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WSTRN

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        WSTRN members and cousins Akelle Charles and Haile have been on a similar journey of musical discovery all their lives, ever since their fathers played in the same reggae band. Third member Louis Rei also grew up close by in the collective's neighbourhood of west London, meeting the others through his friendship with Akelle's older brothers. They were each raised on a dizzying array of popular genres and styles and it shows in 'In2', their debut track together, which charged up to number ten on the Shazam Urban UK chart shortly after they released it on YouTube. It's as spacious, psychedelic and immediately gratifying as ILoveMakonnen, as emotive and effortless as Drake, yet it resists any comparisons thrown at it. It is quite simply a British banger.

        It was 'In2' that actually brought WSTRN together. All three members had been artists in their own right, though not always clearly travelling that path. "I didn't see myself doing music at all" says Louis. "That wasn't my lane, music was more of a diary for me. I've always been more involved in football. I went through some hardships, went down the wrong road, got into trouble, then this music thing happened and I've just woken up really, and it feels right," he reflects. "Looking back at my past I didn't realise how important it was to me until now. It's played a big part all my life."

        For all three, eventually getting in a room together to collaborate artistically was inevitable considering the proximity of their homes, lives and interests. They'd often dipped in and out of collaborations with each other. While being produced by Haile, Akelle confessed that he felt like he "needed to start singing more and become more of an artist." Haile was game, and had just been in contact with Louis to start a collaboration. One thing led to another and soon they found themselves making music that was feverishly in demand. From here, the trio continued to craft their identity and the collective, WSTRN, was born. With 'In2' being only a taster of this impressive and wildly inventive jam session they were then signed by Atlantic Records.

        The fact that throughout their work, WSTRN are quite happy to reference Young Thug style trap beats one minute and then Lauryn Hill style melodies the next, is a testament to just how much their willing to shake up the formula. Each member has a uniquely personal musical background, but they converge at the butterscotch border of good melody and vibe. For WSTRN, music is just another form of communication.
        It's the ability to jump on a feeling or a flow and guide it to where it needs to go. "What we do, and it's really important for people to understand this", says Akelle, "is we use our flow and vocals as the instrument itself, so it's just a part of the instrumental, it doesn't sound like it's anything different, it's just music." No matter whether WSTRN adorn their tracks with 808s, eighties synths, or guitars, they always find cohesion in their smooth and soulful vocal textures.

        There's a genuineness to their creative outpouring that eschews the need to be categorised and moulded by tribal identities. Roots reggae, motown, hip hop (in all its incarnations), contemporary and classic R&B, pop music and much more, all shaped WSTRN equally. They see the exercise of trying to always label things a fruitless endeavour. In reality there's only good music and bad music. "It's an eclectic sound," says Louis, "that's rare, and I think that's why it's so refreshing. It's genuine and it's feel-good and there's not much of that anymore".

        'In2' only scratches the surface of WSTRN's musical exploration. Throughout the eight finished songs that formed their original jam there's a restless hunger to find new ways of expressing old feelings. WSTRN write about love gained and love lost mostly, and regret, but they channel it into something at once communal and life affirming. Their most reflective moments come in songs like the trap behemoth 'Gotham City' or the beautiful pining strains of 'Got Love'. The latter song sees them in pursuit of love over a lonesome piano sample which gradually gets embroidered by strings and vocal harmonies, while 'Gotham City' is their attempt to articulate the London's throbbing and dark under layers. Using Batman's world of jokers and petty criminality to reimagine their hometown, its beat identifies it as a classic trap song in the Lex Luger sense, but its canny bass production takes it firmly into the trap of today.

        While 'In2' rapidly built a fanbase and brought its creators together, it's certainly not the apex of their writing abilities. Any one of their songs features a club-baiting hook. 'Secret Lady' revives the bouncing bass and chiming riffs of prime late nineties pop.
        With its rapped verses, and funky flow, it's Dre day G-funk in part, but it's subject matter, bass line, and the melodic gratification it gives, bring it much closer to the post-MJ world of drive-time R&B and pop.

        Trying to put WSTRN into words is about as futile as trying to box them up and simply market them as a reiteration of something that's come before. It's the music that guides them. They pursue what gets them going, and in so doing, they end up discovering boundaries that were made to be crossed. They'd happily jump on a bashment rhythm and put it through some eighties pop production just to see the result. The one constant being that they're honest and trusting enough with themselves and each other to instinctively know where to take things. They don't want to take things too seriously, but conversely they know that that's the kind of irreverent mood that informs their best work. With a bright future ahead and a stockpile of potential hits in the bag, all three would like to take it as far as it can go.

        Ultimately, WSTRN's music is the celebration of life. Its' creators are bound by a deep chemistry and a shared experience that solidifies their familial bond. They have each had personal pitfalls, like everyone else, but the guiding principal in their lives has been the wealth of music and melody all around them. They're the romantics of London's urban music scene, eschewing posing and false bravado in favour of something more universal and collective: a feeling of reciprocal joy.
        After the raving around 'In2' - has passed, you can bet they'll have planned ahead, ready to drop a new track and increase their fanbase exponentially. The music scene is changing, time is speeding up and today's big fad will be yesterday's news tomorrow. Amidst all this, WSTRN have a shot at permanence, their complete disregard for scene politics and their unpretentious approach to music making aligns them with their heroes in their pursuit of something honest. It's early days but already WSTRN's star is ascending, far beyond the reach of all the copycats.

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