Requested today: the origins of “Westy” and “The Reflectors” and why I switched to “Westy Reflector.” It’s a long story, but engaging. My lack of brevity, however, is your entertainment, of course.
My IRL name is Dave Westreich (“West’-rike,” fwiw). Westy was my nickname through high school and college, because there are a lot of Daves everywhere (cue Kids In The Hall). I wrote and performed a lot in the late 80s and early 90s. Songs and nights eventually just vapored into the ether, though, and I took a break from music for a few years (at least from playing – not from listening). Then in 1999, after picking up my guitar again, I met a fantastic producer named Bill Kollar through DJs Vin Scelsa and Pete Fornatale, and sat down with him for a couple of writing sessions. He ended one session by saying, “I’d really like to hear your songs reflected through a full band some day.”
Reflected, I thought. Such a glorious word.
So as I started cutting demos, playing and programming all the instruments, I took a page from Karl Wallinger’s World Party and called myself The Reflectors, thinking to wag the dog. In the “band,” I became Westy Reflector, which was a meta nod to my nickname. I was also Jenny Reflector (bass), Mick Reflector (percussion) and X Reflector (keys / rhythm programming). I saw them as heteronyms, a la Fernando Pessoa, and tried to approach my recordings as four different people.
A few years later, as social media took off, I signed on to sites as Westy Reflector, not as Dave Westreich, and just ran with that identity. I knew enough from my time as a Futurist for a globo-ad company from ’99-’03, too, that I didn’t want to use my real name on the Internet. Facebook still has no idea who the hell I am and I am extremely happy about that.
The best way to protect your identity is to have more than one.
In any event, the technology in my home studio improved such that demos became records, and the records got released as a “band,” so I just embraced the act. My work up until 2009 is on Spotify, iTunes, CDBaby, etc as The Reflectors. Pretty sure I own commercial rights to the Reflectors name (my first record was 2004), but I was never able to afford to trademark it, and other bands still keep popping up with the name or some variant (see Arcade Fire last year as The Reflektors).
On the plus side, I’ve been a small beneficiary of misspelled searches and autocorrects of Reflektor…
Even before Arcade Fire used the homonym, though, trying to defend my “band’s” name began to seem pointless, because there was no band. As I got more involved with social media, I came to realize it’s easiest to be only one person at a time. I still marvel at Pessoa’s ability to pull off what he did with multiple heteronyms.
My wife, Catherine Marie Thomas, is a Film & TV Costume Designer (and the true star in our house). In 2008, Cat worked on Grey Gardens and Whip-It. We ended up spending New Years 08/09 in Sayulita, MX, with a dozen or so people involved with the films. Two of them, Har Mar Superstar and Adam Green, at different times during the trip encouraged me to go out on my own. “Break away from the tyranny of your multi-polarity,” Adam said.
Har Mar told me one night, “If your band’s just you, then just be you. You can still have your performance. I’m Har Mar and I’m Sean. What’s the point, though, in pretending to be a whole band? Free your self. Your self; two words.”
So after that, I stopped being The Reflectors and just became Westy Reflector. I mean, if Har Mar Superstar tells you to “Snap out of it!” you listen.
This was the New Years adventure: