From out of the basement

West Water Outlaws play the Boulder Theater on St. Patrick’s Day

Amanda Moutinho | Boulder Weekly

When the West Water Outlaws formed two years ago, their first show wasn’t ultraglamorous. The band headlined house parties in lead singer Blake Rooker’s basement, which had wall-to-wall white carpeting that, Rooker says, got completely destroyed.

“There were lyric sheets everywhere, red wine stains, guitar strings, thousands of beer bottles everywhere, random clothes and even jewelry,” says Will Buck, who plays guitar in the band.

The band has come a long way from playing in the basement and will be taking the stage at Boulder Theater this St. Patrick’s Day along with Technicolor Tone Factory. But Buck says they’re still the same band.

“We still party, but now I guess we just get paid to do it,” he says.

Band members Rooker, Buck, Vincent Ellwood (bass) and Andrew Oakley (drums) started playing together in 2010, when they all met at the University of Colorado. Their personal music tastes mixed together to create a funky twist on classic rock ’n’ roll reminiscent of Muddy Waters and Jesse James and the Outlaws — the two bands that inspired their name.

“That’s probably why we sound the way we sound,” Rooker says. “Will brings reggae, I’m more heavy. Vince and Andrew bring the funk and soul, and we all like old country and classic rock. It combines to accent the music in different ways.” Their sound was the edge that helped the band when they started out. Buck says they were a fresh alternative to the DJ scene taking over Boulder parties. Since then, they’ve developed a loyal fan base.

“It gave people something different to dance to,” Buck says. “People could just rock out and have a good time. By the time that we got our first gig at The Sink, people who had seen us before just mobbed The Sink. Our fans have watched us go from Blake’s basement to the Boulder Theater.”

After May, when Rooker and Ellwood are set to graduate, band members say they plan to focus on their music and are planning their third tour this July. Currently they’re working on an EP expected to be released sometime this summer.

Oakley says their sound is progressing as they get to know each other’s musical personalities. Anyone who hangs out with the band can tell how close the boys have gotten, to the point of finishing each other’s sentences.

Blake says, “It takes a while to get that connection where …”

“… you can get into each other’s head,” Oakley continues.

“And you get into each other’s playing style,” Buck finishes. “The details are all clicking together.”

The sound the band is creating is reminiscent of ’60s and ’70s rock. Oakley says it’s a central theme throughout their music, but adds that the band is constantly growing and doesn’t want to pigeon-holed.

“We have a vintage sound,” Buck says. “Some people think we’re paying homage to that old ’70s rock, but to me, I think we’re just continuing that style.”

Nowadays, acts like Lady Gaga dominate radio, but the future is looking bright for the band. The classic rock spirit still has its champions, like The Black Keys and Queens of the Stone Age.

“I think there’s kind of an opportunity right now,” Oakley says.

“Because there isn’t a Led Zeppelin and there isn’t that scene anymore, we feel that there is room for a rock band,” Buck says.

But he also realizes it’s challenging to get noticed.

“It takes a hell a lot of work and a hell of a lot of shows before you get anywhere. The music industry is tough. It’s not like you can be put on The Ed Sullivan Show and sell 90 million records the next day. Today, you can go on TV and the next day people don’t even know you.”

The band members want their music heard, but Grammys and magazine covers aren’t high on their list of priorities.

For West Water Outlaws, it’s all about passion.

“I just don’t want to be in a cubicle,” he says. “I just want to be in a van with my best friends driving around playing music.”


ON THE BILL: Technicolor Tones Factory and West Water Outlaws play the Boulder Theater on Saturday, March 17. Sunsquabi opens. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 day of show. 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030.