Interview : Woodhands

12 Feb

Since the release of their debut album Heart Attack, in 2008, Toronto’s Woodhands have been garnering praise for their genre-bending techniques, their thought-provoking lyrics and multi-dimensional approach to electro-rock.  However, following the highly-anticipated release of Remorsecapade this January, Dan Werb and Paul Banwatt have been just as renowned for their live performances as their recorded efforts, being praised for exuding the energy, enthusiasm and authenticity that so many other electro bands fail to bring to their live shows.

“It’s hard with electronic musicians because a lot of them are constrained by the things that they play,” began Werb.  “Like, we are electronic musicians, but we don’t play laptops, you know what I mean?  We use sequences, yes, but we actually play a lot of the shit ourselves, too.  When there’s some physical excursion . . . it sort of changes, you know what I mean?”
“And even the sequences we use are so short they basically have to be played live,” added Banwatt.

“Everything we do is essentially live,” continued Werb.  “It’s strenuous in a way . . . it’s a full body experience . . . We can put our whole bodies into songs in a way that other people might potentially have to try harder to do.”
As the band’s profile continues to rise, fans of the duo have been treated to increased performances, with Woodhands appearing at Hillside Inside and on CBC3 and AUX TV, as well as preparing for a North American tour set to launch later this month.  Undoubtedly, one of the band’s biggest draws is the fact that regardless of electro alignments, their sound refuses to conform to the genre-specific, straddling aspects of punk, electronic and indie rock.

“I think in terms of why people are gravitating toward more eclectic sort of mixes and bands [is because] every year it feels like everything has been done before in pop music,” said Banwatt.  “It’s just a question of constantly re-inventing the wheel to try to bring something [that] people have never heard before . . . It’s hard to say we’re not an electro band because like, we do all the stuff electro bands do.  That’s where I noticed you can get pigeon-holed – it’s like, you can be an electro band and be doing a lot of different things.”

“I think a lot of the time we’re not aware of our own influences and it’s exciting to be shown that by critics,” explained Werb.  “I often think asking a musician who their influences are or where their music came from is kind of asking the wrong person because you just make it, and it’s up to the people who understand the culture and are well-versed in music history to explain why that person is doing what they’re doing.”

As countless reviews for Remorsecapade have poured in, Woodhands have generated further publicity following the release of their controversial Z-side, “P’iss”, a seemingly direct Pitchfork assault that opens with the line, “Pitchfork is a waste of bandwidth with content so thin it needs to eat a sandwich”.  However, the band maintains that no feud is brewing and that no animosity is being harboured.

“I think it’s very important not to take that song very seriously,” assured Banwatt. “We have no issue with Pitchfork per say, we just thought it was really funny.”

“We were actually – truth be told – sort of dared to do it by someone at Pitchfork,” added Werb.

“It has its roots in something that has nothing to do with us . . . because as far as music review sites go, I think they’re pretty great,” admitted Banwatt.  “We definitely have no intention of singling out Pitchfork . . . [and] I don’t think it’s illegitimate to write about music, [but] if your goal is to make art that appeals to a certain group of people who are feeling the same way as you do, then that’s what you should be worried about – whether the people you think should be touched by your music or your art are actually touched by it, and if not, then maybe wonder why.”

“I would also say that yeah, there are a million critics now for sure and everyone’s got an opinion, but ultimately things work naturally,” shared Werb.  “People who are more plugged in, who know how to express their thoughts and have actual things to say about music and art that are interesting – those are going to be the people that are read, you know?”

“And there are bad reviews, right?” added Banwatt.  “And they keep you aware of the fact that it’s extremely rare that art moves everybody the same way . . . It’s the stuff that pushes people really hard one way or another – it actually speaks to people who are moved in a good way for a really long time.  It’s one thing to make a hit song that’s forgotten and it’s another thing to make an album that people are still going to play a few years later even if it’s less people.”

Having released two albums in less than two years, the band has undoubtedly cemented themselves as musicians working to re-shape the landscape of Canadian art, successfully maintaining their fan base while allowing their genuine love of creating to draw new listeners.

“I think that [lyric-wise] . . . at the time at which I wrote Heart Attack, that was as far as I was able to go,” explained Werb. “ . . . And it’s just strange because you kind of have to go under this assumption that somehow what you’re saying about yourself is going to transcend your own life and be interesting to other people.”

“I think for any musician, you want to keep it going if you’ve got momentum, and for us, that was definitely [part of our decision not to break between albums],” added Werb.  “If we could’ve put out Remorsecapade earlier, we probably would’ve.”

Posted by : Anne T Donahue

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