The Western States
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The Western States


Band Americana Folk


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"And the Bake Sale Went Well too"

Jen Zoratti

The Western States have just come out with their debut full-length album, but frontman Sean Buchanan wants to talk about everything else.

We have lengthy discussions about the post-grunge existence of Sub Pop Records and how the next Arcade Fire album will probably rock. We theorize about the disappearance of Swiss Chalet. We mutually decide that everyone should check out Zumpano, Carl Newman’s weird foray into orchestral-pop prior to becoming a New Pornographer.

Buchanan is a sneaky guy. As it turns out, his avoidance of the topic at hand is completely calculated.

“I feel self-conscious about talking about music seriously,” Buchanan says over coffee and apple juice. “Music is fun for me, and I want to keep it that way, so I feel a little strange talking about it so… seriously.”

Buchanan might be uncomfortable talking about the business of music, but he’s certainly unrestrained when it comes to talking about playing music. The Winnipeg roots quintet — filled out by Nicole Marion (guitar), Ashley Roch (piano, organ), Jerrod Falk (bass) and Joanna Miller (drums) — threw a huge CD-release bash at the West End on Jan. 26, the night before this interview, and Buchanan is still riding high on adrenalin.

“It was so fun,” he says, his eyes lighting up. “It couldn’t have been more perfect. There were a few problems going in, but we almost sold the place out and it couldn’t have been better, man-oh-man.”

He’s much like a kid on a massive sugar high — which makes sense considering the release party for The Western States also included a bake sale. Replacing the usual pins and T-shirts with cookies and date squares, the band came up with an ingenious marketing ploy to raise funds.

“Every band practice the conversation would always turn to baking,” Buchanan laughs. “We’d play music, then we’d talk about baking. Music, talking about baking, music, eating some baking.

“You know bands, local bands, who have T-shirts and they don’t even have a record out? That always makes me kinda depressed. We wanted to have merch you can’t say no to. I didn’t want to inflict that on my family, T-shirts they wouldn’t wear, whereas a cupcake or a cream puff, who’s going to turn that down?”

That’s a U of M marketing degree at work.

The 25-year-old singer/guitarist — “but I look like I’m 14” — is a student working on his second degree, and the other members also have lives outside the band. While other Winnipeg folk/roots heavyweights are busy being nominated for Grammys, touring the U.K. and lending their tunes to movie soundtracks, The Western States are quite content to keep the band slightly more than a hobby.

“If I wanted to give everything to music, I would have by now,” Buchanan says. “It’s my favourite thing to do. I devote all my spare time to it. I want to keep it something I love. Touring and making an album just seem like part of the fun for me.”

It’s a good thing, too, because The Western States are a really good band. Formed in 2002, the group has been a forceful live presence in Winnipeg for the past few years, sharing stages with the likes of The Weakerthans, Christine Fellows, Nathan and Feist. While an actual recording has been a long time coming, Buchanan says the young band needed that time to find itself musically.

“It’s kinda tricky, putting out a record,” he says. “We wanted to feel really comfortable with what we were putting out. When we started, we were just starting to play music. It took a while for us to get to know each other musically. We needed to get on the same page.”

Once that page was found, the fivesome had no trouble soliciting influential friends to help out with the recording process. One such pal was D. Ranger Jaxon Haldane, who signed the band to his Dollartone Records imprint.

“My friend Jaxon from the D. Rangers said he’d help us record,” Buchanan says. “That meant that all of a sudden we were able to get Canada-wide distribution. Once Dollartone came in, everything kind of came together.”

The album’s recording process was similarly inundated with friends helping out.

The Winnipeg roots scene is just as incestuous as the Montreal-Toronto indie pop contingent, so The Western States is rife with musical cameos by D. Rangers Haldane and Tom Fodey, as well as local mainstays Chris Carmichael and Bill Western.

Famed producer/musician Gurf Morlix, who happened to be in town working on Romi Mayes’ Sweet Somethin’ Steady, also jams with the States on the album. Buchanan chalks up the overwhelming support to a family-like, community-minded scene — only he doesn’t like to refer to it as a ‘scene.’

“I can’t have you write ‘scene,’” Buchanan says. “I’d rather say ‘community.’ The roots community is made up of such sweet, humble people. Everyone’s really supportive and nice. There’s no ego.

“Everyone was insanely supportive. If you had told me two years ago that the D. Rangers, Chris Carmichael and Gurf Morlix would play on our record…” he trails off. “Now Chris is playing with us regularly.”

The record itself is an impressive debut. With its slow jams, honky-tonk piano and bluesy melodies, it’s the perfect soundtrack to any rural Manitoba memory you might have. It’s lonesome but hopeful, and Buchanan’s voice sounds far more weathered than his 25 years might suggest. Echoing the troubadour spirit of the record, Buchanan doesn’t spend too much time looking back.

“I never want to think about it again,” he says of the disc. “It captured one moment in time. It’s what was going on in summer 2006. I’m really looking forward to never thinking about it again.

“Now we can play those songs however we want, you know? Eventually things start to bother you about the recording. The whole thing is a miserable experience — but it was absolutely fun.”

The frontman undoubtedly feels more at home onstage than in the studio, which is why the next Western States album will probably be a live one. Everything from the CD release/bake sale to our tangent-taking interview bears witness to the ethos of this band: they take themselves seriously enough to be respected but not so seriously that music stops being fun.

“I want to make a funky, weird-sounding record,” he says, “a record that sounds bad in a lot of ways but has lots of character. I want to be able to laugh during a session. I don’t want to think about it so seriously.”
- Uptown Magazine

"Feist / Julie Doiron / Ken Beattie / Western States"

As part of the events surrounding the all-consuming monster that is the Juno Awards, JunoFest saw several good nights of independent Canadian music. On its second night, Winnipeg's Western States were first up with their classic country-folk sound and catchy songwriting. The showstopper of the evening was Ashley Roch's voice, which was highlighted through a single song towards the end of Western States' set. With a sound akin to a folk-infused smoky blues songstresses, Roch's vocals are sure to be heard by a much wider audiences in the near future. The night's disappointment was Ken Beattie's (Radiogram) acoustic set that followed. It's one thing to play a solo show to a hometown crowd who knows your repertoire, but to play the same stripped down tunes to a crowd that is almost completely unfamiliar with your music is a mistake. The whole set left the crowd restless and dozy, which unfortunately carried over to Julie Doiron's set of delicate songs. As half the crowd gathered in close to the stage to absorb as much Doiron as they could, the back of the room (comprised mostly of annoying Juno-ites) would not stop their rudely loud chatter. Although visibly frustrated and gently asking the crowd to be quiet, Doiron put on a graceful set, including a darling cover of “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” Only a few hours after receiving a Juno, Leslie Feist stepped onto the stage and somehow managed to hush the obnoxious crowd into eating up her entire set. With the help of a playback recorder, Feist was able to mimic the layers of harmonies that make her sound so textured and sweet on recordings. Feist left the night on a high note by swaying through a set of incredible songs, including a dizzy duet of “Let it Die” with Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew, demonstrating how well-deserved the hype around her has been. - Exclaim! magazine

"Ode to the Western States"

Ode to the Western States
by Aaron Epp

Sean Buchanan sits down to be interviewed and almost immediately apologizes.

“I forgot to bring you one of our CDs,” he says, taking a sip from his hot chocolate at The Fyxx on Albert Street. “I should really be carrying a stack of them with me at all times. I’ve never had a CD to promote before.”

The CD the 25-year-old singer/guitarist is talking about is the self-titled disc by his roots/folk quintet The Western States. The band will officially release it tomorrow night at the West End Cultural Centre.

The 10-song disc is being released on Winnipeg-based roots label Dollartone Records, and was produced by Buchanan. Recording initially began at Jaxon Haldane’s house. Haldane, who owns Dollartone and is a member of Winnipeg’s D.Rangers, then suggested The Western States move to Bedside Studio to work with recording engineer Len Milne.

“Jaxon knows Len and trusts him, and the D.Rangers have always worked at Bedside. So, we thought it was worth a shot,” says Buchanan. “Len’s a solid guy who cares about what he’s doing. He’s super easy going, and we never felt pressured to get things done quickly. If something wasn’t working, Len made sure we took extra time to work on it.”

The band—Buchanan is joined by Nicole Marion (guitar, vocals), Ashley Roch (piano, organ), Jerrod Falk (bass) and Joanna Miller (drums)—was joined by a number of guests on the CD, including local musicians such as Haldane and his D.Rangers bandmate Tom Fodey, Bill Western (Nathan, Carter Monrose) and Chris Carmichael (Romi Mayes, Big Dave McLean).

The most famous guest musician on the CD, however, is legendary Texas-based multi-instrumentalist/producer Gurf Morlix. Known for his work with Lucinda Williams and Warren Zevon, Morlix was in Winnipeg producing Romi Mayes’s Sweet Somethin’ Steady album, also at Bedside. Milne played Morlix some of The Western States’s songs. Morlix liked what he heard, and it wasn’t long before he was recording guitar parts for a few of the tracks.

“I didn’t actually know the name ‘Gurf Morlix’ before he played on the CD. It was only after we’d met that I realized this was the guy who had produced some of my favourite albums,” says Buchanan, naming Lucinda Williams’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road as an example.

“He was super nice, just a regular guy. We didn’t give the guest musicians any direction when recording. We just said, ‘Play, and we’ll use what we can.’ Everyone added their own creation, and it really worked out well.”

Buchanan is proud of the finished product, and says that the band’s plan right now is to “do whatever people do when they release a CD.” Touring poses a challenge since he is a student, but the band does want to play music festivals and expose a wider audience to its music.

Hopefully Buchanan remembers to bring some CDs along when they do.

- The Uniter (University of Winnipeg)

"CD Review - The Western States"

(4 Planets)

Who says Winnipeggers don’t have accents? Singer and songwriter Sean Buchanan’s subtle Northern Prairie twang is like a warm campfire—comforting, without much danger, and probably properly enjoyed in at least a semi-rural setting. The unassuming instrumentation on this debut full-length release plays the role of that setting perfectly, with pedal steel, honky-tonk piano, and a little bit of banjo and mandolin all adding colour to your regular roots round up. Sad songs with blue sky always just over the horizon, Buchanan nods to Gram Parsons as much as Joe Pernice. After 30-plus listens, this music keeps sounding better and better; it may be timeless. Sincere, and sincerely beautiful. /Chris Yackoboski - Planet S - Saskatoon's city magazine

"CD Review - The Western States"

Dollartone Records
Local denizens The Western States’ debut is loaded with accessible, well-written folk-roots gems that easily warrant multiple listens on your player. From the toe tappin’ infectious lead track “Valemount” to the nuanced closer “Time on My Own”, this 10 track release features a band clearly comfortable with the song writing process. At a mere 25 years old, lead singer/songwriter Sean Buchanan proves himself a worthy frontman with his adept vocals and interesting song structures helping the band craft a sound beyond their years. Buchanan’s vocal talents really shine on the melancholy “Diane”, a notable track laden with electric guitar and honky tonk piano riffs that nicely compliment Buchanan’s sad, weathered vocals. All in all, this is an effective debut from a band with definite potential. - The Uniter (university of Winnipeg)


Full-Length CD:
The Western States- S/T- Dollartone Records- 2007
The Western States - "Bye and Bye" - 2009



The Western States add the Cosmic American element to Winnipeg Manitoba’s thriving roots music scene. The band’s sound follows a path through latter-day America, making stops at Gram Parsons country rock, and Neil Young's singer/songwriter americana along the way.
Initially formed in 2002, original members Sean Buchanan (vocals and guitar), Nicole Marion (guitar, vocals), Ashley Roch (Piano, Organ, Vocals) Jared Plummer (drums) and Keli Martin (bass) started developing their sound by letting the songs be built from the ground up.
The Western States have quickly been embraced by Winnipeg's strong roots, Americana and indie scenes opening for the likes of the Weakerthans, Fiest, Nathan, The D Rangers, The Perpetrators, Julie Doiron, Christine Fellows, and Radiogram. Like most roots bands in Winnipeg, The Western States call The High and Lonesome club home, and can be seen taking the stage on a regular basis.
In 2007, the band released their debut self-titled album on Dollartone Records. The album features guest musicians including Chris Carmichael (Romi Mayes), Bill Western (Nathan), The D Rangers, and Producer/Musician Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams).
The album reached #1 on the national College radio Folk/Roots charts, and the band was voted best new band in Winnipeg by Uptown Magazine. For the bands forthcoming second album, they travelled to Austin, Texas to record at Bruce Robison's Premium Recording Studio. The album was tracked live to tape, with no digital effects or computer programs. The result is "Bye and Bye", set for release in early 2009.