Rose Of The West played its first show as a full band less than five months ago. Though that fact suggests the dream-pop project that features current and former members of GGOOLLDD, Group Of The Altos, Canopies, Faux Fir, Hello Death, and Winter Bear is brand new, the band’s path to this point actually stretches as far back as early 2014. After a name change, significant overhaul in band make up, various personal hardships, and a noticeable change in sonic direction, Rose Of The West is ready to start again.
Prior to this young project’s outset, the material Gina Barrington wrote was played in strikingly disparate ways by a variety of people as part of different ventures, but according to the singer and founding member, those songs now have a permanent home.
“I wrote some songs, met some people, had some weird trips, and ended up with this group,” Barrington says. “This is the version.”
It wasn’t as simple as it sounds. Those songs originally took shape under the name “Nightgown,” a project that played a handful of shows in 2014 through June of 2015. Barrington soon found the heartfelt and deeply emotional material she had crafted was taking a shape she didn’t recognize, and the band was being brought in a direction that didn’t fit her vision. Nightgown disbanded and Barrington was back to square one. Well, almost.
Amelinda Burich was the only other holdover from the Nightgown days. Once Thomas Gilbert was added on synth and guitar, Burich moved from guitar to bass in the band that has “so much of [her] heart,” and Barrington’s bedroom demos started to take new, exciting form as Rose Of The West. Gilbert’s path to the band began when he first saw one of Nightgown’s few live outings. He says he “pestered” Barrington to join.
“I liked [Nightgown] so much that I kept on bugging her to be in it. When it ended, I was like ‘Here’s my chance,'” Gilbert says. “I promised to do the songs justice and not to mishandle them. That was part of my entry fee—the promise I wouldn’t.”
The introduction of one new piece led to another, then another. First, Burich’s Altos bandmate Erin Wolf—who also previously taught piano lessons to Barrington’s daughter—was added on piano (as well as occasional auxiliary instruments like accordion and harmonium) in late 2016. Finally, the lineup solidified this spring with the introduction of former Canopies and Faux Fir drummer Jake Brahm.
“Thomas reached out to me and asked if I would come listen,” Brahm says. “I heard the two demos they sent me and Gina’s voice was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. It was just really powerful and moving.”
The appreciation Barrington’s new collaborators have for her musicanship goes both ways. The singer and primary songwriter, who admits she’s “the least experienced in the group,” is thrilled with the ways her experienced supporting cast have added to the framework of source material that’s deeply personal to her.
“Everybody who plays on it plays such an important part. It was just me before, but now I write weird shit, then I give it to them and they make it what it is now,” Barrington says. “It has life that is more than just me. I grow that little seed, then I give it to one of them and we make it grow.”
That growth is evident on Rose Of The West’s debut 7-inch, Hunter’s Will/Love & War, which came out today. The two-song release showcases the bands gloomy, fantastic, and synth-driven sound that’s rife with emotion and ’80s era atmospherics. Those songs, as well as the material the band recorded in Alabama last week, will be on display when Rose Of The West opens for Warpaint at Turner Hall tonight. An EP is planned for winter, with hopes for a full-length in the fall of 2018.
It took some time and required an extensive overhaul, but Barrington’s new-look, new-name, new-member project has officially taken root. Only time will tell if her budding band will bloom, but with a talented and experienced new cast by her side, all signs seem to be pointing north for Rose Of The West.
“This is a very big, emotional thing for me to get to work with every one of them,” Barrington says. “I’m lucky.”