Getting the Facts Together on the Collective West

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but recently the mainstream media has really been lacking in the investigative news department. We used to have journalists like April O’Neil willing to go down in the sewers of New York City to get to the bottom of the whole mutant ninja turtle business – and now all we have is TMZ trying to find out which b-list celebrity has anchovies on their pizza.

A reporter from a bygone era

So when I heard rumblings of a new group forming in Edmonton called “the Collective West” – I thought this was my chance for a big scoop. Were they a new political organization like the Alberta Party or the Wild Rose Alliance Party? Were they an underground network of anarchists set to throw off the authority of the federal government? Or were they a group forming to protest the inability of Western Canadian hockey teams to win the Stanley Cup?

To find out, I used the investigative journalist’s secret weapon, Facebook, and asked members of the group some serious questions that would unravel the web of intrigue that surrounds the Collective West. And what I found out was more shocking, more important, and more banjo-filled than any story on tired old western alienation adages, far right-wing political parties, or Canadians that would take to the streets to violently protest the loss of a hockey game…

That’s right, I found a group of people that aren’t idiots. And not only that, but they are in a band.

Before I found all this out, though, I figured I’d better start my investigation of the Collective West with a hard hitting question:

If you could be one Prime Minister of Canada throughout all of history, which PM would that be?

“Prime Minister Reginald P. Farnsfield, to be elected in the year 2048.”

And that’s when it hit me.

1) I’m a terrible investigative reporter.

And 2)  I was talking to THE Collective West, the great new band that has an album release party this very Saturday.

The Collective West is made up of the individuals Erin Faught, Alex Klassen, Dave Sustrik, and another Alex with the last name Charlton. Faught and Klassen have both been welcome fixtures in the Edmonton music scene for a while now, and after playing together a few times, decided they’d join forces for the betterment of all humanity.

And anyone that has seen them play with Sustrik and Charlton knows this betterment for mankind ain’t no hyperbole. Folks in the audience aren’t the only ones to notice the positive dynamic in the band, Faught has somehow picked up on it too, even though she’s not a journalist. As she explains in this block quotation about being in the band:

I can only speak for myself I guess, everyone else has a lot of band experience and I didn’t really. It’s spectacular. Having musicians I respect so much give their input on my songs and take them to a different place is such huge compliment and so exciting. For me the most learning is not being self-conscious and just trusting that everyone else trusts you as much as you do them. You can’t make something innovative if you aren’t willing to make a lot of mistakes along the way. I like it a million times better than being a solo artist. Everything about it is fantastic. Promotion is so much easier, sharing the stage and spotlight is great, having people around you you can trust all the time is fantastic. When I was a solo artist I started to get in this vibe that was comfortable and worked really well for me which I was kind of tired of cause I wasn’t growing or making anything I thought was really innovative. The backgrounds and talents of everyone else in the band challenge me a lot and it’s been an awesome growing experience. Also… the boys rock and all I do is laugh. Cringe and laugh.

When Klassen and Faught combined their formidable powers, they already had a lot of  music written on their own. As Faught relates, “this album is a conglomeration of songs Alex and I had written as solo artists as interpreted by the band, and now we’re all starting to write songs together as a team.” The band wasn’t together very long before recording started, and luckily the whole collective coalesced together well. Faught appreciates this, saying, ” I think we’re pretty lucky that we all get along so well and we’re all feeling equally committed to the band. That’s a really hard balance to find.”

Faught also knows a band cannot stay stagnant, realizing that, “we still have lots of growing to do but… that’s what it’s all about. A band that stops growing and learning is a band that isn’t innovative anymore and that’s no fun.”

And the Collective West seems to know all about being innovative. Pushing the DIY recording ethic to its limits – they produced the entire album in…Klassen’s basement. Go ahead and ask Erin Faught about it:

Recording rocked! Alex did it all in his basement recording studio which was fantastic. It’s really nice to have it all be a) free and b) done by someone who gets the vision of the band (which he should considering he’s in it) and is so invested in it that he will take the time to make you do the same take 1000 times and analyze every millisecond of a song to be sure it’s perfect. Now that I’m listening to the album it sounds 100% us which doesn’t always happen when you have someone else record externally.


Faught’s excitement for the band and the new album, called things we do, carries over into how she feels about the Edmonton music community:

“The artists of the Edmonton music community are such awesome, awesome people. It’s so great that whenever I go to local shows I see so many fellow artists out there supporting each other all the time. I feel pretty lucky to be a part of this great network of talented friends.

Of course, this support works both ways. If another musician in the network happens to be playing a show in Edmonton, chances are Faught will be there. The rest of this article could be filled with stories of her performing at events hosted by groups like Music is a Weapon, as well as other fundraisers. However, her support of other musicians, charitable events, and everything else to do with the Edmonton music community is so well known it needs not be supported by either quotes or sources. Which, is, of course, is right up my alley of investigative reporting.

This community minded attitude extends to the bands as a whole. Recently, their song “The Bottom Line,” written by Klassen, was awarded the Arusha Song for Social Justice Prize at the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Ship and Anchor Songwriting Competition. Not only is it a mouthful to say, it shows their peers are taking notice of their music and what they have to say.

Yup, the Collective West is a band that backs up their actions with words. And their lyrics with activism. And vice versa. They also cover a lot of songs you wouldn’t expect, which is sometimes the fault of their fans.

For their upcoming show at the ARTery on Saturday 18 June at 8:00 (9535 Jasper Ave) in Edmonton, they staged a contest where they asked their fans what song they should cover. It was very nearly Korn’s “Freak on a Leash.”

Luckily (?), instead the song that won was “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins.

From Left: Klassen, Sustrik, Charlton, and Faught

Find the Collective West on Facebook here.

Find information and tickets to their show here.

And on the CBC 3 here.

Explore posts in the same categories: "Intellectual" Events, So Russell...what do you love about music?

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One Comment on “Getting the Facts Together on the Collective West”

  1. […] The Collective West plays Saturday at high noon, or as some call it, 12:00. An Edmonton super-group who formed because everyone in the band get along so well, The Collective West somehow keep getting better every time they play. And if you’ve seen them perform, you know that rate of improvement is quite a tall order. […]

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