To many, the members of Western Heroes are South Whidbey legends. For years their grooves have gotten people young and old out of their seats and onto the dance floor. Their live sets have been the only way for fans to listen to their eclectic sound over the years, but now they have physical copies of their music to boot.
Their self-titled debut album was unveiled to a crowd of avid dancing fans at a release concert put on by Goosefoot as part of the Bayview Street Dance series on Wednesday evening. There was dancing from the very beginning at the Bayview Cash Store, and within 15 minutes of their two-hour set a crowd of about 100 people was showing off their finest moves. Many in the crowd had been following the eclectic group of musicians since before Western Heroes was formed, as the members have been in numerous musical ventures on the South End over the years. But there were plenty of new, younger faces shaking their limbs in the crowd, according to rhythm guitarist and vocalist Michael Licastro.
“I’ve seen these guys before, but in different arrangements,” said Clinton resident Cynthia Campbell. “Their shows are always a lot of fun and the cash store has been the perfect venue. It’s so open and we’ve gotten lucky with this sunny 60-degree weather.”
The self-titled debut album has been in the works for six years. Western Heroes drummer David Malony mixed and mastered the CD in his Freeland-based Blue Ewe Studios, which also serves as the band’s jam space. Fifty copies of the album were initially created, nearly all of which were sold at the debut show on Wednesday. More are in the works, said Licastro, and the CDs will be sold at Joe’s Island Music in Langley. The album costs $10.
Attempting to label the band under any one genre is impossible. Their live shows take listeners on a journey through classic rock sounds with a psychedelic element, R&B, funk, honky tonk and reggae. Their eclectic shows know no boundaries in terms of genre, but one aspect of their live experience is a constant: dancing.
“It’s really hard to put them in a box,” said Jeanne Juneau, who is doing public relations work for the band. “They’re so unique. Regardless of what’s playing, people love to dance to their music, and the band feeds off of that energy.”
The band is composed of five members: Licastro and his brother David are the guitarists and primary vocalists, Lorraine Newland on bass and backing vocals, David Malony on drums and Larry Newbauer on keys and backing vocals. Of the five, the two Davids work full time within the music industry. David Licastro is the main music teacher at Joe’s Island Music in Langley and Malony is a recording engineer who works out of his Blue Ewe Studios in Freeland. Michael Licastro works as a painter, Newland operates her own farm and Newbauer spends his days as a physician.
Although the Licastro brothers played in multiple bands together in the past, they had never both played guitar in the same act. As Michael Licastro puts it, it was time to collaborate and make something new. He reached out to Malony, an old friend he had worked with for roughly 30 years; Newland was another friend who often sat in with bands but was never officially part of one. Newbauer was the last honorary member to join the project, even if he isn’t able to attend every practice due to traveling for work.
“My brother and I often bring our songs to the table, then the band works on the arrangements as an entity,” Licastro said. “It’s a very democratic process and we all bring something different to the table.”
While Western Heroes is a band to be experienced in a live setting, they haven’t been able to play as often as in the past due to the lack of a proper venue. Licastro said the former Choochokam regulars would play at the Dog House Tavern “incessantly” when it was still in business, but now they rely on outdoor events like the recent street dances to play for the band’s following. They join a long list of people clamoring for a home for South Whidbey’s musicians. In the meantime, fans can bust a move to their music at the upcoming Oak Harbor Music Festival in October.
“The bottom line in communication between our fans and us is the dancing,” Licastro said. “We never put up a wall against our fans. There is no illusion of fame, just a whole lot of dancing. And we hope to be able to make people dance more regularly.”