Biography

Chemistry is the key driving force of all great bands, and for indie-rock band The Western Civilization, that creative connection has inspired them to get past odds that would seem insurmountable to most. Reggie O’Farrell and Rachel Hansbro met while in separate bands in the Houston music scene in 2002, and a friendship developed between the two. Their creative partnership would go on to produce two albums, multiple festival appearances including the Vans Warped Tour, SXSW and Halifax Pop Explosion and most importantly, a lasting artistic union that would survive the two living in separate cities, career changes and one very cramped tour. Hasbro laughs, “If you can walk away from three weeks in a Geo Metro and still be friends with someone, that means something.”

The Western Civilization’s first album Letters of Resignation was aptly described by The Houston Chronicle as “Equal parts craft and chaos” and “noisy indie-pop that aches with longing, anger and frustration, each song spilling over with elegantly wrought emotion.” That heartfelt quality combined with the intertwined vocals of Hasbro and O’Farrell creates a sound that fans of Broken Social Scene would gobble up with fervor. The forthcoming album Fractions of A Whole reveals a new maturity to their music with a more lush sounding production style and a focus on cohesive, graceful songcraft over the endearingly quirky elements that dominated their earlier work. The tinkling piano that introduces standout track “Noctambulism” builds to gorgeous swells of guitar and vocals assuring, “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK,” and the songwriting brings to mind Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse’s finer moments. Pro tip: Listen with kleenex on hand.

Where does the emotional earnestness of the duo’s work come from? “The new songs were inspired by the amazing people who are part of my chosen family,” Hansbro reflects. “Reggie has always been good at reminding me of the positive things. (He is) another voice saying ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.’” This optimism amidst the chaos of the world we live in is evident in the rich and buoyant sound of Fractions. Lyrically transformed by Hansbro and musically molded by O’Farrell, each song is a snapshot—a fraction, if you will—of a moment in time related to Hansbro in one way or another. There’s sincerity in how she recalls these instances, overtly tugging at these bits of remembrance that others can relate to. She likens the process to vomiting—an uncontrollable yet ultimately relieving release of remembrance as a means of helping her come to terms with it all. For O’Farrell, reaching that comfort comes from a slightly different facet of the songwriting process—by making sure everything feels and sounds just right. His keen ear and meticulous approach pay off fully on the new record.

At It’s core, The Western Civilization has always been a collaborative project that Reggie and Rachel are the musical directors of and Fractions is no exception. It’s a rotating cast of characters/collaborators that orbit around them where the final sum always somehow seems to be more than the whole of it’s parts. On Fractions of A Whole, The Western Civilization is Rachel Hansbro (vocals, guitar, piano) and Reggie O’Farrell (vocals, guitar, bass, synth, piano, banjo, string arrangements, production), with contributions from Angie Holliday (vocals,piano), John Boyd (drums), Adam Bencen (drums), Bob Lane (trumpet), and Arron Casper (pedal steel). The entire album was recorded, produced, and mixed by O’Farrell, and mastered by Nick Landis at Nick Landis Mastering in Austin, Texas.

Of their unique relationship, it’s clear what drives the pair to stay dedicated to the band, despite the fact that O’Farrell lives in Austin where he finds more work as a producer and sound engineer and Hansbro resides in Houston where she has developed her own business as a music teacher working with nonprofits: mutual respect, belief in their music and the way they inspire each other. “I know she trusts me and it frees me to try anything, he explains. And of O’ Farrell, Hasbro says, “I trust few things in life, but I trust him.”

The first single, Bible Verses for Kids, is out October 7th, with 4 others set to be released over the following year. Fractions Of A Whole is out Fall, 2023.