CITYWIDE — Leave it to a Santa Monica band to find soul in a parking garage.

We Are The West has played shows in a mineshaft and an abandoned convent but the band’s Westside home is in a parking garage in an undisclosed location, where they’ve performed a private show nearly every Saturday prior to the full moon for more than two years.

The band’s core is Brett Hool, lead vocals and guitar, and John Kibler, vocals and bass. The duo met in Los Angeles and have been playing music together since 2010, when Kibler was living in the Netherlands.

“It was there that we realized that we had a really good working relationship together,” Hool said, “that we really see eye-to-eye or hear ear-to-ear.”

This was also their first experience with off-beat performance spaces: In need of a practice studio, they rented a shipping container on a sheep farm out in the Dutch countryside.

“Rehearsing there and being in that environment, we started to seek out places like that,” Hool said, “The environment really shapes how you listen.”

When Kibler moved back to the states, they started playing shows in standard venues, but they also made a tradition of playing in non-traditional venues.

They played in a tow-lot, within a circle of flatbed trucks. There was a show at an Applebee’s restaurant in the Midwest. In New Mexico they played in the mineshaft.

These unique environments run parallel to the aural environments created by the music of We Are The West.

“When you remove the expectation of ‘OK, I’m going to buy an expensive beer and stand in the back and wear earplugs because the sound guy is blasting my ears away,’ that’s what a show is,” Hool said. “When you kind of remove those usual signposts about what is happening, it makes you more aware of everything around your environment.”

At a recent pre-full moon show, a hundred or so people watched the band and their opener Mark Hart, perform in the subterranean parking garage.

Soft lights cast a yellow glow on cinderblocks. License plates line the walls. A red canvas, covered in metalic geese flying west, served as a backdrop.

In a time when secret venues – like the password-required “speakeasies” in Los Angeles – are trendy simply because they’re secret, there’s a sense that the parking garage, with its low ceilings, intimacy, and natural echo, is actually a perfect place for a show and only secret by necessity.

A cricket chirped along to a verse of one of Hart’s early songs, cutting out before the chorus.

Cell service is weak in the underground space and the audience rarely reached for their phones to document the experience.

“People are just kind of automatically conscientious and conscious of the sound that they’re making,” Hool said, “because any noise that happens during one of our shows, especially when we’re really on and playing well, becomes a part of the music. You hear everything. It’s not just the notes were playing or the words were singing. It’s the duct that’s rattling above our heads. Or the cricket that’s chirping. Or the person that’s coughing. Or the baby that’s writhing in somebody’s arms. It’s all part of it.”

If the parking garage is an instrument itself, Hool and Kibler are virtuosos.

Hool stands silently, front and center, at the start of the set, like a teacher waiting for a class to quiet, but without the condescension. The garage, filled with people, becomes beautifully silent.

As they begin to play, the long bass notes and Hool’s strong voice cutting through the large space are frighteningly intimate. One would expect the performers to speed up, or play louder, to fight the void that’s usually filled by the acoustics of a traditional concert venue. Instead they seem to double-down – lingering on notes, allowing them to sustain into a moment of near-silence, before marching on. It’s like they’re dancing, slowly, their music as proxy, with the mess of dangling pipes and the cold corners on the edges of the lot.

Hool holds an intro as the elevator car – bound for a floor with an open bathroom – runs its course.

A siren Dopplers past the garage but they continue, unflinching, finding cracks in the grating noise for their own sound.

Late in the set they are joined by other musicians, including a drummer, and the music swells.

Up on the street, you can’t hear a thing.

Hool and Kibler say they’ve never gotten a complaint about the shows. The Santa Monica residents agreed to speak for this interview under the condition that the address of their beloved space not be revealed.

“We were originally set up to go rehearse in an office upstairs in the office building,” Kibler said. “We were all living in apartments and everything. We had neighbors. We went to the building to rehearse in the office and just unloading the car in the garage and it was like, ‘this sounds amazing here. Let’s just play here.’ It’s been cool with everyone and we’ve been encouraged to continue. It’s kind of like our spot. There’s a certain responsibility that we feel with it, too. It’s kind of like opening your home to someone to your friends.”

The duo recently released a new EP, “Regards,” which is a short diversion from a self-titled album they’ve been recording in four parts.

“Regards” is a product of its environment. The band recorded it at a friends place up in Sebastopol, Calif.

“We set up and it was a rainy day and frogs were croaking and the crickets started up later and it was kind of on this small ranch area,” Hool said. “We were just in this little room and we were just trying to record this one song and work on that (four-part) record. It was such a nice environment that we started pulling out some older songs that we had been trying to work on but hadn’t quite finished them yet.”

It came together nicely and was put out on cassette last month as “a parenthesis within a wider statement,” Hool said.

The self-titled album is three-quarters of the way finished. It, too, has been recorded in odd little spaces across the country. The first part (We Are The West 1) was recorded in the parking garage, the second in a barn in western New York, and the third in the high desert near Santa Fe, N.M.

Their fourth, and final, installment will be recorded out near Joshua Tree.

Once the album is complete, they’d like to record it live, at full-length, at a former church out in western New York for a vinyl release.

The heaviness of some of these locations, like the abandoned convent in the middle of Brooklyn, can seep into the music, Hool said.

“I think sometimes it’s subconscious and sometimes it’s conscious,” he said. “To me personally, singing, my mind is moving kind of differently when we’re playing. It’s almost like dreaming while I’m awake. Some of that stuff gets in there and some of it is the people that you’re playing for or playing with. When we’re having a really good show it feels like the audience is playing with us rather than us just sitting there and us presenting something to them.”

dave@www.smdp.com

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