out of Time” and “Staying In”, and the brutally honest, inspirational, and quite possibly the EP’s best track, “Best Worst Thing;” a song about doing what makes you happy regardless of what others think.
How did you guys approach the making of this one… meaning did you all come in on day one with the same direction for where the project was going to go or did it morph into what it is as work was put in?
“On the writing end I had a very particular vision because as I said, one of the things we struggled with was having a real identity as a band and this was an opportunity to actually put something out that was cohesive and made sense.”
“The other cool thing about it was that Linden wrote the songs at random times at different periods,“ Bartels explains, “so there really wasn’t a concept from the beginning but the whole EP is about the same thing, at least to me, it’s about being pissed off about the current state of everything around you, not really feeling like you know where you belong or where you’re going, and all the pressure that everyone puts on you. We spent a lot of time before we actually went to record this talking about what exactly we all wanted it to sound like.”
“Yea, that’s really important to us. Some people can just go into a studio and fuck around and write stuff and I think it would be cool, but we just can’t afford it,” Linden says getting a laugh from everyone. “We just had to have everything as down as possible before we went in there.”
“Full steam ahead once we were in there,” Dawson nods.
Was there a lot of production on this or did you keep it as raw as possible?
“It’s pretty raw. We kept it as straight as we could. Just our four instruments and it’s the tone he uses on stage so it’s nothing different,” Jonah says, pointing to Linden. “We have a couple of things layered on top like some keyboard stuff and a few extra sound effects. That’s really it.”
“That was another really important thing for us,” Linden says, “because a huge part of who we are is our live show and nothing pisses me off more than when a band can’t replicate their album in a live setting. So a huge thing for us is being able to, for more or less, pretty much completely translate what’s on the EP to the live show.”
Tell me a little bit more about the new title track “Trial and Error” and its inspiration.
“November,” Dawson jokes.
“I didn’t want to write a song about fucking Trump,” Linden says after the laughing subsides a bit, “because that’s just stupid and didn’t want to write it directly at the dude. I was just pissed about how many people were totally cool with it and did absolutely fucking nothing. That’s what made me the most angry. It’s like the name, Trial and Error, we’ve seen shit like this happen before and we know what’s gonna happen but you don’t do anything about it. It’s obviously an angry song. I like writing angry songs. But that’s where the initial thought came from. It was just directed at everyone that helped make it happen as opposed to not just him.”
“I think part of the beauty too is that it’s not telling you exactly what you should think,” Dawson adds. “Somebody could listen to it and think something entirely different than somebody else listening to it. It just depends what situation you’re in.”
“For instance,” David smiles, “today we found out somebody thought the lyrics were I just wanna fuck you in a million different ways.”
“That’s really hot,” Linden says while everyone explodes in laughter.
Is this the favorite song off the album?
“I think we all have different favorites,” Dawson says.
“This is Dawson’s favorite thing,” Linden says pointing to the two liter bottle of Diet Coke on the table.
“Oh yea, that’s for me. It’s got my name all over it.” But yea, all of us have been comparing notes and we all like different parts of the EP for different reasons.”
Linden leans on the wall nodding in agreement. “And when we send it to publications, which is a good sign in my opinion, everybody is kinda saying a different one is their favorite one. In the past we’ve always had people say this one song is obviously the stand out and everything else is kind of eh, but this is the first time I’m 100 percent confident in every song that is on there.”
“But most of it is still to be decided ‘cause we don’t really know,” David says.
“Yea, the general audience could think it’s shit,” Linden jokes.
We’ve seen bands from Colorado hit it big…One Republic, The Fray, The Lumineers made it big once they recorded ‘Ho Hey’ in some Denver apartment and then posted it on YouTube…so tell me what’s the mindset of One Flew West and can you take your music to that level?
Jonah sits further back on the couch with a more serious demeanor on his face this time. “It all depends on who hears it and if somebody likes it. That’s the hard part about this.”
“That’s the thing about being in this business,” Linden says, “all we can do is work our asses off and just keep trying to play as best we can, put on great shows and do what we can on our end. There is an element of luck to it but I hope someone hears it and likes it. It remains to be seen but I think we’re all committed to doing the best we can and just keep fucking chugging on.”
I agree. There is an element of luck to it all but there’s also the element of not only purposeful direction, but confidence in recording and live shows. These are things which the band seems to both be getting better at and more comfortable with. How much has Dawson helped that process?
“Dawson is the unjaded, innocent little boy,” Jonah laughs. “We’ve all been doing this for so long so if shitty things happen to us we take it way harder while only a year ago he was playing bass alone in his basement.”
“I always tell them whenever they get crushed over something that yea, a year ago I was playing Rush in my basement by myself and now here I am. Here we are.”
“He’s the bright-eyed boy,” David laughs.
Well before I let you eat, drink, do whatever you need to do to get ready for tonight, do you have any last words for your fans before the big show?
“We’re dipshits!” Jonah announces.
“We’re incredibly stupid and hope everyone likes the new EP,” Linden adds.
“Yea, have fun with it,” David says grinning wildly. “Take out your tits and balls and just have fun with it.”
One Flew West’s new EP, Trial and Error, is available now on ITunes, Spotify and all music streaming services. They’ll be playing the Bluebird Theater again on March 3rd.