semiwestern’s dusty debut album is a breathtaking lo-fi indie rock record filled with raw reflection and intimate emotion. It’s the vulnerable, visceral soundtrack to a soul exposed; a warm record that feels like home.
for fans of Hovvdy, Pinegrove, dehd, Lomelda
Stream: “pose” – semiwestern
Ty Bohrnstedt is a true poet, but he’d probably be the last to admit it.
In fact, the frontman for Texan indie rock group semiwestern went so far as to quit music altogether in the mid-2010s, putting his band on an indefinite hiatus as he went back to school to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
That didn’t last very long; after all, a calling’s a calling: You can try to run from it, but it catches up with you eventually. In Bohrnstedt’s case, that meant getting the band back together, writing songs he thought he’d never write, and recording music he thought he’d never make. It might have taken the better part of a decade to get there, but semiwestern’s dusty debut album is a breathtaking lo-fi indie rock record filled with raw reflection and intimate emotion. It’s the vulnerable, visceral soundtrack to a soul exposed; a warm record that feels like home.
i know what you need
pills and weed
all through me
my favorite thing
can you tell that i don’t know anything
let’s go back to ‘93
these thoughts are after me
do you still think that i’m cool
even if i’m nervous and clean
i don’t smoke anything anymore
i’ve washed in the fjord
Out September 13, 2023 via Spirit Goth Records, semiwestern is an intensely cathartic release of tension and inner turmoil, all channeled into head-turning, soul-stirring sound. Drawing inspiration from the likes of folk and alternative legends like Elliott Smith, Lou Reed, Built to Spill, Pinback, and Grandaddy (one of the first lines on the record even goes, “help me Jason Lytle to elevate myself”), semiwestern have found their niche in the space where brooding shoegaze and tender lo-fi overlap. Their music is nonchalant, yet impassioned; melodic, yet minimal. Seattle may forever be the birthplace of grunge, but semiwestern – spread over areas of both Austin and Houston – show that Texas can rock just as hard and get just as grungy, if you know where to look.
And to think, none of this was supposed to happen.
“We didn’t really plan on making a record,” Ty Bohrnstedt tells Atwood Magazine. “I was still writing songs off and on, but I sort of felt that recording them was mainly just so other people could experience them, and I wasn’t sure anyone really wanted to; I’d already gotten what I wanted out of them just existing in my head. I think it was around the beginning of 2021 or so that a close friend of mine was asking if we were working on anything, so I sent him a demo version of ‘pose.’ He and his wife liked it a lot and he really pushed me to pursue it. They work in the music industry doing stage design for a lot of really great bands, and he showed the music around to his friends and got a lot of positive feedback. So huge shoutout to Sam and Carisa, this album wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for them.”
i want you to just think it through
mathematical in some canvas shoes
but i don’t really care what clothes you wear
inherent heir you don’t compare
just stay away in the southern plain
where they talk and play their lives away
take off your hat domestic cat
pontificate on your cell phone date
disposable and emotional
i’d rather die than have cowboy eyes
just stay away in the southern plain
where they talk and play their lives away
– “domestic cat,” semiwestern
Bohrnstedt reunited with his longtime friend and bandmate Daniel Gonzalez – a founding member of semiwestern and its previous incarnation, The Vliets – and brought on drummer Chris Semmelbeck and another longtime collaborator, Jeff Morisano (FKA Kissed Her Little Sister) to round out the back-in-business semiwestern.
Their vision, he says, changed quite a lot from when they first regrouped.
“Initially I was going for a heavier shoegaze, fuzzed-out sound when I was writing/demoing a lot of them, but as I got further along with the final recordings I wasn’t happy with it. I had found a handful of tapes I’d made when I was first writing songs from around 2000-2003 and I was really loving them. The songs weren’t amazing but I really liked the way I was playing them, so I tried to lean into that style a bit more.”
“Hopefully it accurately represents us, I’d like to see us as sort of “professionally unprofessional,” very DIY. I think I was able to get across what we set out to do and I feel like this is the best thing we’ve ever done, so I’m really happy that this will be the first thing most people hear from us.”
all the days we burned out out there
automatic repair anywhere
smaller than a blood cell
i’m not well
help me jason lytle to elevate myself
with my eyes
i never say what i mean
i’m feeling with my hands
i never mean what i say
– “i never mean what i say,” semiwestern
Bohrnstedt describes semiwestern as “unpolished, melodic, and introverted.” The band’s name – and their album title – is a reference to the tennis grip of the same name – one often touted as a “balance” for players seeking something in-between moderate and heavy topspin.
“Daniel and I were both serious tennis players as kids – we played tournaments all over the country together, but we didn’t become good friends until after we had stopped playing and he moved to Texas from Georgia,” Bohrnstedt explains. “Tennis players are familiar with the term “semi-western,” which is a way you hold a tennis racket, and I was born and raised in Texas, so it has a double meaning.”
From the more upbeat and uptempo opener “i never mean what i say” to the irresistibly grungy personal favorite “technique,” the achingly intimate “pose,” the warm “visitor,” and the moody, brooding, and glistening “domestic cat,” semiwestern basks in that beautiful, easy-to-miss middle ground between dreamy reflection and emotionally charged upheaval.
“My personal favorites are both parts of ‘zero for conduct,’ Bohrnstedt says, referring to the final two songs. “Those seemed so effortless to make and they’re really fun to play live. A common thread throughout the album is self-reflection and dealing with the fact that the past is over. ‘zero for conduct’ is predominantly about my time as a tennis player and my fear of failure if I put in too much effort. It was easier to lose if in my mind, I wasn’t really trying in the first place – something that haunts me to this day. In the second part I really tried to wrap the whole album up after all of the reflection, our youth is over and that person who we once were is disappearing.”
carry the weight
emulate and obfuscate
all the ways
we wish we could relate
and you don’t know
you could be good
but you won’t
close up, so what
it doesn’t cut
hard drive cord, prerecord
i was a kid that quit
dripping off your lips
– “zero for conduct,” semiwestern
Bohrnstedt’s favorite lyric is the aforementioned line from opener “i never mean what i say” – “help me Jason Lytle to elevate myself.”
“I’m a massive Grandaddy fan, so it just felt right to proclaim that,” he adds with a smile.
A record that could very easily have never existed, semiwestern’s debut album is special not because it got made, but because Bohrnstedt and his bandmates poured everything they had into making it.
“My hope is really that it’s just fun to listen to and gives people a good feeling; would be a bonus if they really start attaching some sort of personal interpretation,” Bohrnstedt shares. “It was kind of therapeutic making it, I went from thinking I’d never write anything I like ever again to making the songs I’m most proud of. I’m super thankful to Spirit Goth Records and Audiosport for their support and releasing this thing for us.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside semiwestern’s semiwestern with Atwood Magazine as Ty Bohrnstedt goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his band’s self-titled debut!
Here’s to never giving up on your dreams – or, even after you’ve given up, giving in and pursuing them anyway.
Stream: ‘semiwestern’ – semiwestern
:: Inside semiwestern ::
i never mean what i say
I had pretty much quit music around 2014 and went back to school. I got an assignment in a sound design class to write and record a song in a week and that ended up being an early version of ‘i never mean what i say.’ A few days later I wrote ‘pose’ so I thought maybe I wasn’t done writing music after all, we just didn’t get around to recording until 7 years later.
condo is about some formative years I spent slacking off with friends in my late teens/early 20’s, living on my friends couch and floor in his condo. All of the subject matter refers to stories and people we knew at that time.
This track, along with most of the songs on the record, was sort of a throwback to the style of music I used to make when I was in my teens and the way I played guitar when I was first learning, hence the name. I found some of the first songs I ever recorded to some cassettes when I was 12 years old and they really weren’t half bad, the sound I had back then largely informed the overall sound of the album.
I wrote the main guitar riff while watching La cienaga by Lucrecia Martel, and it was going to be an instrumental acoustic track until a couple weeks before I turned the album into our label. I sent it to my buddy and collaborator, Jeff Morisano who releases music under the name Kissed Her Little Sister, and he had a few ideas that really brought the whole thing together.
This song is sort of what put us on track to make this album, that and my dog’s surgery. Some friends had asked me if we were still working on music, the answer was no, but I showed them a demo of ‘pose’ and received some really positive feedback. Around the same time, my wiener dog had to undergo a second spinal surgery and required 24 hour care and months of rehab. We were confined to my room all day, with my recording equipment, for the better part of three months and that’s when I recorded ‘pose’ and wrote the rest of the album.
A lot of these songs started as really heavy shoegaze demos, and were then stripped way back when they were recorded, and oddly enough this one was the heaviest. Lyrically it deals with self perception, and some issues I have with being overly self critical.
‘visitor’ refers to my time growing up in a small Texas town and being overcome with boredom.
in a field
Technically a cover, this is one Jeff wrote and released a version of over 10 years ago on one of his Kissed Her Little Sister albums, we would sometimes play it at our live shows so we made a semiwestern version of it.
zero for conduct
A common thread throughout the album is self reflection and dealing with the fact that the past is over. This one is predominantly about my time as a tennis player and my fear of failure if I put in too much effort, it was easier to lose if in my mind I wasn’t really trying in the first place, something that haunts me to this day.
zero for conduct pt. 2
In the second part I really tried to wrap the whole album up after all of the reflection, our youth is over and that person who we once were is disappearing.
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:: Stream semiwestern ::