Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2011: Woods Amp Up for a Gig in Some Friendly Confines
Perhaps no one is better suited in the band name category for the campy wilderness of Golden Gate Park, venue for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival this weekend, than Brooklyn’s Woods. Their sound — a psych-y lo-fi mix of charming melodies and fuzzy, seizuring guitar lines — should also match up well with the hallowed outdoor space. The band has caught the attention of various taste-makers with its last three albums: the experimental and folky Songs of Shame, the backyard tripper minimalist jamming of At Echo Lake and their slightly more polished and accessible Sun and Shade. They’ve also dabbled in the business end of things, running the growing Woodsist label, which has repped a strong collection of intriguing bands, including Sun Araw and Royal Baths. Bandmember and multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere took a breather from a 12-hour recording session earlier this week to answer some questions about his band on the rise in advance of their Friday afternoon gig at the Rooster stage:
This new album Sun and Shade seems like an example of a band honing its sound and experimenting with ideas established on previous albums. Was that the general hope or goal at the start of making this album?
It was, but we were recording so much new music after we finished At Echo Lake, that it wasn't until we were almost done that we really talked about it. Jeremy suggested Sun and Shade as the title and it all clicked -- he kind of named the sound -- and we knew how we wanted to tie it all together. It was like two sides of the band coming together really naturally.
I get the sense that you are mostly uninterested in following any set rock career paths or any buzz trends of the moment. Is it daunting to consider that you may be in unchartered waters in terms of musical scenes or infrastructure amongst your contemporaries? Or is that a good thing?
I don't think we are ambitious in what we're doing. We're pretty insular and very much guided by comfort. But I do think we fit somewhere. We have a nice little group of friends and musicians that we like to tour and make music with and maybe what we all have in common is that we're insider outsiders.
You'll obviously be playing outdoors in the sprawl of Golden Gate Park when you visit SF. Do you find that your music resonates any differently in outdoor settings?
I feel really loose playing outside. I'm less aware of the audience and I think they're a little less aware of me. We just played the Henry Miller library for the third time this year, and it's pretty hard to compete for attention with 300 year old red woods, you know?
You guys have been intimately involved in the workings of the Woodsist label. I recall seeing that you guys are putting on some mini festivals and tours. What have you learned from that experience that most musicians probably have not?
I learned to never let the after party follow you home. You'll end up with Shayde Sartin (of the Fresh & Onlys) half way up a redwood and the camp grounds manager knocking at your door.
Last question: I’m listening to your tunes on Spotify right now as we speak. How comfortable are you with that phenomenon and the fact that anyone can stream any one of your songs without paying iTunes or you guys directly? Is the band or the label consulted about such a thing?
I think I've made peace with the fact that I can't control that kind of thing. Realistically, you can be Lars Ulrich and make everyone hate you by harping on where your music can and can't be heard, but I think it's a loser's game. The internet is the wild west and Lars Ulrich is a loser. You just gotta roll with it.