Looking West performs at Topa Topa Brewing Co. on 104 E Thompson Blvd. in Ventura on Sept. 10. Looking West band member and El Camino High School senior Dylan Brehm said, “Looking West is when we are our best selves. The music brought us together and the brotherhood keeps us together.” (Photo by Alejandro Hernandez)

Arts and Entertainment

Ventura band Looking West jams forward

Learn about the band Looking West, which comprised of high school students from Ventura, Calif.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/ahtcp74/" target="_self">Alejandro Hernandez</a>

Alejandro Hernandez

January 18, 2023
Looking West is a band from Ventura, Calif. founded in 2017. Looking West band members include El Camino High School seniors Dylan Brehm (lead guitar and vocals) and Owen Neth (bass guitar and backup vocals) and Ventura High School junior Evan Brehm (drums). The band is independent as they are not under any record label.

According to Looking West’s website, “Looking West is a trio of young musicians born and raised in Ventura County, California. Their original music is a unique blend of rock styles and genres. When not playing a live gig or at the studio, you can find them all hanging out at the beach.”

The name “Looking West” was first introduced in 2019, with them having no name prior.

“Looking West to my recollection came because my dad always talks about the direction of the front of [Evan Brehm and I’s] house [and] the way it faces,” Dylan Brehm said. “We’re so close to the beach and the beach is supposedly straight west and we face west. I believe that the name probably came from us talking about how our house is looking west.” 

Dylan Brehm said he really liked the name but his brother Evan Brehm and Neth gave him a lot of pushback.

“We all remember [the origins of Looking West], [around] preschool or pre-K,” Evan Brehm said. “There was this place called First Five that [had] music in an open classroom, and we were all there together. It was technically a music class. We didn’t really play [instruments] but like we were all introduced to that early. All of our parents enjoyed the same music so we were very influenced by rock. That was our childhood. All that together started some influence [for Looking West].”

The first person in the band to start playing an instrument was Dylan Brehm. He’s been playing guitar since around 2013, he said.

“I was doing sports and kind of on that trajectory for a bit. When I realized I couldn’t catch a baseball, and that I was afraid of it, I decided that maybe I should do something that I’m actually good at, so I asked my dad for guitar lessons,” Dylan Brehm said. “It’s just been a great journey for me to keep learning new things, always learning new things. That’s just so much fun. I still take [guitar] lessons and I still might do vocal work with a vocal instructor as well just to teach me proper technique.”

Evan Brehm said he got his first drums in 2017, a few months before the band formed.

“I didn’t have a lot of motivation at the beginning of the band until we started playing as a band,” he said.

Neth started playing bass five years ago when he was in the seventh grade.

“Before that, I didn’t play an instrument but I was listening to a lot of music from my parents. So I was pretty much just born into a musical family,” Neth said.

Dylan and Evan Brehm are brothers, while Neth has no biological relation to the other members. Neth said they met at a young age and have grown as friends and brothers.

“Owen is my second brother, now and forever,” Evan Brehm said.

Looking West considers themselves to be a new-age rock band.

“Our sound is comprised of our influences. That’s all we can say unless you listen to our songs. You can be the judge of what genre of music we are,” Dylan Brehm said.

Neth said they have their own sound.

“We’re not trying to sound like anyone else. We just were influenced by our influences and we take that and create our sound off of it,” Neth said.

Dylan Brehm shared what he feels makes the group unique.

“I feel like what’s unique about us is that none of us are the ideal popular kid. We don’t really fit into any group per se,” he said. “I feel like our music would be different if we were in those social circumstances. We definitely fit in some groups, but we’re kind of in our own group. I feel like that gives us an edge that makes us special.”

Evan Brehm, the only Ventura High School student in the band, said he doesn’t know if there’s a lot of musicians around VHS.

“I’ve been recognized by some people, but it’s never anything crazy. I mean, I’m just a regular kid. It’s not like anything has really changed,” he said. “I don’t think the school has been touched yet [by] Looking West. I don’t think it’s gotten there yet. I’m hoping it will. I have seen a couple of Looking West stickers around [Ventura High School], which is pretty cool. If not, I’m just happy to play music, but hopefully, it reaches some kids.”

As of October, Looking West has eight songs officially included in their live performance setlist, meaning their live performances contain those songs. These songs are “Acting Sideways,” “Your Mind,” “I See a Man,” “Losing You,” “Organized Chaos,” “My Disease,” “This Window I’m Looking Through,” and “Throw Away The Nerves.”

Looking West’s first performance was on Oct. 31, 2018, for a neighborhood event organized by one of Dylan and Evan Brehm’s family friends. According to Dylan Brehm, Looking West’s notable performances include the Food For Ukraine Cornhole Tournament at the Ojai Valley Moose Lodge in Oak View, Calif. on May 28 and the Surf Rodeo festival in Ventura, Calif. on July 16.

Looking West band members Dylan Brehm, left, Evan Brehm, center, and Owen Neth, right, sit during an interview with Ventura Rocks. (Photo courtesy of Mary Brehm)

“I think the world’s gotten around that we’re an entity and that it’s worth it for people to come to see us play,” Dylan Brehm said. “That’s how we made connections for the Surf Rodeo, our first festival performance. They were giving us some first chances and they took some big risks by having us play mainstage at the festival. That was a bit risky on their part. But I think it worked out for all of us.”

Ventura High School freshman Daniel Rundle shared his thoughts on the group.

“I like Looking West’s music a lot and think that all of their band members are amazing musicians. I saw them perform at [the] Surf Rodeo and I thought they did phenomenally,” Rundle said.

Looking West recently released their first single “I See A Man” on streaming services. To hear more of their music, their live performances are available online.

“Right now, the easiest way for you to hear us is through a couple of avenues. I think YouTube’s a great way because we upload live videos from our recent shows,” Dylan Brehm said. “For instance, we have our whole Surf Rodeo set on YouTube, so you can watch it and if you go to the description, it will tell you the order of the songs. If you’re interested, you can try to see what that concert was like and see what the experience was like and we want to share that. It’s Looking West on YouTube. You can find us in all our live clips on @lookingwest.band on Instagram. It would be @LookingWestBand on Facebook. Also videos and photos there. Our website, which is also lookingwest.band, has a video section where you can hear what we sound like and see if you want to come to see us play.”

According to Dylan Brehm, the process of completing a song from conception to final recording varies dramatically in length by song. He said,

“[Writing and recording music is a] process that is mysterious even to me. The writing process just happens spontaneously, it’s all spontaneous,” he said. “You have to keep your ears and mind open, and then things just tend to happen. When they don’t happen, you know it’s because you haven’t been open enough. I would write a song and bring it to the guys but once it gets to that point, it changes, like a butterfly. It’s just really different. It’s a different species of animal.”

Looking West practices music during “jams” at Table 17 Studios in Ventura, Calif., a private recording studio owned by Neth’s father.

“[A jam is] just some friends playing together and the special feeling that comes with it,” Dylan Brehm said.

Looking West’s first jam took place Dec. 16, 2017.

“It’s a different song live than it is in the studio, the way you play is different,” Dylan Brehm said. “When you’re playing live, you’re not conscious of what you’re doing because there’s so much energy. In the studio, you’re very conscious in a good way. I would say sometimes when you’re that conscious, it’s like hypersensitivity.”

Evan Brehm said, “You think you sound good and then you start recording. It brings everything you play under a microscope, you hear every little thing you do wrong.”

Dylan Brehm said they test their songs by playing them live.

“There was a show where we played one of our newest songs, called ‘Throw Away The Nerves,’ and we played it just once. But from [practicing in the studio], we didn’t really get to see if it’s ready for recording. If it’s doing well live, and it’s getting good reception, and if we enjoy playing it, it’s time to get in the studio and get our party on,” Dylan Brehm said.

Neth said they rehearse a song a lot during the recording process.

“Our first step usually is to get a solid drum track. We can build up from there,” Neth said. “If we got a drum track that stays on tempo, then we can just build from that and add bass and guitar.”

Dylan Brehm said, “I would say I am probably the de facto leader. Part of that is to do with the fact that I do most of the core songwriting for the group currently. For the most part, I write the skeleton of the song and then take it to [Evan Brehm and Neth] to flush it out. In that aspect, it sort of innately makes me a bit more of a presence.”

Evan Brehm said, “In a general way, Dylan would be the frontman. I think it comes with the whole guitarist and lead singer nature. Honestly, I like it that way. You can say that ‘yeah he’s the leader,’ but he is because of the role he plays [as lead guitarist and vocals]. We all bring our own part to the band. He’s playing his equal part as a leader.”

Looking West is playing at Convair St. Camarillo on Friday, Jan. 27. Looking West’s upcoming events list is updated regularly on their website

“We’re so stoked just to be where we are right now,” Evan Brehm said. “We’re very grateful to be in the position we are now. We’re playing our live shows and taking it with a grain of salt to enjoy the experience. I think that’s honestly our future goal.”