First off, I just want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Now, can please give us your name and position in Westbound Train?
No problem. My name is Obi Fernandez, and I am the lead singer for Westbound Train.
If you don't mind, could you please give our unfamiliar readers a brief history on Westbound Train?
Westbound Train has been around since 2001, but it wasn't until about 2004 that we finally seemed to get our act together, or find the right lineup to tour, as well as discover our own sound as a band.
Would you say the lineup you've solidified is one each member is content with?
Definitely. When you are in a band, you spend tons of time together, you piss each other off, and everyone has their quirks, but at the end of the day, you want to accomplish your goals with those six other people. Westbound Train definitely has the family vibe to it, and we are very good at helping each other grow, even if it causes tons of frustration. But, in the end, it's about the bigger picture.
The band recently released a brand new, full-length album entitled Transitions via Hellcat Records. How has the response been to the release, thus far?
So far so good. It's been a lot more positive than I anticipated.
What sort of reaction from your fan base were you expecting?
I was expecting positive feedback from our own fan base, but fans of early ska and reggae are very particular about what they like. That's what makes them great. We are the same way. We just wanted to make an honest record, and it is our first "big label release", so I think I just wasn't sure exactly what to expect.
As the frontman for Westbound Train, where do you draw your inspirations from when writing both music and lyrics?
I want to be as sincere as people. I want to tell people stories that are true, and ones that they can grab onto. My mom would always say that if wasn't from the heart, and it didn't have soul, then it didn't mean anything, you know? Alot of my inspiration comes from traveling, as well as my own life. One of my biggest influences is my best friend in the whole world, Ryan Dominguez.
Transitions has been described by listeners as a positive step forward in Westbound Train's career, yet one that hasn't alienated the sound fans have grown to associate the group with. How would you respond to this statement?
Well, I think this is the closest we have come to capturing our live sound. We really took our time with the overall sounds of the record, and Brian Wallace, our producer did a great job. I think we've finally figured out our own sound and groove.
From a critic's point of view, how do you personally feel Transitions compares to the band's earlier material?
I think it blows the earlier material away.
How exactly did the band go about selecting Brian Wallace as the producer for the release?
He is someone we have always wanted to work with. We were friends with him for a long time. He is very talented, and hands down, one of the best saxophonists I have ever heard. Brian has a big heart, and he was definitely a part of our family long before we made this record, so it felt natural to make the record with him.
How exactly did Westbound Train become a part of the Hellcat Records family, and do you feel the label is a strong home for the band?
Well, I met Tim Armstrong (Rancid) in Boston, and I gave him our first record. He ended up inviting our horn section to do some stuff on the Skinhead Rob album, and after that, he invited us to play on the Transplants record. When we went to do the Transplants record, we gave him our second album, and when he put it on he was like "oh man, can I put your record out on Hellcat?". Hellcat Records is where we have wanted to be from the beginning. We are excited to work for those guys, and Chris LaSalle over at the label is the sweetest man on Earth.
While we're on the subject of collaberating with other artists, how did it feel to perform "Rudi, A Message To You" alongside an original member of The Specials?
Oh, man, I could talk all day about Lynval Golding. He has the most beautiful soul. He is extremely humble and generous. It was a dream come true to play alongside him in Seattle. He was just on tour with The English Beat, and he sat in on a couple songs with us while we were on that tour. It was amazing! He has great advice, as well as great stories. I learned alot while hanging out with him on that tour.
Westbound Train are currently preparing to embark on the forthcoming, Fall of Ska tour alongside headliners Reel Big Fish, as well as additional support acts Streetlight Manifesto and the Suburban Legends. What are your expectations for this tour?
I think it's going to be a blast. Reel Big Fish is full of really talented musicians, so I am really going to enjoy watching them every night. I am looking forward to meeting Streetlight Manifesto, as well. Those guys are tearing it up in the scene right now, and the Suburban Legends are our brothers. We love those guys, and we have so much fun with them on tour. I am just going to try and get Brian Klemm wasted every night, and work on my Spanish with Luis. Everyone on the tour is talented, so I think it's going to be not only great for fans, but fun for the musicians on the tour, as well.
As an established, ska-oriented musician, how does the prospect of a tour focused around ska music (which many have come to regard as a "dead" genre) make you feel?
It gives me high hopes for the future of the music. I like where ska is right now. It's in the heart of the real fans, and the performances are back in the clubs. After the ska boom in the 90's, nobody wanted anything to do with anything that had ska attached to it. That's one of the cool things about the Reel Big Fish tour. I know Aaron Barrett is a legitimate fan of ska in all it's forms.
Can you please explain to our readers what a day in the life of a touring musician is like?
It consists of alot of driving and rest stops. It's very fast paced. We usually load all of our gear in around three, and then we soundcheck around four or five oclock, which is if we even get a sound check. We spend your whole days and nights at the club, or at least until we know the show is over and we are done selling merchandise. Then, we will probably hang out with friends, and then load all of our gear out of the club, pack up our trailer, and then probably drive all night to where we have to be the next night. Gas station stops and Subway become your best friends. It isn't as glamorous as people think, but it is tons of fun. It isn't for everyone, but all the antics and shenanigans, which, of course, must remain private, make it the best job in the world. That, and actually getting to see the world because of music, is the most amazing thing ever.
Do you have any pre-show rituals you often perform before stepping into the spotlight?
[Laughs] Well, make sure you tinkle before you get on stage. I just try to warm up my voice as much as possible. I try to relax, pray, and not think about anything. I let my mind go where it wants to go while I am on stage. I just let the music take me wherever it feels like taking me each night.
If you weren't performing as the frontman for a successful, ska act, what other careers could you picture yourself pursuing?
Well, I would go to my other job, which is booking bands for Lucky Artist Booking.
What are your uncensored feelings towards the current state of mainstream music?
Well, to be honest, there isn't much that excites me, at the moment. I think bands like Coldplay, Death Cab For Cutie, and singer/songwriters like Teitur are wonderful. They are painting beautiful stories, and they are really touching my spirit emotionally, which is what music should do, and which is why I will always go back to artists like Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Tom Waits, and Hank Williams. The greats, you know.
Just out of curiosity, which active musicians do you feel deserve more recognition than they're currently receiving?
The Slackers, and Vic Ruggeiro, in general. King Django. Nobody can sing like Django, and he is a great producer. However, outside of the ska scene, bands like Days Away, Tokyo Rose, Park, and the Alkaline Trio. But, to go back to the ska scene, I would just like to say that Chris Murray knows how to write a song.
One of our readers is interested in hearing the story behind the name Westbound Train. How did the band go about selecting Westbound Train as the act's title?
Jeff Pierce, Westbound Train's original keyboard player, and I were walking down Boylston Street in Boston, and he was talking about how he had always wanted to name a band Westbound Train after the Dennis Brown song. When he said it, I was like"thats a badass idea." It's just a very simple story about two men on their way to get some pizza after band practice. Thanks, Jeff!
If you could have any one dream come true for Westbound Train, at this very moment, which would it be, and why?
For the seven of us to remain humble, and to just live comfortable lives as artists and musicians. The dream isn't to become rockstars, but to be able to tour and live fruitful lives through what we love. But, I would have to add that touring with Ozomatli would also be a great dream come true. [Laughs]
On the other hand, if you could alter one, single moment in Westbound Train's history, which moment would you select, and why?
I wouldn't change a thing. I can't say I have any regrets quite yet, but ask me again in three years.
What is the songwriting process like for Westbound Train? Do songs blossom from an idea constructed by an individual band member, or is songwriting considered a group effort?
The arrangements are more of a group effort, but the actual songs stem from the individual.
If you were forced to perform only one, single Westbound Train song for the remainder of your career, which song would you select, and why?
I'm sure that if you asked me this question on a weekly basis, my answer would always change, so this week it's "I'm No Different" from our new album, Transitions. I love the way that groove sits, as well as the way the melody dances over the tone of the song.
Once the band's current schedule has run it's course, in terms of activities, what can fans expect from Westbound Train?
Well, hopefully a short headlining run of the Northeast before we head overseas. I hope that works out, because a headlining tour always means longer set times, and we really want to create this exciting, creative, overall musical experience, similar to the old Jamaican dance halls.
Well, Obi, that's all the questions I have for you today. Do you have any last words you'd like to leave the readers of AbsolutePunk.net with?
Thank you for the interview, Brandon. I just want to let everyone know that we have a brand new record out on Hellcat Records called Transitions. We'd love it if everyone went out and bought themselves a copy. We'll see you all at the shows, or you can always visit us online at westboundsound.com and myspace.com/westboundtrain.
I would like to thank you, once again, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to allow me to conduct this interview with you.
Not a problem. Hopefully we'll be able to meet soon.
what an awesome interview, i wasn't feeling these guys earlier vibes but i'm loving the new tunes i'm hearing on the ap exclusive so cheers brandon. some of my favourite parts from the interview:
"if wasn't from the heart, and it didn't have soul, then it didn't mean anything"
"It gives me high hopes for the future of the music. I like where ska is right now. It's in the heart of the real fans, and the performances are back in the clubs"
here here, i couldn't agree more
"Just out of curiosity, which active musicians do you feel deserve more recognition than they're currently receiving?
The Slackers, and Vic Ruggeiro, in general."
hell yea! the slackers are 2 for 2 on ya interviews so far mate