Published Jul 26, 2009Judging by the natural aesthetic and creaky, wood-splintered style of pop, Woods seem more like a product of the Appalachians than another one of Brooklyn's finest, but that's just one of their many surprises. Though they keep a profile that could be described as enigmatic, the troupe are also behind one of the most blogged about labels of the moment Woodsist, as well as its strictly-cassette sister imprint, Fuck It Tapes. Having released a series of modern day (lo-fi) classics by Wavves, Kurt Vile, Pocahaunted, Blank Dogs and Ganglians, the band are currently out on the road to promote their own brilliant album, this year's Songs of Shame. Jeremy Earl and G. Lucas Crane fielded some questions for Exclaim! before leaving on a North American tour that makes stops in Montreal (August 7) Toronto (August 8) and Vancouver (September 2).
Woods is fairly mysterious. There's not a lot out there about the band. Is that the way you want it?
G. Lucas Crane: We're very thankful for any amount of mystery in this age of full disclosure, Facebook/MySpace/Twitter, and 24-hour blog echo-chamber news bullshit. If someone can get with our music but can't find out what my favourite hot dog is and that's being "mysterious," then we're on the right track in this ridiculous world. A certain amount of purposeful obscurity and ambiguity is an aesthetic choice, yes. Mystery is a warm inviting shroud.
The new album Songs of Shame is getting a lot more attention than your previous albums. Is that a good or bad thing?
Lucas: It's a good thing if it allows us to play more and leads to support for the music and the band entity. It's bad if we all drown in a sea of top ten album lists. If someone throws a whiskey bottle at my head while we're jamming, can I blame that on getting more attention?
What is the creative process like for Woods? Is it a collaborative thing or do you each work on your own ideas and then mesh them?
Lucas: Jeremy will be recording a song on a tape deck with an acoustic guitar at five in the morning. Jarvis will be up at 8 a.m. EQing and mixing some layered jam pulled out of a pile of live recordings or sudden home sessions. Lucas is up a telephone pole recording a bird waking up in a rainstorm onto a cassette tape painted black. Jarvis plays a bass like a drum. Jeremy is up late again drawing the sun rising behind a long fingered plant. Lucas found a trumpet in the garbage and is playing it stuffed with gauze, drenched in delay. We meet and jam in the living room and eat food together. It is "a collaborative thing" and we "work on our own ideas and mesh them," yes.
How would you compare Songs of Shame to the previous records? Was there anything you were trying to do differently?
Lucas: Shame was made the same way our previous records were. We knew exactly how we wanted it to sound. The development is pretty organic from project to project.
What is the difference for you between Woods and Woods Family Creeps?
Lucas: Woods is the band's name. Remember what I said about ambiguity? On the cover of the album that came out before Songs of Shame there are three words: "Woods," "Family" and "Creeps." If you want to have an album by Woods Family Creeps that's self-titled, you can. If you want an album by Woods called Family Creeps you can have that too. Sometimes we'll play a show as Woods Family Creeps if we roll into town and that's how we're feelin'. Music is about freedom.
What can people expect from your performances? Is there a lot more experimenting or improv when you're on stage?
Jeremy Earl: It goes from show to show, but yes, we do a lot of experimenting and extended jamming. There is always a time and place for this in the set. It's nice to just let loose and see where it will go.
Lucas: Making an album and playing live are two different parts of one's brain. I'd like to think people will have fun coming to see us play, and have a different experience than listening to our albums. A word about experimenting on stage though: we jam out. Whether that's "experimenting" or just going with a feeling, or trying to make things different each time, so be it. But we're trying to have fun. People can expect to hear the van and the road, the sun, the desert, fire and the filthy city, deep moss, windblown bones and perilous shifting halls of reverberating space.
As far as priorities go, what comes first for you -- the band or the label?
Jeremy: We've been getting this question a lot these days. I love them both, but playing music with friends around the world is way better than packing orders.
Does it feel good to see artists like Wavves, Vivian Girls and Kurt Vile move on to bigger labels and know you had something to do with it?
Jeremy: It feels great! They are all amazing bands and totally deserve the attention.
What made you move on from Shrimper and start up Fuckit and Woodsist?
Jeremy: Woodsist and Fuck It started before we were on Shrimper. I mailed our first tape to Dennis at Shrimper and he was way into it. Shrimper will always be there for us. They are a great label to work with.
Can you explain the significance of the recurring eye in the band's
Jeremy: The eye to look through. The eye that looks at you. If you look right into the sky and keep your eye there, and don't blink, you'll see another eye there, massive and looming, with the light and the sky flowing into it. People usually don't see this because it would be too much for them, but it's there, hanging in the sky, a mile wide. We'll be on tour soon.
Can you tell me about your book, Skull?
Eyes. Filled with eyes. You can buy it at Notnotfun.com.