Westmont Magazine A Group Effort
“I wish that I could speak with eloquence once in a while,
I wish I could sing like a Broadway star.
I wish I could make an entrée like Angela can,
I wish that I could reach the top of the cupboard, but it’s not my job, it’s not what I need.
I’ll climb a ladder and call myself free.
It’s not my job to do everything
I’ll try to be myself, that is enough for me.”
What do you get when you take four Westmont alums, add a ton of musical talent, solid lyrical skills and throw in a healthy dose of unique personalities? It all adds up to Hester, a Santa Barbara-based band made up of Westmont alums Gabe and Dana Hester Friley ’96, Andy White ’96 and Kevin Rentz ’91. The fifth member is Matt Steele, whose sister, Carrie Steele ’97, and wife, Stephanie Champ Steele ’94, are both Westmont alums.
The band originated when Dana was attending Westmont and began writing songs. One of her first, “The Painter,” was selected by the Westmont Phoenix staff to go onto their annual CD, a collaboration of the year’s best student music. She explains, “This really encouraged me to continue to write songs and somehow get them recorded. It also gave me enough confidence to ask my friends to play with me. The group Hester was born a year later.”
She first met Gabe at a Halloween party the fall after they graduated. He mistakenly thought it was a costume party and came dressed as a character from the Planet of the Apes. She recalls, “We had our first conversation while he wore a blue suit and a real mask from the actual movie. I was impressed by his candor and strong chin.”
They shared a passion for music and began experimenting with songs she had written, adding in his vocals and talents on the harmonica. They heard Matt play drums at their church and approached him about joining their yet-to-be formed band. Kevin, a bass player, was next on board, and Andy, the utility guitar man, the group into its final five-person form.
Hester started out playing coffee houses, churches and bookstores around Santa Barbara. They appeared at Westmont events and began making appearances in clubs. As their sound has matured and fan base increased, they tend to stick to the club scene.
The division of labor in the group is neatly divided according to talent. Matt is a professional Web designer, and he manages the group’s Web site, keeping it updated with tour dates and band information. Andy books appearances for the band, and does the legwork to keep the band on stage. In addition to writing songs with Gabe, Dana works on marketing the band and getting their information out to local magazines and reporters.
Musically, Hester is indeed a group effort. Gabe recounts, “The band is tremendous in its ability to help with arrangements. Dana and I often bring in pieces, and they solve the puzzle. We are collaborating more than ever as a band and our goal is to have an environment where everyone brings in new ideas.”
Their second CD, Wishing Words, was released this past year and includes the song, “It’s Not My Job.” That song’s title and message of self-contentment echoes the band’s outlook for their future. While they look ahead to releasing a self-produced album, more extensive touring and making music for movie soundtracks, Gabe admits, “At the core, we’d like to stay true to ourselves, be honest with our music and enjoy being with the band and our families. Hopefully, as a result, listeners will connect with the music. That is what is most important to us in this creative endeavor.”
Learn more about Hester at their Web site: www.hestertraffic.com.