By Lauren Drake
Bellingham band the Crooked Neighbours are the recent winners of the Associated Students Productions and Make.Shift Art Space’s Battle of the Bands competition.
The five-member group is comprised of guitarist Miguel Ortiz, cellist Elsbeth Doesburg, bassist Cullen Webster, drummer Chris Hanline, and vocalist Rachel Mcdonough. None of the members are students or alumni of Western, but they heard about the Battle of the Bands competition through connections with Make.Shift, according to Hanline.
Crooked Neighbours first formed when Mcdonough and Doesburg met at a party a few years ago where they had the opportunity to play together. Shortly after, the two became roommates. Doesburg also worked with Ortiz at the time and the trio formed the band.
A year later, after playing a few shows with the band, Webster approached the trio to let them know he was interested in joining them as a bass player along with his Hanline, who was a drummer.
Eventually, both joined the band after some deliberation from the trio and they have been performing as a five-member group for the past year.
“We played one song and it all went together so perfectly,” Cullen said. “We built on it and have been doing that ever since.”
“It’s really nice to have organic camaraderie with people who are passionate about sound.”
The band calls their genre rock with a pop sensibility. Cullen said they believe this description still falls short and pinpointing a specific genre can be hard. Ortiz believes that this lack of words for describing their music is a good thing and means the group has found a new sound.
“The five of us are so different,” Ortiz said. “We have five different musical sensibilities and backgrounds that sort of clash [to make the band’s sound].”
Each member recalls being interested in making music from a young age. Webster and Mcdonough performed in the fifth grade for the first time in a Snoopy musical. Hanline said his family has always been musical and he started playing piano at the age of four. Hanline and Webster later began performing in front of their church.
Doesburg said she became interested in cello after attending a concert in Ferndale where she saw local artist Nick Strobel add his own flare while playing the instrument.
Ortiz found his start in music when he needed an extra elective during his senior year of high school and opted to play guitar with one of his friends.
“I was gifted a guitar for my eighteenth birthday,” Ortiz said. “Since then, I’ve been slapping songs together and tricking people into singing over them.”
The band’s favorite time spent together is what they call a “music brunch” held at Ortiz’s house. The band usually invites about 10-15 other local musicians over to jam and eat together, Webster said.
“It’s not one of those things where you need to be a good musician [to get in],” Hanline said. “It’s really nice to have organic camaraderie with people who are passionate about sound.”
The band plans to release a new single on June 25, celebrating their first anniversary as a full band. Their first album will be released on October 8 and another is already in the works.
This summer, the band said they are excited to spend their time playing gigs, writing more music and continuing to build their fan base.