Artist Spotlight: West Indian Girl

AUSTIN, Texas — In a musical world where bands often choose obscure names for themselves in order to sell more records, it is always refreshing when a band’s musical sound evokes images of their name. For a band that sounds exotic, unique, perhaps foreign but definitely not ordinary, West Indian Girl is everything its name suggests – and then some.

West Indian Girl is a sonic force to be reckoned with. Visually, the Los Angeles sextet’s stage presence lures the waiting audience to only imagine what they could possibly sound like, with two keyboardists (Nathan Van Hala and Amy White) a bassist (Francis Ten), a guitarist/vocalist (Robert James), a drummer (Mark Lewis) and a lead female vocalist (Mariqueen Maandig.) Musically, it’s a roller coaster ride through psychedelic ups and downs, hard riffs and soft thrills, surprise power and catchy lyrical melodies.

Named after a type of acid that was popular in the early 60’s, the band attempts to take their listeners on a musical journey, perhaps to places they’ve never experienced before.

And just like no acid trip is exactly like another, the band said in an interview with The Hatchet at South by Southwest that they always try to change up their live sets. “We try to switch it up at every show,” bassist Francis Ten said. “It all depends on how long our set is, but we’re always kind of changing things.”

Almost one year ago today, West Indian Girl played an opening set for Talib Kweli at GW’s annual Spring Fling – one of their first ever college shows. A bit nervous at first, the band managed to play a solid set and was able to convince the somewhat sparse crowd to get up on their feet and get into the music.

“That was our second college show,” vocalist Mariqueen Maandig said, “so we were kind of like-” She makes a nervous, freaked-out face. “We’ve done a few colleges since, but you guys are still in our hearts.”

Since their acclaimed show at GW, the band says they have grown both physically and musically.

“We’ve added a sixth member, so the sound has been able to expand somewhat, expanding our options of what we have sonically,” keyboardist Nathan Van Hala said. “Other than that, it’s been a natural evolution. It’s a lot of the same songs, but we never get tired of tweaking. I guess we kind of get a little bit bored playing the same songs so we just find different ways of doing it, delivering it so it sounds fresh.”

Maandig added, “We’re just a tighter band. We’re really comfortable now, actually.”

“Plus, we’ve played a lot more shows, so it just sounds better,” Ten said.

Opening up for Les Claypool and MOFRO, West Indian Girl played a solid set to a packed house on Saturday night at Opal Divine’s Freehouse in Austin.

The band enjoyed success with their first self-titled album released in 2004 on Astralwerks, and is currently working on recording a new record, which they say should be finished sometime in May.

“It’s a long, painful process, but that’s what we’ve been doing,” said Ten, “just playing shows and recording.”

“And blogging!” he added.

Check out the Hatchet’s video interview, plus clips from their show at SXSW on The Hatchet SXSW blog at www.gwhatchet.com. Also, listen to samples of West Indian Girl and read their blog on their Web site at www.westindiangirl.com.

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