Whitley Heights
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Whitley Heights

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Country




"Band Spotlight: Whitley Heights The four-man LA band Whitley Heights is poised to make it big."

Whitley Heights is more than the name of a neighborhood in LA, it’s also the moniker of a local band made up of four men who are gifted multi-instrumentalists, creative partners and, more than anything, old friends. Jason Ferro (who by day is Gap’s men’s denim director for 1969), Jason Briggs, Michael Faiella and Michael DiPirro are Whitley Heights, and with a sound that ranges from country-tinged to dirty blues, this foursome will undoubtedly be rocking (and selling out) a local venue near you soon. We talked to the four bandmates—who released their first album, Whitley Heights, on iTunes this month—about being friends and band members, how a blizzard brought them together and why fashion inevitably influences music.

How did Whitley Heights form?
MICHAEL DIPIRRO: We were vacationing in Mammoth in December of 2010. We were slated for five days of snowboarding, and day two of our trip was met with a fierce snowstorm that closed the whole mountain down for two days. We decided to break out the guitars and start playing. We began a flow of ideas that prompted us to take all the steps leading up to our new release.

JASON BRIGGS: I think we wrote three or four songs that day. Ferro was the one who said enough talk. We are making an album. From that point on we were Whitley Heights.

You just released your first CD as a band. What was the process of creating it?
JASON FERRO: It took us about seven months to write and record it. The four of us are all songwriters. Having four songwriters in the band adds an amazing edge cause it really teaches you to be open to new ideas and broadens your musical spectrum.

MICHAEL FAIELLA: Music is a conversation. You contribute to a conversation, or you shut up and listen to the person speaking. That’s the way a great song is created.

Whitley Heights refers to a neighborhood in Los Angeles. Is that what the band is named after?
JF: Yes.I moved into a historical Spanish house in the Whitley Heights neighborhood of the Hollywood Hills. All the boys moved in and took it over, and the rest was history. The house is where we came together as a band and decided to really take our music seriously.

MF: The living room was set up as a studio, and all we did was play and cultivate songs. There was lots of energy in that room—it was a great time for us.

Your sound swings from blues to ballads to country—is it a conscious choice to veer away from one genre??
JB: It’s funny because when we decided to make this record we were thinking something a little more sonic and electrified, but in the end we fell back into what we have been doing for years: acoustic guitar-driven songs that start with our living room jam secessions. I think we're really just playing the music we grew up listening to—trying to pay homage to the masters.

JF: Everyone brings their own musical flavor to the table, and we try to make it all fit.

How are music and designing similar? Do they influence each other all?
JF: Music has always influenced fashion—look at the past decades of music and you will see the different fashion trends that music helps give birth to. I love the fact I can design a collection that at its very core is derived from a feeling I get when I’m listening to music and thinking of what that image would look like—fashion gives music its eyes.

Can we see you play anywhere locally in the near future??
JF: We are planning a CD release show at Hemingway’s in Hollywood in January, and then we will start booking a tour.

What would you tell people to expect out of a Whitley Heights performance??
MD: Lots of singing and dancing. It’s sure to be a good old-fashioned hoedown.?




When I'm Gone Single on iTunes

Whitley Heights self titled Album on iTunes



Whitley Heights is a mixed metaphor of L.A. transplants from Northern Cal and the East Coast, Mike DiPirro, Jason Briggs, Michael Faiella, and Jason Ferro didn’t have to conjure up the neo-nostalgic juju that would come to haunt the sound of their impromptu band – it was already there, an ambient hit of the sweetly familiar and refreshingly unexpected, all around their digs in Whitley Heights.  The neighborhood became shorthand for a vibe or a feeling or a few chords that got them going.  It seemed both easy and obvious that they would just keep calling their band Whitley Heights until it took.  And long after the trajectories of their own day jobs transferred them far from the hillside streets where their sound came together, the band’s name remains the same.

Whitley Heights makes ad hoc, homespun music that’s loose and unscripted.  There’s no quest for static perfection a week in a studio can spool out.  A little uneven, a little slow, a little fast, a trampled vocal, an overlong solo – all of it is part and parcel of the band’s fearless, trial-and-error, live venue quality – think early Eagles, before the tour and the radio love shined them up.  Whitley Heights serves up a free-flowing mix of ballad-based vocals and jammified guitar lines and a pretty idiosyncratic drum component.  More rock than stereotypical indie darling, there is something of a CSN & Y through line to much of the work, as well as echoes of the Band and Alex Chilton.  Some Seger.  Despite the references, Whitley Heights isn’t homage to anything that came before but adapts forms that are already out there to create musical language that feels original yet familiar to a few generations  – which is hard to do, btw.  That said, the music is kind of muddy, the components aren’t as distinct or as enunciated as you might expect.  Folk rock mud.  That’s it.  And the vocals have a laggard, loping simplicity that suits and doesn’t clash with the twangy, ripe guitar.  It’s a sound that lures the listener back into the headspace of the open road.  Sure there are some nods to 70’s Southern Fried rock, but minus the corn.  This music falls on the acoustic side of center steeped in the sound strains of a pre-Reagan California, a decidedly west coast feel, but as interpreted by a newcomer, like an Alabama transplant with crack guitar work who unlearned the rules of status quo society as soon as the Pacific waters licked his toes.  Imagine the soundtrack to a long ride up the 101 in a ’68 Dodge Charger in early September.  Don’t think studio rock.  Don’t think statement rock.  Don’t think re-warmed hippie standards of Sensitive Gray Ponytail Man.  This is definitely the brainchild of four dudes zapped by the real deal luster of the golden state.  No Portland influence, nor Seattle – no dirge-like despair here.  Whitley Heights is a sunny trip – the music of the late afternoon, from a day that isn’t really half over.  Instead, dusk is just the prelude to a wide open evening with decent friends and an unwritten wrap-up. There’s still a lot of fuel in the tank – and plenty of time to get to the coast before sunset or across the border before the rush of Anglo rookies to Hussong’s or Vegas even before dawn.  It’s the music that rolls you around the next bend.