West Thebarton: four guitars on stage, techno at BIGSOUND and Adelaide’s music scene

It’s 4.00pm on day two of BIGSOUND when I sit down with six sevenths of Adelaide guitar gods West Thebarton. People raved about their sets at last year’s BIGSOUND, and although I missed their one live set at this year’s event, it seems the buzz continues.

“Brightside is sick,” one of them tell me. And I quickly realise I’m not going to be able to attribute quotes to any of the six people sitting with me at the Pig n Whistle.

“You couldn’t really move. You looked out and there were just people everywhere. There was like a moshpit at the front and it felt like a show, rather than a showcase.”

That show, on opening night of BIGSOUND was just the fourth time new drummer Caitlin Thomas performed with the band.

“Everyone hyped it up,” she said of BIGSOUND “I didn’t know what to expect. But it was heaps of fun. We had heaps of friends there and it was just a good vibes kind of thing.

As well as being stoked with their set, the West Thebarton crew were also stoked with the size of the stage at Brightside. A seven-piece band, with four guitars amongst them, these kinds of details make a big difference to a performance.

“That stage is luxury compared to what we’ve played in the past,” they said. “With a small stage, no-one has any personal space at all.”

They’ve hit heads, poked eyes and had all kinds of on-stage calamities. Blood has literally been drawn on stage at more than one West Thebarton show. I suspect the same holds true off-stage.

“Yeah, if the stage is small it’s basically a floor show. For the past two years we’ve played small shows with a close crowd, like in and around instruments. It’s a different game playing on a big stage.”

While they’ve been investing energy into their live show, they’ve also been in the studio recording new material with a debut album due soon. They’re not exactly specific about a release date though.

“It’ll be sometime between now and the future,” they laugh.

“No, we’re hoping for it to be early next year, in the first quarter of next year. We totally aimed to release it this year. We recorded it with Hugh our previous drummer, and now we’re trying to focus on live shows and touring. But it’s all recorded, it’s there.”

“We want to put it out when it means something,” frontman Ray says. “We haven’t played too many shows over winter, so we’re trying to bring back a lot of the live show stuff and then when we’re in fine form, we’ll release it and tour it.”

We are a live band first and foremost and that’s what we’ve focused on… being in the zone and focusing on that.

As well as being proud of their live performance roots, West Thebarton are also unashamedly proud of their South Australian roots. Caitlin describes their hometown crowd as “nuts”.

“Our live shows go crazy – that’s the culture there now,” she said.

“A lot of people who come to the shows, appreciate there’s been a generation of bands who’ve stuck it out in Adelaide,” the band tells me. “It feels like a lot of people who really like live music appreciate being fed heaps of bands, not just one band that does all the big supports every single week. There’s heaps to choose from.”

And Caitlin (who is a tattoo artist in her “spare” time) was one of those crazy Adelaidean fans before taking up the sticks with West Thebs.

“I really loved this band before,” she said. “I was a fan as well, thinking that’d be such a cool band to be involved in. Adelaide is so small I knew half the people anyway.”

“I just love how it’s such a community-based city,” Ray says. “Everyone’s really supportive – in every aspect of everything.”

And when it comes to their fellow music comrades in South Australia, who does West Thebarton recommend?

Stork, Siamise, Bitter Darling, Mane, Bec Stevens, a hip-hop crew called Playback 808 and for fans of My Bloody Valentine, Blush Response.

I point out that there’s a lot of mixed genres in that list.

“Yeah, we’re a band of music fans,” they quip. “That’s what makes up the band. Our quirks and taste go into it. It’d be boring if we were all into the same music taste.”

Case in point?

“Yeah, there’s not enough techno at BIGSOUND,” they declare.

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West Thebarton are at The Zoo, 1 December. More at westthebarton.com.


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